I wage not any feud with Death
For changes wrought on form and face;
No lower life that earth’s embrace
May breed with him, can fright my faith.
Eternal process moving on,
From state to state the spirit walks;
And these are but the shatter’d stalks,
Or ruin’d chrysalis of one.
Nor blame I Death, because he bare
The use of virtue out of earth:
I know transplanted human worth
Will bloom to profit, otherwhere.
For this alone on Death I wreak
The wrath that garners in my heart;
He put our lives so far apart
We cannot hear each other speak.
“Death is not hateful for what it does to physical bodies, because these are only the stalks of the flower or chrysalis of the butterfly. It does not destroy the virtue of the dead person but allows it to work elsewhere.”
In this way Tennyson sets up his conclusion: death is the enemy because it stops us communicating with loved ones, who have died. He does well to make this obvious loss seem strange and central. Self-reflection however, leads me to doubt his conclusion. I miss the whole person, body, soul and spirit. Also I believe that she still communicates with me, but I cannot know if I communicate with her, although I try.
The force of Tennyson’s phrase cannot however be doubted; ‘he put our lives so far apart/ we cannot hear each other speak’ has a kind of metaphysical pathos.