Nature in In Memoriam
In Memoriam is one of the most influential works of Alfred Tennyson. This collection of 131 poems was published in 1850. It was written as a reaction to the death of a close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam who died in 1833 from a fever. The two had met at Cambridge during their education. The sorrow that Tennyson experienced forced him to explore his thoughts and ideas on faith and the meaning of loss, resulting in a poem that took seventeen years to write, and it was his way of sharing his grief with the world. Within this poem Tennyson compares mother nature and her seasons to the stages of grief he journeys through, therefore causing him confusion about God, Nature, and Man, and forcing him to come to terms with his idea of nature either being cruel and merciless, or good and kind.
In the beginning of the poem Tennyson is attempting to cope with the shock and overpowering despair he is feeling. He talks of a specific yew tree that he has stumbled upon.
Old yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the underlying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones(2.1-4).
Here, the yew tree is dead to him. He feels envious of the tree because its roots are wrapped about bones that have already lived the pain, and the tree itself has no pain because it is dead. He talks of a hollow, deceased head which cannot dream and he ponders what it’s like to be dreamless. He knows that the world around the tree will bloom again, however, being as hopeless as he is at this stage, he feels that the tree will remain dark gloomy as he sees it now. He is “sick for thy stubborn hardihood(2.14)” and he is so completely overwhelmed with sorrow that he desires to be lifeless like the tree so that he too will not feel any pain. In the nineteenth stanza, a dam is compared to Tennyson’s realization that Hallam is dead. The season at this point is Fall, and leaves are falling, flowers are wilting,...