Reading Aloud (#46): Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam [Secs. XII–XIV]

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (secs. XII, XIII, and XIV), read by Benjamin Hagen

Text of section XII here.
Text of section XIII here.
Text of section XIV here.

These text three section continue the super-section that imagines the journey of Arthur’s body back to England. Section XII has one of the more heartbreaking stanzas in In Memoriam: ” . . . `Comes he thus, my friend? / Is this the end of all my care?’ / [I] circle moaning in the air: `Is this the end? Is this the end?'” The speaker envisions himself (his soul? imagination? fancy?) in flight above the vessel at sea, circling overhead. I wonder: the end of what?

Section XIII, also heartbreaking, appeals to Time not as an enemy but as a pedagogue; the poet suffers from the strangeness of this loss. What does it mean to be taught “many years”? Is that what the speaker is asking for? Section XIV elaborates this strangeness: it would be the most normal thing in the world to greet Arthur—returned alive—when the boat returns.

How would we react if the dead came back to us?

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