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In Memoriam Tennyson

In Memoriam Tennyson

'Dark house, by which once more I stand' (1850) is a short poem about grief by the renowned poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (6th August 1809-6th October 1892). It is part of his larger poem In Memoriam. The poem is based on the real loss of a friend that Tennyson himself experienced.

Below is an in-depth summary and analysis of 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'.

Written in1833-1850
Written byAlfred, Lord Tennyson
FormElegy
MetreIambic tetrameter
Rhyme schemeABBA
Frequently noted imageryThe house, hands
Poetic devicesEnjambment, metaphor
ToneDejected, depressed, lonely
Key themes Grief, longing, confusion
MeaningThe confusing pain of loss. The world continues on even when someone important has passed away.

In Memoriam: VII 'Dark house, by which once more I stand': poem

Let's first consider the poem:

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.

In Memoriam line by line explanation

Below is a breakdown of Tennyson's poem.

Stanza one

The poem opens with the image of Tennyson's narrator standing by a dark house on a similarly dark street. This is clearly not the first time he has done this. In previous times, the narrator stood by the door to this house with his heart beating, eagerly awaiting the offered hand of one who lived inside. The two had a close and intimate relationship.

Stanza two

However, the two can no longer join hands as this person is now gone, likely passed away. The narrator is so impacted by this loss that he finds himself unable to sleep. He instead creeps to the door of this lost person's house in the early mornings, despite the fact they are not there anymore.

Stanza three

In the final stanza, the narrator states the issue plainly: 'He is not here'. This person was of deep importance to the narrator; he is no longer here. The early morning begins to fade, and he can hear the sounds of life around him. There is light rain, and the day is finally breaking. Despite the loss Tennyson's narrator has experienced, life is still moving on around him as normal.

In Memoriam: summary

Now let's summarise the meaning of Tennyson's poem. 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' comes from a much larger poem, entitled In Memoriam. The poem is dedicated to the English poet and close friend of Tennyson's, Arthur Henry Hallam. Hallam and Tennyson met at Cambridge University and quickly became close friends, having very similar interests. Hallam even got engaged to Tennyson's sister. However, Hallam died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage at the young age of twenty-two. This loss devastated Tennyson. 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' is the seventh canto in In Memoriam.

A canto defines a section in a long poem.

'Dark house, by which once more I stand' communicates the difficult and confusing nature of loss. Despite the fact his friend is no longer there, Tennyson's narrator cannot help but stand by his house and remember him. His grief even stops him from sleeping. The last stanza also touches on another common struggle of those grieving. While the narrator is standing still by his friend's house, the rest of the world is waking up to start their day. He feels as if his world has stopped but, for everyone else, it continues.

In Memoriam, Tennyson: themes

Let's look at themes in Tennyson's poem.

Grief

Grief is a key theme in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'. The narrator has lost someone very close and important to him. He is unsure how to process this and what to do next. His way of coping with his grief is to spend lonely hours in the early morning at the home of his late friend. There is also a strong sense of longing in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'. Tennyson's narrator thinks back to the time before his friend passed away when he was excited to visit him in this very house. There is a clear wish here to return to this time.

Confusion

Confusion is also another significant theme in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'. The narrator's world has stopped because of grief. However, as evident in the final stanza of Tennyson's poem, life is moving on without him. The day breaks and sounds of life can be heard. This can be confusing for one who is grieving. Someone who is grieving may feel like the whole world has stopped for them because of their loss. They cannot understand how the rest of the world is carrying on as normal, while they are left devastated and unable to move forward.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam analysis

Below is a further analysis of Tennyson's poem.

Form, metre, and rhyme scheme

'Dark house, by which once more I stand' can be formally defined as an elegy, as can In Memoriam in general. It is made up of three stanzas, each of four lines.

An elegy is a poem that mourns something lost, often a loved one.

Tennyson's poem is also in the rhyme scheme ABBA and follows the metre of iambic tetrameter.

Iambic tetrameter is when a work has four iambic feet per line. An iambic foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.

The structure of 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' is consistent. It does not subvert its form. This constancy mirrors the constancy of grief for Tennyson's narrator. The use of the phrase 'once more' in the poem suggests that this is not the first time the narrator has visited his friend's home like this, and it certainly won't be the last.

Frequently noted imagery

Let's look at imagery in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'.

The house

The house of the narrator's late friend is central in Tennyson's poem. The home is described as 'dark', insinuating its emptiness after the death of its owner. The image of the house lasts throughout the poem as the narrator does not move from where he is. He is on the street outside the house, by the front door. He finds both comfort and pain here, thinking of memories of his friend yet also grieving him. The house is what the narrator has to remember him by.

Hands

Hands are another essential image in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'. Tennyson's narrator stands outside his friend's home and thinks back to a time when a friendly hand would have reached out to him from that doorway. However, those hands are no longer there. These hands are representative of a much larger loss, the loss of a dear and cherished friend.

Poetic devices

Below are poetic devices found in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'.

Enjambment

Enjambment is found throughout Tennyson's poem.

Enjambment is when a poetic line continues into the next without being broken up by any kind of punctuation. This can continue for multiple lines or even stanzas.

This is an example of enjambment in 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'.

And like a guilty thing I creep

At earliest morning to the door. (ll. 7-8)

These lines run into the other as if they are one sentence, with no punctuation separating them. This can create a sense of urgency, encouraging an audience to read on faster. The lines also create an atmosphere of continuity. Just as they continue without stopping, so does the narrator's grief.

Metaphor

Metaphor is also key in Tennyson's poem.

Metaphor is when something is used to represent something else, with the two usually not necessarily connected. This can reveal a deeper meaning.

In 'Dark house, by which once more I stand', the 'drizzling rain' that Tennyson describes in the final stanza can be read as a metaphor. The weather represents the mood of the narrator. The narrator feels gloomy and downtrodden and the surrounding weather reflects and represents this.

Tone

The tone of 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' is dejected and depressed. The narrator is deep in mourning for his lost friend. He is so impacted by the loss that he is unable to sleep, spending his nights and early mornings at his late friend's home. Tennyson showcases the pain of grief. The tone of the poem is also lonely. The narrator is the only living person mentioned and he misses his friend deeply.

In Memoriam, Tennyson: quotes

This is a table of important quotes from 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'.

QuoteLine numbersExplanation
'Here in the long unlovely street,'Line 2.This is how Tennyson's narrator describes the street that his friend's home is on. This is a negative description. His friend's death seems to have marred his view of everything., even something as simple as a street.
'He is not here; but far away'Line 9.Tennyson uses this simple sentence to elucidate what is wrong with his narrator. This also emphasises the narrator's loneliness. He feels his late friend is very far from him now.
'Behold me, for I cannot sleep,'Line 6.The impact of grief on the narrator is shown here. He is unable to go on with his life as normal. The sudden death of his friend has changed everything.
'And ghastly thro' the drizzling rainOn the bald street breaks the blank day.'Lines 11-12.These are the closing lines of Tennyson's poem. This is how the narrator sees the world because of his loss. To him, the street is bare and the day is 'blank'. He has a total disinterest in it due to his grief.

In Memoriam Tennyson - Key takeaways

  • 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' is the seventh canto of the long poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson entitled In Memoriam (1850).
  • It follows a narrator wracked with grief after the death of his friend, based on Tennyson's own life.
  • Grief, longing, and confusion are key themes in the poem.
  • It is written in iambic tetrameter and uses ABBA rhyme scheme.
  • Tennyson includes enjambment and metaphor in this short poem.

Frequently Asked Questions about In Memoriam Tennyson

Themes in Tennyson's poem include grief, longing, and confusion.

The meaning of the poem is the pain and confusion of loss, based on Tennyson's own real experience.

In Memoriam describes the struggle to maintain faith but also the importance of doing so.

Tennyson wrote his poem between 1833 and 1850.

In Memoriam concludes with the narrator finding peace with his pain as he believes in Heaven and will therefore see his friend again some day.

Final In Memoriam Tennyson Quiz

Question

When was 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' written?

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Answer

Between 1833 and 1850.

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Question

What kind of poem is 'Dark house, by which once more I stand'?

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Answer

Elegy.

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Question

What are some key themes in Tennyson's poem?

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Answer

Grief, longing, and confusion.

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What metre is Tennyson's poem in?

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Answer

Iambic tetrameter.

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Question

What is iambic tetrameter?

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Answer

When a poem has four iambic feet per line.

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Question

What rhyme scheme does 'Dark house, by which once more I stand' have?

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Answer

ABBA.

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Question

What are two important images in Tennyson's poem?

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Answer

The house and hands.

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Question

Can you name two poetic devices used in the poem?

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Answer

Enjambment and metaphor.

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Question

How can the tone of Tennyson's poem be described?

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Answer

Dejected, depressed, lonely. 

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Why does the narrator feel confusion?

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Answer

Because the world is moving on without him as he grieves.

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Who is this poem about?

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Answer

Tennyson's close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam.

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How does the narrator cope with his grief?

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Answer

By standing by his late friend's house.

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What is an elegy?

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Answer

A poem that mourns something lost.

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What does the enjambment in the poem represent?

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Answer

The continuous nature of the narrator's grief.

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Question

What is the rain in the poem metaphorical for?

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Answer

The narrator's grim mood.

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