Tennyson's Poems

Tennyson's Impressionistic Language of Wisdom in In Memoriam XCV

Throughout Alfred Tennyson's In Memoriam, the speaker (assumed to be the poet himself) battles with the grief and confusion caused by the untimely death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. Over the course of the poem, indeed over the seventeen years it took for Tennyson to complete it, the reader witnesses Tennyson's personal maturation and growth. As a young man he is seeking concrete knowledge and yearning for impossible physical contact; later, he recognizes the abstract wisdom of uncertainty. Tennyson's language throughout the poem echoes this development. By the poem's climax, section XCV, the author is finally able to accept doubt and become comfortable with the abstract and inexplicable.

Tennyson's impressionistic use of language in section XCV of In Memoriam enables him to convey his otherwise inexpressible, trance-like experience. Unlike many of the previous sections of the poem, in which Tennyson explicitly and assuredly states what he feels and what he wants to express, here he uses lyrical language of the lyric to finally embrace uncertainty and the wisdom that comes with it. His poetic techniques and careful use of language transform "matter-moulded forms of speech" (46) into perfectly...

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