In Memoriam: Reinvention of Faith for the Scientific Age? Essay example

2725 Words Mar 19th, 2005 11 Pages
In Memoriam is an elegy to Tennyson's friend Arthur Hallam, but bears the hallmark of its mid

nineteenth century context – "the locus classicus of the science-and-religion debate."

Upon reflection, Hallam's tragic death has proved to be an event that provoked Tennyson's

embarkation upon a much more ambitious poetic project than conventional Miltonian elegy,

involving meditation upon the profoundest questions faced by mankind. Scientific

advancements, most notably in the fields of geology and biology, challenged the beliefs that

form the foundation of Christianity: the belief in a beneficent God responsible for creation and

ensuing superintendence and the belief in man's immortal soul. By the mid nineteenth
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He

asserts that man does not only presage biologically advanced generations, but spiritually

advancement that comes following physical death. Evolution is also seen as something that

can occur within generations through the endurance of hardships. The anaphora used in the

account of such hardships reveals a pounding resolve, contrasting the downbeat despair of

LV and LVI.

It is important to consider the fact that Tennyson has doubts, to the extent of a spiritual crisis,

does not diminish his faith. This idea is expressed in XCVI. The opening of this passage

employs direct address, using the deictic expression "you." The addressee is revealed in the

following line to be towards a particular individual, one with "light-blue eyes". The addressee

is exceptionally kind and compassionate- someone who is "tender over drowning flies."

Though she is widely felt to be Tennyson's future wife Emily Smallwood, she is never directly

named. That deictic expressions hold no concrete meaning by nature intensifies such

ambiguity. The childishly innocent addressee may then be interpreted as a representation of

the religiously pure who refused to allow the thought of the scientific age began to gnaw away

at their faith. Following this interpretive course, the proclamation reported in line four that

"doubt is devil born," is attributed to this group. The sentiment is emphasised by

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