Tag Archives: In Memoriam

Can Poetry Stop This Man?

Poetry may not have been able to stop Donald Trump, but it has its ways of mounting resistance. Poems by Tennyson, Auden, and Yeats explain how.

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Love & the Red Fool-Fury of the Seine

Tennyson, responding to Paris massacres in the 1840s, asserts his faith in love and in social truth. Our challenge is to continue to believe this in the wake of the recent terror attacks.

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I Thought That Love Would Last Forever…

The death of a beloved cousin is throwing me into the primal pain described by Tennyson and Auden.

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Dear Son, Far Off, My Lost Desire

I understand more with each passing year what Tennyson means when he says his love “is vaster passion now” and how Hallam is thoroughly mixed with God and nature. Tennyson goes on to say that the moral will of humankind—the “living will” that is the best part of ourselves as a people—can finding footing on this spiritual rock. And that the living water that springs from this rock will “flow through our deeds and make them pure.”

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Blaming Loved Ones in the Face of Death

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child  Imagine the following situation. A couple has been married for decades but now he has contracted a terminal illness and is dying. His wife has always prided herself on being there for him when he needed her, but now she feels helpless. Meanwhile he is scared and angry and is […]

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Becoming the Hero of Our Own Life

David Copperfield  (1935)         “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show,” writes narrator David Copperfield at the beginning of the great Charles Dickens novel.  But why the uncertainty?  Can’t we just decide to be the hero of […]

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Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New

I am writing to you from the home of my parents in Sewanee, Tennessee, where I figure I have spent around 48 of my 58 Christmases.   In this I differ from the Tennyson in the third Christmas passage of In Memoriam.  For the first time since Hallam’s death, he is not celebrating the season in […]

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Dead Hands Reaching Out to Comfort

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s three Christmas passages in In Memoriam are reminiscent of the way that my own family celebrates Christmas. My ancestry is British and the ceremonies that we observe date at least as far back as my great grandmother Eliza Scott Fulcher, born in the 1850’s.    Christmas in Sewanee, Tennessee (which is where we are […]

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Singing Carols in the Darkness

Thinking about my dead son in this Christmas season brings to mind Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, the lengthy poem that he wrote over the course of 17 years lamenting the death of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam.Hallam was a young man when he died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage, and Tennyson describes his […]

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Trusting that Good Can Come from Ill

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus What have I learned about literature and pain this past week? First, that writers have taken up the topic, just as they take up every aspect of human existence. They imagine what it is like to feel pain and, through poetic images and fictional stories, convey that experience to readers. By entering […]

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Alan’s Cancer vs. an Exquisite Corpse

Colleagues of my friend Alan Paskow held another one of our salons Monday night.  Alan is a former professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s College, now retired, who currently has cancer in his lungs.  We have been meeting once a month or so to show our support and to generally reaffirm how important community is.  Monday […]

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Death and Language’s Limitations

In spending the last two weeks discussing how poetry can come to our aid in a season of death, I have been exploring how poetry responds to its greatest test. Death and dying can trigger our deepest fears, generate panic, denial and anger, prompt us to question everything we believe in, and send on frantic […]

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