A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘IN MEMORIAM’ 106

To-night ungather’d let us leave
This laurel, let this holly stand:
We live within the stranger’s land,
And strangely falls our Christmas-eve.


Our father’s dust is left alone
And silent under other snows:
There in due time the woodbine blows,
The violet comes, but we are gone.


No more shall wayward grief abuse
The genial hour with mask and mime,
For change of place, like growth of time,
Has broke the bond of dying use.


Let cares that petty shadows cast,
By which our lives are chiefly proved,
A little spare the night I loved,
And hold it solemn to the past.


But let no footstep beat the floor,
Nor bowl of wassail mantle warm;
For who would keep an ancient form
Thro’ which the spirit breathes no more?


Be neither song, nor game, nor feast;
Nor harp be touch’d, nor flute be blown;
No dance, no motion, save alone
What lightens in the lucid east


Of rising worlds by yonder wood.
Long sleeps the summer in the seed;
Run out your measured arcs, and lead
The closing cycle rich in good.

In this new place, the traditional forms of Christmas celebration are rejected, not out of grief, but out of a new hope, which is symbolised by the movement of the galaxies in the sky. Like the summer that sleeps in the seed, the new age sleeps in the stars, whose movement will bring it into being.

This is where Tennyson’s Christian faith meets a classical philosophy of successive ages -the possible return of the age of gold- given new power by a very Victorian cosmic optimism. His personal grief for Hallam is not to be comforted in itself, but rather transformed by the arrival of a New Time. This aspect of his grieving has no parallel in mine.

 

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