Tennyson's Poems

In Memoriam

“In Memoriam” is a lyric elegy written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in remembrance of his dear friend Arthur Henry Hallam. Hallam’s death’s effect on Tennyson becomes clear throughout this elegy as the reader is exposed to not only Tennyson’s mourning, but also the effect his loss had on spiritual and religious issues. Hallam’s death brought Tennyson a feeling of doubt as to the role of humankind here on earth. This doubt, combined with Victorian issues of the time due to scientific advances, was of great concern for Tennyson. Very much like the rest of the poem, verse XLV is written in iambic tetrameter. XLV is composed of four quatrains with an “ABBA” rhyme scheme, also known as envelope rhyme. Tennyson’s choice to use an envelope rhyme scheme is a stylistic choice coherent with the rest of the poem; as the name suggests, however, it also serves to “envelope” ideas within each quatrain. Similarly, the use of iambic tetrameter reminds us of larger “enveloping” idea in the entire work. The structure of verse XLV, along with the use of specific poetic devices -- such as alliteration, rhyme, and choice of vocabulary -- argue that the purpose of human life is to gain knowledge of one’s identity and retain that knowledge after death.


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