A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH “IN MEMORIAM’ 124

There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.


The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.


But in my spirit will I dwell,
And dream my dream, and hold it true;
For tho’ my lips may breathe adieu,
I cannot think the thing farewell.

 

T S Eliot argued that although Tennyson was thoughtful, he did not feel his thought with immediacy as of the scent of a rose. These and similar stanzas are proof the Eliot was wrong. Tennyson had studied geological and other scientific material and allowed it to inhabit his imagination, so that he could feel it and express his feeling: “there where the long street roars hath been/ the stillness of the central sea….the hills are shadows and the flow/ from form to form and nothing stands / they melt like mist” Here indeed is that “fluent mundo” that Eira Pound noted in Ovid and other ancient poets.

Tennyson has felt the flowing and identified it with life, yes, the life that moves towards death, and as he believed, beyond death, but it must move, it must change, it must challenge all fixity. (Lest one good custom should corrupt the world, as he wrote in Morte D’Arthur) It is the heart of his mature poetry, of his use of the Arthurian myth, for example. He does not wholly welcome change, but he knows he must not deny it.

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