A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 98

My love has talk’d with rocks and trees;
He finds on misty mountain-ground
His own vast shadow glory-crown’d;
He sees himself in all he sees.


Two partners of a married life—
I look’d on these and thought of thee
In vastness and in mystery,
And of my spirit as of a wife.


These two—they dwelt with eye on eye,
Their hearts of old have beat in tune,
Their meetings made December June
Their every parting was to die.


Their love has never past away;
The days she never can forget
Are earnest that he loves her yet,
Whate’er the faithless people say.


Her life is lone, he sits apart,
He loves her yet, she will not weep,
Tho’ rapt in matters dark and deep
He seems to slight her simple heart.


He thrids the labyrinth of the mind,
He reads the secret of the star,
He seems so near and yet so far,
He looks so cold: she thinks him kind.


She keeps the gift of years before
A wither’d violet is her bliss
She knows not what his greatness is,
For that, for all, she loves him more.


For him she plays, to him she sings
Of early faith and plighted vows;
She knows but matters of the house,
And he, he knows a thousand things.


Her faith is fixt and cannot move,
She darkly feels him great and wise,
She dwells on him with faithful eyes,
‘I cannot understand: I love.’

The stanza begins with an imaginative depiction of Hallam’s spirit life, which uses the metaphor of a Brocken Spectre: that is, an observer sees his own image cast onto mist, and frequently with a rainbow crown, produced by the sun’s rays and water drops. Just as the observer sees himself magnified, so Hallmark sees himself in all he sees. This is a curious idea, as if the afterlife were a continual solipsism. Or perhaps, it means the merging of the spirit with all things?

The next metaphor, that of the husband engaged with important matters while his faithful wife deals with home and hearth, reveals the conventionally prejudiced view Tennyson has of women. But he places himself in the role of the wife and the spirit-Hallam in the male role. He cannot understand his partner’s scope, and is content to love. I guess this passage aroused a certain amount of levity in coarse Victorian circles, but Tennyson’s point is the difference between earthly and heavenly life.

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