A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH ‘ IN MEMORIAM’ 133

O true and tried, so well and long,
Demand not thou a marriage lay;
In that it is thy marriage day
Is music more than any song.


Nor have I felt so much of bliss
Since first he told me that he loved
A daughter of our house; nor proved
Since that dark day a day like this;


Tho’ I since then have number’d o’er
Some thrice three years: they went and came,
Remade the blood and changed the frame,
And yet is love not less, but more;


No longer caring to embalm
In dying songs a dead regret,
But like a statue solid-set,
And moulded in colossal calm.


Regret is dead, but love is more
Than in the summers that are flown,
For I myself with these have grown
To something greater than before;


Which makes appear the songs I made
As echoes out of weaker times,
As half but idle brawling rhymes,
The sport of random sun and shade.


But where is she, the bridal flower,
That must be made a wife ere noon?
She enters, glowing like the moon
Of Eden on its bridal bower:


On me she bends her blissful eyes
And then on thee; they meet thy look
And brighten like the star that shook
Betwixt the palms of paradise.


O when her life was yet in bud,
He too foretold the perfect rose.
For thee she grew, for thee she grows
For ever, and as fair as good.


And thou art worthy; full of power;
As gentle; liberal-minded, great,
Consistent; wearing all that weight
Of learning lightly like a flower.


But now set out: the noon is near,
And I must give away the bride;
She fears not, or with thee beside
And me behind her, will not fear.


For I that danced her on my knee,
That watch’d her on her nurse’s arm,
That shielded all her life from harm
At last must part with her to thee;


Now waiting to be made a wife,
Her feet, my darling, on the dead
Their pensive tablets round her head,
And the most living words of life


Breathed in her ear. The ring is on,
The `wilt thou’ answer’d, and again
The `wilt thou’ ask’d, till out of twain
Her sweet `I will’ has made you one.


Now sign your names, which shall be read,
Mute symbols of a joyful morn,
By village eyes as yet unborn;
The names are sign’d, and overhead


Begins the clash and clang that tells
The joy to every wandering breeze;
The blind wall rocks, and on the trees
The dead leaf trembles to the bells.


O happy hour, and happier hours
Await them. Many a merry face
Salutes them—maidens of the place,
That pelt us in the porch with flowers.


O happy hour, behold the bride
With him to whom her hand I gave.
They leave the porch, they pass the grave
That has to-day its sunny side.


To-day the grave is bright for me,
For them the light of life increased,
Who stay to share the morning feast,
Who rest to-night beside the sea.


Let all my genial spirits advance
To meet and greet a whiter sun;
My drooping memory will not shun
The foaming grape of eastern France.


It circles round, and fancy plays,
And hearts are warm’d and faces bloom,
As drinking health to bride and groom
We wish them store of happy days.


Nor count me all to blame if I
Conjecture of a stiller guest,
Perchance, perchance, among the rest,
And, tho’ in silence, wishing joy.


But they must go, the time draws on,
And those white-favour’d horses wait;
They rise, but linger; it is late;
Farewell, we kiss, and they are gone.


A shade falls on us like the dark
From little cloudlets on the grass,
But sweeps away as out we pass
To range the woods, to roam the park,


Discussing how their courtship grew,
And talk of others that are wed,
And how she look’d, and what he said,
And back we come at fall of dew.


Again the feast, the speech, the glee,
The shade of passing thought, the wealth
Of words and wit, the double health,
The crowning cup, the three-times-three,


And last the dance;—till I retire:
Dumb is that tower which spake so loud,
And high in heaven the streaming cloud,
And on the downs a rising fire:


And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
Till over down and over dale
All night the shining vapour sail
And pass the silent-lighted town,


The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
And catch at every mountain head,
And o’er the friths that branch and spread
Their sleeping silver thro’ the hills;


And touch with shade the bridal doors,
With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
And breaking let the splendour fall
To spangle all the happy shores


By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
And, star and system rolling past,
A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds,


And, moved thro’ life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race


Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
On knowledge, under whose command
Is Earth and Earth’s, and in their hand
Is Nature like an open book;


No longer half-akin to brute,
For all we thought and loved and did,
And hoped, and suffer’d, is but seed
Of what in them is flower and fruit;


Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing ere the times were ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God,


That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.

This Epithalamion for his younger sister Cecilia’s wedding to Edward Lushington, is a cunningly contrived ending to Tennyson’s poem of grief and recovery. He himself defended it as providing a cheerful ending “like the Divina Commedia.” This reference suggests that there are paradisal themes in this canto, which is indeed the case. He has not forgotten Hallam, who was engaged to his other sister, but he regards himself as a stronger and wiser person through his grieving. Now he intrudes hints of Eden into the bridal day, and tells the story of the wedding with a happy simplicity that allows this human love to stand as a symbol of the past – she grew into womanhood for this man- the present – in which they marry and make love- and the future- in which their child will be born as another step towards the perfect evolution of humanity.

This perfection is described as “no longer half akin to Brute” repeating what I regard as his error about progress, namely that human imperfection is the result of animality rather than arrogance. He ends by stating that Hallam is a prototype of this new man, who will live, as Hallam does, in the life of God. He leaves his reader with his eschatological vision of the divine event that completes creation. I agree with those who think this wedding canto a splendid if unexpected end to In Memoriam. It carries his conclusion in a ritual which is a foretaste of universal fruitfulness.

As regards my own grief, I agree with Tennyson that personal faith and philosophy cannot be separated from the untimely death of dear ones. Just as it cannot be separated from the unjust suffering of millions who never have a chance of a good life because of poverty or oppression. If there is no after- life for these, no recompense for misery, no redemption of those in the pawn-shop of death, then there is no God. Tennyson faced up to this alternative, and worked his way towards a new faith that could co-exist with the new science of his time.

Thinking about our daughter’s death, and all the suffering of her addiction, I have been moved towards the theology/ philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, who presents a God ceaselessly engaged with everything in creation, bearing its failure and working for its excellence. He/she is necessarily a suffering God – the “fellow sufferer who understands” who will not abandon any particle of existence. This does not give me the joyful positivity of Tennyson’s conclusion, nor of St. Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 15, but it does give me hope.

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