The Poem from In Memoriam A.H.H. Essay - Critical Essays


Critical Essay on “Proem”

The difficulty one finds in approaching a work like Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Proem” is one that troubles anyone practicing literary criticism and, in fact, anyone trying to understand life: how much should be examined at any one time? Even with an average poem, possibilities abound, since there exists any extent of background information that could be useful for helping readers comprehend the lines on the page in front of them. Biographical information is often referred to, and so are similar poems from the poet’s canon, or poems written around the same time, or poems that clearly influence the subject matter.

“Proem” has all of these elements. It is the introduction to a longer piece, In Memoriam A. H....

(The entire section is 1657 words.)

Alfred Tennyson

More than any other Victorian writer, Tennyson has seemed the embodiment of his age, both to his contemporaries and to modern readers. In his own day he was said to be—with Queen Victoria and Gladstone—one of the three most famous living persons, a reputation no other poet writing in English has ever had. As official poetic spokesman for the reign of Victoria, he felt called upon to celebrate a quickly changing industrial and mercantile world with which he felt little in common, for his deepest sympathies were called forth by an unaltered rural England; the conflict between what he thought of as his duty to society and his allegiance to the eternal beauty of nature seems peculiarly Victorian. Even his most severe critics have...

(The entire section is 9938 words.)

Tennyson’s In Memoriam as Love Poetry

Most of the few modern explanations of In Memoriam have, like E. B. Mattes’ In Memoriam: The Way of a Soul and Graham Hough’s “Natural Theology in In Memoriam”, concerned themselves principally with the source and precise meaning of the poem’s intellectual speculations. While inevitably admitting Tennyson’s ultimate subjectivism, critics have concerned themselves little with the nature of the subjective experiences underlying the poem or the literary conventions governing their presentation.

In Memoriam is indeed in one sense a philosophical poem: it must have been amongst the works which prompted Jowett to say to Tennyson, just before the latter’s death: “Your poetry has an...

(The entire section is 6312 words.)

The 'Way of the Soul'


It is a fashion at present to ascribe the great popularity of In Memoriam entirely to the ‘teaching’ contained in it, and to declare that its peculiar position among English elegies has nothing to do with its poetic qualities. This is equivalent to an assertion that, if the so-called substance of the poem had been presented in common prose, the work would have gained the same hold upon the mass of educated readers that is now possessed by the poem itself. Such an assertion no one would make or consciously imply. The ordinary reader does not indeed attempt to separate the poetic qualities of a work from some other quality that appeals to him; much less does he read the work in...

(The entire section is 2913 words.)