The Poem from In Memoriam A.H.H.

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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How does Tennyson show a sense of loss in In Memoriam in sections VII (7) and LXXVIII (78)?

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In Section 78, the speaker describes one Christmas and how the normal festive spirit ruled and the normal games were played to amuse everybody. He begins to debate whether the sense of crippling loss that he feels at the death of Hallam can actually fade away, however, the final stanza clearly indicates that although that loss may take a different form and change slightly, it is still very much present:

O last regret, regret can die!

No--mixt with all this mystic frame,

Her deep relations are the same,

But with long use her tears are dry.

Regret, here personified as a female figure, still has the same "deep relations," even though regret and loss might not be expressed in exactly the same way. This is rather a chilling portrayal of the way that grief never actually fades away completely.

Section 7 describes how Tennyson, driven by his grief, finds himself standing outside Hallam's house early in the morning, tortured by his sense of loss. He talks of how he used to knock on the door so eagerly waiting to be greeted by his friend, but that now his hand is one that can be "clasp'd no more." The sense of loss is characterised perfectly in the final stanza, where the speaker clearly expresses his frustration and feelings of sadness that life continues even after the death of his friend:

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.

Note the use of alliteration with the "b" sound in the final line, emphasising the adjectives "bald" and "blank" and the verb "breaks," highlighting the speaker's horror at the way that life is continuing and how "ghastly" this prospect is. Loss is something that drives him to see life as terrible, and he shuns "the noise of life."

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