A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 70

I dream’d there would be Spring no more,
That Nature’s ancient power was lost:
The streets were black with smoke and frost,
They chatter’d trifles at the door:


I wander’d from the noisy town,
I found a wood with thorny boughs:
I took the thorns to bind my brows,
I wore them like a civic crown:


I met with scoffs, I met with scorns
From youth and babe and hoary hairs:
They call’d me in the public squares
The fool that wears a crown of thorns:


They call’d me fool, they call’d me child:
I found an angel of the night;
The voice was low, the look was bright;
He look’d upon my crown and smiled:


He reach’d the glory of a hand,
That seem’d to touch it into leaf:
The voice was not the voice of grief,
The words were hard to understand.

This canto plunges the reader back into the soul of the bereaved poet. It is a dream sequence but somehow lacks conviction. How can frost help to blacken a street? If it’s cold, why are they chattering at doors? Given the biblical story of the crown of thorns, does he want to compare his suffering with Christ’s? Did any babe really offer him scorn? These are small matters but together they may indicate that Tennyson’s mind was not fully engaged with this dream.

The angel is genuinely strange and wonderful, however, particularly in the image of the thorns (his grief) flowering. It is not that something overpowers grief but that the grief itself blossoms. I agree with that insight: I did not abandon my grief nor did it abandon me, but it became fruitful in my living.

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