I cannot see the features right,
When on the gloom I strive to paint
The face I know; the hues are faint
And mix with hollow masks of night;

Cloud-towers by ghostly masons wrought,
A gulf that ever shuts and gapes,
A hand that points, and palled shapes
In shadowy thoroughfares of thought;

And crowds that stream from yawning doors,
And shoals of pucker’d faces drive;
Dark bulks that tumble half alive,
And lazy lengths on boundless shores;

Till all at once beyond the will
I hear a wizard music roll,
And thro’ a lattice on the soul
Looks thy fair face and makes it still.

As all bereaved people now, I can easily see the face of our dead daughter in photographs; many have video and film, in which their dead still speak. Such reminders would not have been available to Tennyson for Hallam, ( Photography became available around 1839) although he was enthusiastic about photography later in life. There are two pencil drawings of Hallam by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey in the National Portrait Gallery, but I have failed to discover if Tennyson knew them. They are curiously incomplete because they were preparatory for a bust of Hallam.

Tennyson’s fantasmal search for the face of his friend is wholly understandable. His glimpses of the world of the dead owe something to the Homer and Virgil, namely the prevailing horror, as well as his own poetic imagination. The ‘wizard music,’ doubtless unintentionally, gives the image of a music-hall intro to an act, which in this case is the appearance of Hallam’s face.

His insight that this appearance is ‘beyond the will’ checks with my own experience of occasions when my dead daughter has been present to me: not when I wanted but when I was receptive.

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