Aug. 6, 2005

In Memorium (excerpt)

by Alfred Tennyson

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: excerpts from "In Memoriam" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Public Domain

excerpts from In Memoriam


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 clasped 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 through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.


Love is and was my Lord and King,
   And in his presence I attend
   To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.

Love is and was my King and Lord,
   And will be, though as yet I keep
   Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompassed by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel
   Who moves about from place to place,
   And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was used in combat, only the second time that one had been exploded. It was an attack which led to the end of World War II.

It's the birthday of the man who discovered penicillin, the Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming, born in Lochfield in Ayr, Scotland (1881). In 1928, he noticed that one culture of Staphylococcus bacteria had been accidentally contaminated by a green mold called Penicillium notatum, and around the mold there was a circle where the bacteria could not grow.

Sir Alexander Fleming once said, "A good gulp of hot whiskey at bedtime—it's not very scientific, but it helps."

It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Tennyson, born in Lincolnshire, England (1809), who gave us such long poems as In Memoriam and Idylls of the King. At the height of his career, he was one of the most famous men in England.

Tennyson loved poetry, and wrote almost nothing else. He never wrote an essay or a review. He kept a diary, wrote no memoir, and wrote no autobiography at all. He hated writing letters.

He lived at a time when authors such as Dickens, others were turning the novel into the most popular form of literature, and he was one of the last poets who could sell as many books as a novelist. Nearly every English household of people who could read owned at least one copy of Tennyson.

He was a friend of Queen Victoria, wrote public poems, including the "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" and "Charge of the Light Brigade" in 1854. He lived with his wife Emily on the Isle of Wight in a big secluded house. He took long walks along the chalk cliffs overlooking the sea, composing his poems.

In 1864, he published Enoch Arden, which had the largest sales of any book during his lifetime, more than 40,000 copies on publication. He was followed in the streets by his admirers. Tourists came all the way to the Isle of Wight to line up at the walls of his country estate.

At the age of 75, he was offered a lordship in honor of his poetry, the first time any Englishman had been given a title for literary achievement alone. And that is why we now call him Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show