A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 85

When I contemplate all alone
The life that had been thine below,
And fix my thoughts on all the glow
To which thy crescent would have grown;


I see thee sitting crown’d with good,
A central warmth diffusing bliss
In glance and smile, and clasp and kiss,
On all the branches of thy blood;


Thy blood, my friend, and partly mine;
For now the day was drawing on,
When thou should’st link thy life with one
Of mine own house, and boys of thine


Had babbled `Uncle’ on my knee;
But that remorseless iron hour
Made cypress of her orange flower,
Despair of Hope, and earth of thee.


I seem to meet their least desire,
To clap their cheeks, to call them mine.
I see their unborn faces shine
Beside the never-lighted fire.


I see myself an honor’d guest,
Thy partner in the flowery walk
Of letters, genial table-talk,
Or deep dispute, and graceful jest;


While now thy prosperous labor fills
The lips of men with honest praise,
And sun by sun the happy days
Descend below the golden hills


With promise of a morn as fair;
And all the train of bounteous hours
Conduct by paths of growing powers,
To reverence and the silver hair;


Till slowly worn her earthly robe,
Her lavish mission richly wrought,
Leaving great legacies of thought,
Thy spirit should fail from off the globe;


What time mine own might also flee,
As link’d with thine in love and fate,
And, hovering o’er the dolorous strait
To the other shore, involved in thee,


Arrive at last the blessed goal,
And He that died in Holy Land
Would reach us out the shining hand,
And take us as a single soul.


What reed was that on which I leant?
Ah, backward fancy, wherefore wake
The old bitterness again, and break
The low beginnings of content.

I’m not sure why Tennyson provides this projection if Hallam’s earthly life

When I contemplate all alone
The life that had been thine below,
And fix my thoughts on all the glow
To which thy crescent would have grown;


I see thee sitting crown’d with good,
A central warmth diffusing bliss
In glance and smile, and clasp and kiss,
On all the branches of thy blood;


Thy blood, my friend, and partly mine;
For now the day was drawing on,
When thou should’st link thy life with one
Of mine own house, and boys of thine


Had babbled `Uncle’ on my knee;
But that remorseless iron hour
Made cypress of her orange flower,
Despair of Hope, and earth of thee.


I seem to meet their least desire,
To clap their cheeks, to call them mine.
I see their unborn faces shine
Beside the never-lighted fire.


I see myself an honor’d guest,
Thy partner in the flowery walk
Of letters, genial table-talk,
Or deep dispute, and graceful jest;


While now thy prosperous labor fills
The lips of men with honest praise,
And sun by sun the happy days
Descend below the golden hills


With promise of a morn as fair;
And all the train of bounteous hours
Conduct by paths of growing powers,
To reverence and the silver hair;


Till slowly worn her earthly robe,
Her lavish mission richly wrought,
Leaving great legacies of thought,
Thy spirit should fail from off the globe;


What time mine own might also flee,
As link’d with thine in love and fate,
And, hovering o’er the dolorous strait
To the other shore, involved in thee,


Arrive at last the blessed goal,
And He that died in Holy Land
Would reach us out the shining hand,
And take us as a single soul.


What reed was that on which I leant?
Ah, backward fancy, wherefore wake
The old bitterness again, and break
The low beginnings of content.

I’m not sure why Tennyson provides this eloquent projection of Hallam’s life at this point in the poem, unless he meant it as a backward look before moving on. Of course, the backward look is a fantasy of a life not lived, in which he imagines his marriage to his sister Emily, his relationship with his children as their uncle, the success of Hallam’s life as recognised by his peers. It is a conventional enough portrait of a decent Victorian life, contributing no novelty, arousing no controversy, achieving a dull and praiseworthy excellence.

The moving bit is of their spirits after death being received by Christ as a ‘single soul’.(Naturally the good Lord will receive them without question.)/ They will be as one forever.

The canto concludes with a recognition that the might-have-been speculation may return him to a bitterness which he is in process of overcoming.

I reckon that some speculation on the possible lives of those who have had untimely deaths is common enough amongst the bereaved. Had my daughter lived she would have caused all sorts of trouble as a radical minister of religion, perhaps providing leadership during the present near collapse of the church in Scotland.







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