How can Tennyson's "In Memoriam" Section 7 be analysed? VIIDark house, by which once more I standHere in the long unlovely street,Doors, where my heart was used to beatSo quickly, waiting for a hand,A hand that can be clasp'd no more—Behold me, for I cannot sleep,And like a guilty thing I creepAt earliest morning to the door.He is not here; but far awayThe noise of life begins again,And ghastly thro' the drizzling rainOn the bald street breaks the blank day.
This section of Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam" can be analyzed several ways, including in terms of its autobiographical meaning, its literary devices, and its sound devices.
From an autobiographical standpoint, we know the author wrote this section and, indeed, the entire poem as a way of processing his grief over the untimely death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam. The poem speaks of the poet walking past his friend's home in the early hours of the morning because he has been unable to sleep due to his grief. This is an action that many who have lost loved ones can relate to. Even though we know the person is no longer there, we hope to gain some comfort from being in the place where we used to meet our loved one.
In terms of literary devices used in this section, Tennyson uses three major ones. First, he uses apostrophe, the dramatic technique of addressing an inanimate object. Tennyson addresses the "dark house" in the first line and the "doors" in the third line. He invites the house and the doors to "behold me," to watch him as he sneaks to Hallam's home in the predawn hours. He confesses that he has been unable to sleep. The use of apostrophe intensifies the description of the poet's emotions by implying that inanimate objects might be able to sympathize with his grief.
It is similar to the pathetic fallacy—ascribing emotions to nature that match those of the persona—which is the second literary device used in this section. The "drizzling rain" creates a "blank day" that matches the dull emptiness of the poet's grief.
The third obvious literary device used in this section is hyperbole—exaggeration for effect. The poet admits to creeping around Hallam's house "like a guilty thing," but this is surely exaggerated. No one would condemn the poet for his early morning excursion to the home of his lost loved one, so he need not creep around or feel guilty. The hyperbole shows the intensity of his emotions. In the final stanza, he refers to the streets as "bald" and the day as "blank," which depict his emotions but not the literal reality. He also refers to the new day as "ghastly," which means macabre or filled with terror. The new day beginning holds no immediate threat to the poet, but the fact that it will be filled with more grief makes it feel so.
Regarding sound devices, the stanzas use the abba rhyme scheme, known as the "In Memoriam" stanza, made famous by this poem. The poem uses iambic tetrameter as its main rhythm, but the last line breaks the cadence. The line has no specific poetic rhythm but uses the rhythm of natural speech. Two unaccented syllables are followed by three accented, one unaccented, and two accented syllables. The five very strong beats in the line, further emphasized by the alliteration of the /b/ sounds, gives the line a feeling of heaviness and dragging on, as the speaker will do. He will plod through another day of grieving for his friend.
This short section of Tennyson's longer poem continues the theme of grief and examines it using effective literary and sound devices.
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This classic section of Tennyson's long poem about his battle with grief and doubt captures one moment when, after Hallam's death, Tennyson returns to the house where he lived and where Tennyson spent so much time. The speaker recalls how he used to knock on that door with such anticipation of seeing his friend. However, the speaker is full of the awareness that the "hand" he waits for "can be clasp'd no more." The overwhelming power of this grief has transformed the speaker utterly into a "guilty thing" who is left to "creep" around early in the morning, haunted by his grief. One of the most powerful stanzas of this section of the poem is the final stanza:
He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.
The juxtaposition of the speaker's terrible grief with the sounds of normal life beginning again is highlighted through the pathetic fallacy of the rain mirroring the sadness of the speaker and also the alliteration of the "b" sounds in the final line, perfectly capturing the speaker's disbelief at the harshness of life, that can continue without pause or halt, whilst he is unable to move on in his life because of his grief and loss.
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