A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 88

I past beside the reverend walls
In which of old I wore the gown;
I roved at random thro’ the town,
And saw the tumult of the halls;


And heard once more in college fanes
The storm their high-built organs make,
And thunder-music, rolling, shake
The prophet blazon’d on the panes;


And caught once more the distant shout,
The measured pulse of racing oars
Among the willows; paced the shores
And many a bridge, and all about


The same gray flats again, and felt
The same, but not the same; and last
Up that long walk of limes I past
To see the rooms in which he dwelt.


Another name was on the door:
I linger’d; all within was noise
Of songs, and clapping hands, and boys
That crash’d the glass and beat the floor;


Where once we held debate, a band
Of youthful friends, on mind and art,
And labour, and the changing mart,
And all the framework of the land;


When one would aim an arrow fair,
But send it slackly from the string;
And one would pierce an outer ring,
And one an inner, here and there;


And last the master-bowman, he,
Would cleave the mark. A willing ear
We lent him. Who, but hung to hear
The rapt oration flowing free


From point to point, with power and grace
And music in the bounds of law,
To those conclusions when we saw
The God within him light his face,


And seem to lift the form, and glow
In azure orbits heavenly-wise;
And over those ethereal eyes
The bar of Michael Angelo?

Nostalgia is evident in this report of returning to Cambridge. The sights and sounds of the university area are picked out in a kind of brief travelogue; and the new students inhabiting Hallam’s former rooms are noisy louts compared with the decent chaps of Tennyson’s day. The picture of Hallam discoursing is doubtless idealised but impressive, apart from the comparison with Michelangelo’s bony bar above his eyes. The surviving bust of Hallam does not show this, and the reference is obscure to most readers and not very justified in its implication. An affectionate student joke seems gratuitous in this verse.

The temptation to idealise the dear dead is human and understandable. I catch myself doing this about my daughter, because it is easier than the truth.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: