The Sullen Tree

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a long poem in remembrance of his dear friend, Arthur Hallam. He titled it ‘In Memoriam A.H.H. This is an excerpt from this 133 canto poem:

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones

     That name the under-lying dead,

     Thy fibres net the dreamless head,

Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

-Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’

In this stanza, Tennyson paints us a picture of a yew, a type of tree that grasps the rocks surrounding buried bodies, that constrict the skulls of those dead, and that wrap around the bones of our friends and family who have passed away. This is a beautiful, yet solemn, picture to imagine. He later refers to this yew as “the sullen tree.” To show something so horrible, so intertwined with death, to be so incredibly beautiful is a sign of a great poet and writer.


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