Is there an analysis for lyric 123 of In Memoriam?In Memoriam CXXIII There rolls the deep where grew the tree. O earth, what changes hast thou seen! There where the long street roars, hath...

Is there an analysis for lyric 123 of In Memoriam?

In Memoriam CXXIII

There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

But in my spirit will I dwell,
And dream my dream, and hold it true;
For tho' my lips may breathe adieu,
I cannot think the thing farewell.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us remember that above all this poem concerns Tennyson's battle with his Christian faith in the light of scientific advances made in the Victorian era that seemed to disprove Christianity and shake the very foundations of faith. One central aspect of this was geological discoveries that suggested the world was much older than the Biblical account suggested and was shaped over vast periods of time rather than made in seven days. Remembering this helps us to understand Lyric 123 of this amazing poem. Note how the first stanza reflects Tennyson's wonder at geological changes in the world:

There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.

In the face of such temporary and ephemeral solidity, when what seems to be permanent and firm is actually shown to be constantly changing, Tennyson's response is made clear in the final stanza:

But in my spirit will I dwell,
And dream my dream, and hold it true;
For tho' my lips may breathe adieu,
I cannot think the thing farewell.

Even though science and everything else seems to point away from his "dream" of faith and religious belief, Tennyson is not able to relinquish it. Even though his lips might actually suggest that he does not believe through his recognition that the earth does change and is not permanent, his soul will not stop possessing blind faith.

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