In Memoriam: Section XI - Summary & Analysis

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Calm is the morn without a sound,
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro' the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:
Calm and deep peace on this high wold,
And on these dews that drench the furze,
And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:
Calm and still light on yon great plain
That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:
Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:
Calm on the seas, and silver, sleep,
And waves that sway themselves in rest,
And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

The lyric forms Section XI of In Memoriam. It comes as a culmination of the spirit of calm and beauty in the sections IX and X.
In Memoriam Section XI


      The lyric forms Section XI of In Memoriam. It comes as a culmination of the spirit of calm and beauty in the sections IX and X.

Critical Summary

      The poet describes a calm and quiet early morning of an autumn day. The morning is so calm that it harmonises with his present state of mind which is heavy with grief for Hallam and also with the calm of death in the breast of his sleeping friend. And the stillness of the scene is just broken by the sound of the horse chestnut falling through the dead leaves, and these are reddening to their own fall. The poet sees from a Lincolnshire hill-top an autumn landscape and the sea in the distance, familiar to his and his friend's eyes. The sight of the sea and the ships sailing there reminds him of the ship which is transporting his friend's body from Vienna to London. He is not certain about his peace of mind and if there is any peace at all, it is 'a calm despair'. He imagines that calmness prevails over the sea as it is sleeping and dazzling; waves that rise and fall are in tune with the heaves of the bosom of the sleeper who is in restful sleep, and there is perfect calmness in the breast of his dead friend, which is lifeless but swells and falls noiselessly as the ship rises and falls in accordance with movements of the waves of the sea.

Critical Appreciation

      All through the lyric, nature is in harmony with the poet's mood. The poet's mood of calm despair is reflected in the calm of the natural scene. The early morning autumn scene is at once calm and also symbolises grief at the end of summer. The closing stanza is especially full of tender pathos.

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