How does Tennyson seek comfort from the spirit of his friend Hallam in Section L (50) of In Memoriam A. H. H.?L.Be near me when my light is low,    When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick...

How does Tennyson seek comfort from the spirit of his friend Hallam in Section L (50) of In Memoriam A. H. H.?

L.

Be near me when my light is low,
    When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
    And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
    Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
    And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
    And men the flies of latter spring,
    That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
    To point the term of human strife,
    And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

Asked on by isabel17

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

This is happily a very straightforward bit of In Memoriam. Tennyson clearly shows how he is seeking comfort from Hallam. There are two things that may be said about Tennyson's technique.

The first relates to poetic structure. Section L is styled as a now old-fashioned sort of prayer in the "Be near me" pattern. We've all heard the Christmas Carol that starts "Be near me ...." Tennyson is using this same pattern here. This means that his first way of seeking comfort is to pray to the spirit of his friend. Since memorial poems have poetic conventions (styles and techniques) all their own, this didn't set so poorly with his Christian readers as one might expect because they were educated and familiar with poetic conventions.

The second relates to content. Tennyson seeks comfort from Hallam by projecting his imagination forward to the day when his own life comes to an end:

when my light is low,
    When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
    And tingle; and the heart is sick,

He is seeking Hallam's presence when his own "term of human strife" has reached an end. He is seeking Hallam's presence and escort as he himself crosses the barrier from life into "The twilight of eternal day." In summary, Tennyson is seeking from Hallam's spirit by praying to him and by asking for his presence and escort at the instance of his own future death.

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arbrown09's profile pic

arbrown09 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

The purpose of this poem is to offer the reader, as well as Tennyson, a peace about death. The spirit of his friend offers Tennyson hope in a poem full of despair. Tennyson finds hope in his dead friend because it allows him to contemplate the two ideas that he has been struggling with : the individual is immortal, in which case life makes sense and can be endured, or the individual is not immortal, in which case life would be seen as absurd and unbearable. The spirit of his friend allows him to sift through the despair and come out on the other side understanding that life is in fact bearable. Tennyson begins the "In Memoriam" with a funeral and ends with a wedding. Proving that the spirit of his dead friend pulls him out of the troubling despair of searching for a purpose for life. 

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