Listing out the Stages of Loss:
Clear Delineation of Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Loss in In Memoriam
Even Tennyson knew of his work as a unified whole. He composed a total of one hundred thirty-three poems for In Memoriam, including two poems designated the Prologue and Epilogue, even though Tennyson left them unnamed. He wrote the main 131 poems as he struggled through the death of his friend, Arthur Henry Hallam. It took seventeen years to write the main poems. The Prologue was dated 1849, well after the main poems were written. In it, Tennyson writes,
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
Here, he is asking for answers from God and knows that he will have to work through both good and bad emotions before he is enlightened. He understands, at least in hindsight, having written the Prologue after the rest of the work, that there is a definite process that he has worked through throughout the construction of In Memoriam. He is telling God to forgive the following rants he made long ago, fully understanding that he needed to rant to work through the pain. On the subsequent pages, he will be working through his grief in a specific and deliberate fashion. Having already written the poems, he knows this work ends up helping him, as a sort of catharsis. He has already written in Poem XCVI that “There lives more faith in honest doubt / …than in half the creeds.” He ends up with even more belief because of his working through this series of poems.
As the series of poems starts, the very first stanza expresses doubts about gaining experience through pain (Gray 6). “That men may rise on stepping-stones / Of their dead selves to higher things.” Here, you can relate immediately back to the Prologue. Poem I talks of “The far-off interest of tears,” truly not knowing that the dividend would not be paid for seventeen years at the completion of over 130 more poems.
Poem I also gives the first mention of an overall theme in the poem. In Poem I, it says, “’Behold the man that loved and lost.’” Later, in Poem XXVII, he says, “’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” This theme reverberates throughout the poem. At first, he does not accept such a fact and now he is taking it for what it’s worth. Even later, in LXXXV, he starts to accept the previous statements as truth when he says, “This truth came borne with bier and pall, / I felt it, when I sorrow’d most, / ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, / Than never to have loved at all.” Tennyson himself notes a progression. As he works through his pain, he works through the language and the words and the overall theme of the piece. It is quite clear Tennyson is facing the first of Kubler-Ross’ stages of loss, that is, denial.
Kubler-Ross’ 1969 book, On Death and Dying, focused on patients confronting their own deaths. Over the years, the five stages branched out to cover aspects of others facing death in loved ones. This is the main reason that the 2005 text, On Grief and Grieving, was created. Before her death, Kubler-Ross accepted that the steps she helped to define worked under both circumstances. She wanted to elucidate these stages on grieving to enhance her own validation of her prestigious 1969 work.
The first stage is known as Denial. Kubler-Ross says, “In a person who is dying, denial my look like disbelief. They may be going about life and actually denying that a terminal illness exists. For a person who has lost a loved one, however, the denial is more symbolic than literal” (ON GRIEF 8). Poem I of In Memoriam has the poet denying the benefits of such a death as Hallam.
I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
According to the footnote by editor of the Norton Critical Edition, Erik Gray, Tennyson thinks that the reference to Goethe believed “that individuals should profit from painful experiences and move on” (6). However, Tennyson cannot understand such a world. To him, the scales of such a death cannot be balanced or overcome.
But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?
Tennyson cannot fathom any “gain” coming anywhere close to the “loss” of Hallam. What possible good can come of this? What possibly could be as good as his friend Hallam? However, there is a singular glimmer of hope when he mentions the possibility of “The far-off interest of tears.”
This type of denial is prominent all the way to Poem XXVI and XXVII when Tennyson begins to feel indifference and anger, anger being the second stage of loss. For example, denial is prevalent in Poem V. In order to understand that these poems he is writing may be inadequate to communicate these deep human emotions, he wraps himself in words.
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
The “weeds” he refers to are his “mourning garments,” as the footnote states. He is obviously trying to mask or blanket himself away from the real grief of which he knows only the “outline and no more.” He is wrapped up in his understanding as well as his person for a funeral.
The next poem, Poem VI, actually invokes a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
One writes, that ‘Other friends remain,’
That ‘Loss is common to the race’—
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.
The connection between this poem and the first appearance of young Prince Hamlet in the play are impossible to ignore from such a learned man as Tennyson. Hamlet says, “Ay madam, it is common” the way Tennyson goes on in Poem VI to say “That loss is common would not make / My own less bitter.” He, like Hamlet, is being comforted by his friends and family, being told to simply accept the loss. This was not just a man but his best friend and, indeed, “unto me no second friend” will ever do.
More similarities persist in Poem VI, this time with Kubler-Ross’ attempts at defining denial in On Grief and Grieving. Kubler-Ross uses the example of a woman whose husband dies on a business trip in India. The woman kept reiterating that it wasn’t true or that it was a dream, until she finally saw the wedding ring on her husband’s body. This measures exactly with Poem VI with Tennyson describing a young girl combing her hair in anticipation of her love’s return.
And, even when she turn’d, the curse
Had fallen, and her future Lord
Was drown’d in passing thro’ the ford,
Or kill’d in falling from his horse.
“O what to her shall be the end?” Kubler-Ross agrees with this supposition, “You simply can’t fathom that he will never walk through that door again” (On Grief 8). Kubler-Ross’ story about a woman’s dead husband resonates here. “She would usually end up crying over the reality that he was not coming home” (9).
Poem VII is one of the most famous of In Memoriam.
Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,
A hand that can be clasp’d no more—
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.
He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.
Clearly, Tennyson is coming around to the old places thinking that he will get some sort of satisfaction. The only thing he guiltily creeps from is his conscience. He is conscious of the fact that Hallam does not live there anymore, yet he goes anyway. It is as if he expects Hallam to come walking out of the house with the new sunrise.
More aspects of denial abound during the beginning of In Memoriam. For instance, in Poem XIV, he talks to Hallam as if he were getting off a ship on his return home. Hallam never made it back from the trip he was on and Tennyson imagines him coming back.
And if along with these should come
The man I held as half-divine;
Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home.
Clearly, Tennyson wants to deny the fact that Hallam will never be coming home. In Poem XVI, he mentions the “shock, so harshly given” and being a “delirious man.” Then in Poem XX, he mentions, just like in Kubler-Ross’ book of the woman never seeing her husband come home from India, Hallam’s vacant chair: “So much the vital spirits sink / To see the vacant chair, and think, / ‘How good! how kind! and he is gone.’”
By Poem XXVI, he starts a path out of denial. “Still onward winds the dreary way; / I with it. Tennyson knows he must continue his life. He knows his love for Hallam will turn into indifference, a step in line with becoming angry.
And if that eye which watches guilt
And goodness, and hath power to see
Within the green the moulder’d tree,
And towers fall’n as soon as built—
Oh, if indeed that eye foresee
Or see (in Him is no before)
In more of life true life no more
And Love the indifference be.
He sees this indifference as a cloak, “To shroud me from my proper scorn.”
Denial imagery abounds in the first twenty-six poems. In Poem XIV, he talks as if Hallam is alive coming off the boat. Tennyson tells him his pain and they both remark how silly it is. It is as if he will come off the boat and everything will be the same.
And if along with these should come
The man I held as half-divine;
Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home;
And I should tell him all my pain,
And how my life had droop’d of late,
And he should sorrow o’er my state
And marvel what possess’d my brain;
And I perceived no touch of change,
No hint of death in all his frame,
But found him all in all the same,
I should not feel it to be strange.
By Poem XXVI, Tennyson starts on the road to anger. “Still onward winds the dreary way; / I with it.” The path must wind on because he has gotten to the point in Poem XXVII where he has felt his “sorrow most.” He comes to his epiphany, the famous “’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” But then in Poem XXVIII, he begins to show his anger. “I almost wish’d no more to wake, / And that my hold on life would break.” It is no coincidence that Poem XXVIII starts to describe the first Christmas after Hallam’s death. He begins to use harsh language in Poem XXIX like “How dare we keep our Christmas-eve.”
Tennyson begins to show his anger straight to God and questions some of the eternal questions of life and death. In Poem XXXI, he is mad at how the Gospel of John purposely avoids describing death (Gray 26).
When Lazarus left his charnel-cave,
And home to Mary’s house return’d,
Was this demanded—if he yearn’d
To hear her weeping by his grave?
Tennyson wonders why “something seal’d / The lips of that Evangelist” after four days of death. Wouldn’t Lazarus add “praise to praise” by telling of the wonders after death? Why is it such a mystery? In Poem XXXIV, he continues with this anger.
My own dim life should teach me this,
That life shall live for evermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is.
Tennyson goes on to add, “What then were God to such as I?” Tennyson’s own son notes the familiarity these lines have with another Tennyson poem, “Vastness”: “Hast Thou made all this for naught!” His son says, “I have heard him even say that he ‘would rather know that he was to be lost eternally than not know that the whole human race was to live eternally’” (Tennyson, Hallam 109). He is simply mad here, angry at God and asking for the meaning of life.
As Kubler-Ross admits that there is no specific period for any of these stages, the stage of bargaining comes swift upon the heels of anger. She is sure to mention that bargaining may be brief, and last “only for brief periods of time” (On Death 93). She concludes that, like children, we ask God for help and “’he may be more favorable if I ask nicely’” (93).
Tennyson begins bargaining in Poem XXXVIII by saying he writes his poems to give Hallam life.
If any care for what is here
Survive in spirits render’d free,
Then are these songs I sing of thee
Not all ungrateful to thine ear.
In Poem XL, Tennyson questions the differences between Hallam and another possible bridegroom for his sister. “Ay me, the difference I discern!” He tries to remember Hallam with the old bargaining technique of a handshake.
But thou and I have shaken hands,
Till growing winters lay me low;
My paths are in the fields I know.
And thine in undiscover’d lands.
And in XLI, he tries to bargain his life for Hallam’s. “And flash at once, my friend, to thee.” He would go straight to the strange place that Hallam must now be in as quick as a flash. He feels this way when he realizes “That I shall be thy mate no more.”
Here, Tennyson begins to turn into his state of depression. The stage of depression comprises a bulk of In Memoriam, from Poem XLII through Poem LXXXV. Kubler-Ross tells us that
After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to great loss (On Grief 20).
Starting with Poem XLII more than in any of the previous work, Tennyson places Hallam on a pedestal.
I vex my heart with fancies dim:
He still outstript me in the race;
It was but unity of place
That made me dream I rank’d with him.
He says that he received so much from him. “When one that loves but knows not, reaps / A truth from one that loves and knows?”
He again paraphrases Hamlet in Poem XLIII, this time the famous “To be or not to be” speech. “If Sleep and Death be truly one” until all souls wake up simultaneously at the end of time anyway (Gray 33). The similarities here of comparing death to sleep here are too much to overlook. He is talking about the biblical sleep as well as the mortal sleep that we all must face every night. He asks if there is truly a difference, as Hamlet did.
Later in Poem XLVI, the depression makes him see both past and present.
A lifelong tract of time reveal’d;
The fruitful hours of still increase;
Days order’d in a wealthy peace,
And those five years its richest field.
Compare this to the sentiment behind “’Tis better to have loved and lost.” In a way, he is already giving up the possibility that there can be anything better than the five years he had with Hallam. To give up on a full life so early is depressing. Later on, when Tennyson moves on to the stage of acceptance, we will see that this depression does not last. “We must accept sadness as an appropriate, natural stage of loss without letting an unmanaged, ongoing depression leech our quality of life” (On Grief 23). Kubler-Ross wants people to understand that grief needs an outlet and Tennyson had his in his poetry. “Depression has elements that can be helpful in grief. It slows us down and allows us to take real stock of the loss. It makes us rebuild ourselves from the ground up. It clears the deck for growth. It takes us to a deeper place in our soul that we would not normally explore” (24).
During Tennyson’s depression, he also fights inner battles over his religious beliefs that have been througoughly pursued by scholars. This questioning of his basic faith brings up many thoughts over death and the afterlife. “When my faith is dry,” in Poem L, tells him that “men…weave their petty cells and die.” Did Hallam succumb to such an ordinary end? It is this thinking about death being common that actually helps according to Kubler-Ross.
Even though more depressing sentiments surface, he realizes that he is learning in Poem LI.
Do we indeed desire the dead
Should still be near us at our side?
Is there no baseness we would hide?
No inner vileness that we dread?
Shall he for whose applause I strove,
I had such reverence for his blame,
See with clear eye some hidden shame
And I be lessen’d in his love?
And in the next Poem LII, he completely throws up his hands in exasperation, especially for a poet to admit “My words are only words.” The lessons go on though, for instance, in Poem LIII when Tennyson remarks that sowing wild oats, while actually good for some people, should not be prescribed on the young (Gray 39).
And dare we to this fancy give,
That had the wild oat not been sown,
That soil, left barren, scarce had grown
The grain by which a man may live?
Or, if we held the doctrine sound
For life outliving heats of youth,
Yet who would preach it as a truth
To those that eddy round and round?
Is it possible that this is one of the lessons that a man must go through for understanding? People are always told what is best for them without living it themselves, from sowing wild oats to getting over depression. A man must still go through these events in order to see for himself.
Tennyson takes up this theme in the next few poems “that good will arise from ill or from suffering” (Gray 39). However, it will elude Tennyson for quite some time. This is still working out these feelings that will eventually lead toward acceptance. In Poem LIV, he wonders if winter will ever turn to spring.
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
He feeling helpless as an infant in the next stanza simply because he can only trust that spring, or acceptance, will come.
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
Tennyson actually delves deeper into depression for a while due to an extremely despairing series of thoughts. Erik Gray’s introduction says that this area of In Memoriam is “some of the most despairing in the poem” and a “pitiless view” (Gray xxii).
I care for nothing, all shall go.
‘Thou makest thine appeal to me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does but mean the breath:
I know no more.’
He starts to wonder what the entire purpose of life is, especially if we all die anyway. These depressing thoughts cause him to want to see “Behind the veil” even though as a religious man he understands the concept of faith, especially blind faith.
Indeed, in Poem LVII, Tennyson’s “own faith in eternal life is at its lowest” (Gray 42). Echoing Roman poet Catullus’ lament for his dead brother, Tennyson says,
I hear it now, and o’er and o’er,
Eternal greetings to the dead;
And ‘Ave, Ave, Ave,’ said,
‘Adieu, adieu’ for evermore.
This supreme depression, especially to call into question his belief in the afterlife, is not the end of In Memoriam. Tennyson had said this section Poem LVII was “’too sad for an ending’” (Gray 42). In Poem LVIII, Tennyson boldly states that he will resolve to learn from all this grieving and questioning.
The high Muse answer’d: ‘Wherefore grieve
Thy brethren with a fruitless tear?
Abide a little linger here,
And thou shalt take a nobler leave.’
This “nobler leave” is the hunt for acceptance. While still depressed, he starts the upward climb toward what is considered the climax of the work in Poem LXXXV.
Before Poem LXXXV, he starts by accepting the simple premise that there is life after death. In Poem LXI, he notes that no matter who Hallam meets in heaven, no one will love him as much as Tennyson.
If, in thy second state sublime,
Thy ransom’d reason change replies
With all the circle of the wise,
The perfect flower of human time;
And if thou cast thine eyes below,
How dimly character’d and slight,
How dwarf’d a growth of cold and night,
How blanch’d with darkness must I grow!
Yet turn thee to the doubtful shore,
Where they first form was made a man;
I loved thee, Spirit, and love, nor can
The soul of Shakespeare love thee more.
Here, Tennyson is still depressed but growing out of it. Simply accepting heaven is a step. Also, notice how he exclaims “How blanch’d with darkness must I grow!” By Poem LXIII, he understands that he has had to go to extremes, “A higher height, a deeper deep.”
Indeed, by Poem LXXIV, he poetically talks of acceptance, “knowing Death has made / His darkness beautiful with thee.” In the next section, Poem LXXV, he admits that writing In Memoriam is his healing. “I leave thy praises unexpress’d / In verse that brings myself relief.” Later in the poem, he notes that this grief will not last forever: “To raise a cry that lasts not long.”
Poems in this area of In Memoriam all muse around a theme of wonder. Tennyson is simply wondering what would have happened if Hallam had lived his full measure of years. Looking towards what would have happened, while depressing, is necessary medicine for the grieved. It opens the pathway to acceptance. In Poem LXXVII, Tennyson notes this, saying, “And, passing, turn the page that tells / A grief, then changed to something else / Sung by a long-forgotten mind.” Then Tennyson encounters another Christmas without Hallam in Poem LXXVIII. It is getting easier, and Tennyson wonders if “grief can be changed to less?” However, Tennyson then shouts out,
O last regret, regret can die!
No—mixt with all this mystic frame,
Her deep relations are the same
But with long use her tears are dry.
This points out that although the regret remains, the tears are no longer outwardly visible (Gray 54). Kubler-Ross notes this regret and how beneficial it can actually be. “Regrets will be a part of grief, but if you follow the thread to its core, you may find a sense of wrongness that has been with you your whole life. This grief may provide the opportunity for an even greater healing” (On Grief 41).
There are more examples of this leading towards acceptance. Poem LXXX has Tennyson simply asking for comfort from Hallam himself. “Reach out dead hands to comfort me.” He notes how he is working towards acceptance, almost as if it is the natural way of things, in Poem LXXXII,
Eternal process moving on,
From state to state the spirit walks;
And these are but the shatter’d stalks,
Or ruin’d chrysalis of one.
It is not hard to understand that Tennyson is comparing his grieving process to the metamorphosis of the moth. Remember that the chrysalis will bring about the beautiful butterfly. Kubler-Ross has already been quoted in saying, “It makes us rebuild ourselves from the ground up. It clears the deck for growth.” This is the chrysalis. In Poem LXXXIII, Tennyson wants a spring to come to take away the depressions.
O thou, new-year, delaying long,
Delayest the sorrow in my blood,
That longs to burst a frozen bud
And flood a fresher throat with song.
This classically represents the rebirth of Tennyson’s world with a new spring. And in Poem LXXXIV, Tennyson notes that we all die when he talks of the “blessed goal.”
In Poem LXXXV, he accepts the previous ninety-four poems of depression and grief as truth. “This truth came borne with bier and pall.” However, before, it was a sort of question; now it is the truth. “O true in word, and tried in deed, / Demanding, so to bring relief.” Later, he recognizes that he had to go through that grief and pain for benefit. “And in my grief a strength reserved.” This strength is his acceptance and also resounds in the theme of the poem, to have loved and lost, as those lines are repeated in the beginning stanza of Poem LXXXV: “’Tis better to have loved and lost, / Than never to have loved at all.” He begins to accept the fact he had dark thoughts of the tomb but he now looks ahead.
And every pulse if wind and wave
Recalls, in change of light or gloom,
My old affection of the tomb,
And my prime passion in the grave:
My old affection of the tomb,
A part of stillness, yearns to speak:
‘Arise, and get thee forth and seek
A friendship for the years to come.
Possibly the biggest clue to his acceptance is the following stanza:
Still mine, that cannot but deplore,
That beats within a lonely place,
That yet remembers his embrace,
But at his footsteps leaps no more.
He is saying that he was sad, and indeed may still be sad, but he will no longer leap at that sadness. He is gradually overcoming it, as the stages of loss predict.
In the next series of poems, we start to see even more of this acceptance. For instance, in Poem LXXXVI, he mentions that “A hundred spirits whisper ‘Peace.’” To even mention Peace is finally putting his inner demons to rest.
Then in Poem LXXXIX, he starts to examine the real life of Hallam. He notes that Hallam lived what life he had very fully.
He brought an eye for all he saw;
He mixt in all our simple sports;
They pleased him, fresh from brawling courts
And dusty purlieus of the law.
This is important to immediately compare to his thoughts way back in Poem LXXXIV when he thinks about the life Hallam would have had if he had lived. “When thou should’st link thy life with one / Of mine own house, and boys of thine / Had babbled ‘Uncle’ on my knee.” This is a remarkable difference in thought and attitude.
Leading up to the classic climax of In Memoriam in Poem XCV, in Poem XCIII, he says words that admit he has to see Hallam one last time in order to say goodbye.
Descend and touch, and enter; hear
The wish too strong for words to name;
That in this blindness of the frame
My Ghost may feel that thine is near.
Then in Poem XCIV, he talks of his soul being at peace. He still needs to stand at the gates of heaven and talk to Hallam though.
How pure at heart and sound in head,
With what divine affections bold
Should be the man whose thought would hold
An hour’s communion with the dead.
In vain shalt thou, or any, call
The spirits from their golden day,
Except, like them, thou too canst say,
My spirit is at peace with all.
They haunt the silence of the breast,
Imaginations calm and fair,
The memory like a cloudless air,
The conscience as a sea at rest:
But when the heart is full of din,
And doubt beside the portal waits,
They can but listen at the gates,
And hear the household jar within.
Poem XCV is the classical climax of In Memoriam (Gray 68). There are instances where this may be seen as the final road to the acceptance of Hallam’s death. While there will always be backsliding and recriminations, Tennyson accepts the fact of Hallam’s death and knows he personally has grown stronger because of it. Kubler-Ross said, “Acceptance is a process that we experience, not a final stage with an end point” (On Grief 27). Obviously, Poem XCV comes well before the end of In Memoriam, but this is normal in the grieving process.
Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad…We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new interdependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourself. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time (28).
The final section of poems has Tennyson come to terms with his religion and his own life. It is known that only a few months after publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson finally found the strength to marry his long-time fiancée. Poem XCV begins his final acceptance, especially when he combines life and death. Of the following lines, Tennyson has commented that “The trance came to an end in a moment of critical doubt, but the doubt was dispelled by the glory of the dawn of the ‘boundless day’” (Gray 70):
‘The dawn, the dawn,’ and died away;
And East and West, without a breath,
Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day.
Kubler-Ross’s words echo in this sentiment.
In the next poem, Tennyson shows he is even coming to terms with his religion amidst his doubts. The perfect synthesis of his religion, Poem XCVI says, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, / Believe me, than in half the creeds.” He is stronger because of all this, as a man and in his faith. “To find a stronger faith his own; / …And dwells not in the light alone.”
Tennyson begins to see the necessity of death mixed in with life, as well. In Poem XCIX, he speaks of “Memories of bridal, or of birth, / And unto myriads more, of death.” This sounds pessimistic but is actually a statement that believes in the circle of life. For life, even as wonderful as a wedding, there will eventually be death. This is a profound statement of coming to terms with Hallam’s death. Later in CI, he even mentions that time is making him forget while understanding the cycle of life and death. “And year by year our memory fades / From all the circle of the hills.” In Poem CIII, he mentions his “after-morn content,” referencing the “glory of the dawn” previously mentioned.
The third Christmas poem in Poem CV is another remarkable adjustment to Tennyson’s attitude. This third Christmas poem is important because Tennyson admits that time is healing his wounds.
No more shall wayward grief abuse
The genial hour with mask and mime;
For change of place, like growth of time,
Has broke the bond of dying use.
This leads him through the process, understanding that there is a cycle to his grief as he ends with “Run out your measured arcs, and lead / The closing cycle rich in good.” He admits that this “good” is coming from his acceptance of his grieving cycle.
He begins to realize that he must go on with his life, an important step to acceptance.
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
He is calling for his grief to leave, finally. He even wants to be done with these “mournful rhymes” and move on. Sufficiently, he is not giving up Hallam, as he says in Poem CVII that he simply will not forget him and forcefully remember him happily during this time.
We keep the day. With festal cheer,
With books and music, surely we
Will drink to him, whate’er he be,
And sing the songs he loved to hear.
There are more instances of acceptance that can be pointed out. Significantly, Poem CXXX has Tennyson understand that when he “sees” Hallam in the world around him that he loves it more because of it. This is an important realization when compared to earlier in In Memoriam when objects that caused remembrance caused him to lament as well.
My love involves the love before;
My love is vaster passion now;
Tho’ mix’d with God and Nature thou,
I seem to love thee more and more.
The Epilogue poem finally comes to terms with the whole grieving process.
He says, “Regret is dead, but love is more,” forcefully coming to terms with love over death. He then says that he has grown more from this entire experience: “For I myself with these have grown / To something greater than before.” Indeed, since In Memoriam was published in 1850, the catalyst that caused him to become British Poet Laureate, Tennyson scholars would admit that his best work was yet to come. In this Epilogue, he also talks of his sister’s wedding. Originally due to wed Hallam, his sister’s newfound happiness is not something to be hated but rather to be embraced.
Nor count me all to blame if I
Conjecture of a stiller guest,
Perchance, perchance, among the rest,
And, tho’ in silence, wishing joy.
Hallam’s blessing here is important to Tennyson. It paves the way for his final acceptance. In reality, Tennyson then discusses the child from this new union and the blessing that comes from this child.
And, moved thro’ life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race.
This is also important to reference back to when Tennyson discussed the possibility of being called Uncle from Hallam’s children. Also, this child embodies the entire rebirth in Tennyson’s understanding of the cycle of life. He accepts the reason for Hallam’s death as he accepts the reason for the new generation.
Finally, Tennyson comes to full terms with the last stanza of In Memoriam.
That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
Having Tennyson come to terms with his religion and the cycle of life in the final stanza only strengthens his resolve. He understands and accepts Hallam’s death. Kubler-Ross has predicted that many individuals have different grieving processes, but all maintain the five basic stages she elucidated. Tennyson’s grief, even one hundred fifty years before the publication of On Death and Dying, proves the basic stages. Kubler-Ross notes that “Our grief is as individual as our lives” (On Grief 7). Tennyson’s grief, though personal, resounds for the entire human race in his work In Memoriam.