Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series (MMG)
The grief and uncertainty of In Memoriam are expressed in, and created by, its simple yet flexible form, a quatrain (a four line stanza) consisting of a couplet and an enclosing rhyme — ABBA. Two principal effects are made possible by this form. The first is that the thoughts and feelings of the poet are protected by the enclosing rhyme; that is to say, the need for consolation is enacted in the very structure of the verse in its isolation of what is private and introspective. This is evident in the last stanza of 5, which is a meditation upon the soothing effects of verse and also a self-referential comment upon the function of the stanza form:
In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.
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© Richard Gill 1987