Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Memoriam LIV

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final end of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

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.

* * *

This is a Luna moth I found in the stairwell of our apartment building. It had followed the lights and come inside, but then fell asleep because it thought it was daytime. Moths do this all the time, and call me pathetic, but I think it's sad. I moved this particular moth.

The poem quoted is part of a larger work that Tennyson wrote to process the death of his dear friend, Arthur Hallam. Intellectually, he believes that all things work together for good, that every tragedy has a reason, but despite his rational belief, he doesn't quite get it. He's like a baby crying in the dark (though, as a mother, I'm going to take a wild guess that the baby's not crying for the light, he's crying for his mother!) who doesn't understand what's going on. It's an uncertain poem, stating a moral but then casting doubt on it at the end -- saying, "Yes, I do believe this, but when the rubber hits the road this consolation does not really satisfy me." I like the honesty of it.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful poem... Thank You enjoyed reading it... And the n light meant i've got out of it....

Melinda Craighead said...

My name is Melinda Craighead. I didnt mean to put anonymous... I did enioy ur writen...

Betsy B. Honest said...

Holy smokes! What a moth!

Meredith said...

That moth is so beautiful! And I'm usually scared of moths. This one is too pretty to be afraid of.

I think everyone feels like Tennyson in this poem, even saints. Maybe especially saints! St. Therese trusted God fervently, but she experienced a lack of consolation. And Mother Teresa did all that good for humanity while suffering the dark night. I like the honesty of this poem too.

Meredith said...

By the way, I found another unborn child poem:


by Sylvia Plath

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools’ Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

Sheila said...

Haha, that's a funny one, Meredith! I like it.