Reading Aloud (#45): Alfred, Lord Tennyson In Memoriam [secs. IX–XI]

Tennyson, In Memoriam (secs. IX, X, and XI), read by Benjamin Hagen

Text of section IX here.
Text of section X here.
Text of section XI here.

These sections begin the long super-section of In Memoriam that imagines A.H.H.’s (body’s) return to England. IX addresses the “fair ship” and offers a prayer to the sky, winds, and sea for its safe and quick journey. X continues to hope for a safe return, imagining the scene and sounds “about” the “keel” of the ship; it also ends with a sincere yet self-consciously foolish preference for a burial in ground rather than at sea. The speaker implies that a burial at sea would, somehow, mean that A.H.H. were be more distant from him—”fathom-deep” “with tangle and with shells”—than if he simply were “beneath the clover sod” (a “sweeter” burial option). XI is a prayer for “[c]alm and deep peace,” a prayer for a common condition that will envelop grief and “despair,” the “great plain,” the “wide air,” and “the seas.”

The final line calls to mind Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931): “And dead calm in that noble breast / Which heaves but with the heaving of the deep.”

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