O living will that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow thro’ our deeds and make them pure,
That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears,
A cry above the conquer’d years
To one that with us works, and trust,
With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.
“Water from the rock, water from the rock, an’ I prayed the Lord to give me, water from the rock” – old spiritual based on the story of Moses in Exodus. Tennyson uses the image gravely, identifying the water with the Holy Spirit that purifies our deeds. These very deeds should lift, from the dust of worldliness and death, and the defeats of time, a cry to God, who will hear; so that we can trust the truths that cannot be proved. That will demand ‘faith that comes of self-control –he’s still a Victorian!
Full enlightenment will only come through death, when we too will be mingled with those whom we loved and with the source we come from. All Tennyson’s grief and pain however, and all his doubt, are not left behind in this summing up, but mingled with all he has experienced and written, they remain part of a faith that claims no certain knowledge and awaits enlightenment.