Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Lord Tennyson speaks to a dead homie:

VII 
 
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 clasp'd 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 thro' the drizzling rain 
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

While picking my way through Austen, I've been slowly wading into In Memoriam. Believe it or not, all of this is related to the Civil War. You get to a point where the facts and numbers, though necessary prerequisites to any deep understanding, can only tell you so much. At some point, to get what it was, you have to get how it feels. 

Austen is great at elucidating a bound world. I've turned to Tennyson for some insight into a kind of homosocial intimacy that really isn't permitted today--except, oddly enough, in sports, (I wonder if the relative presence of death and danger has an effect on what we feel we can and can't say.)

I also like  that Tennyson's language is so physical, almost tangible. The door is the object, and the door reminds him of the hand of "one removed." I'm reminded of how a pound--the artful touching of hands--is so essential in how black men (and increasingly non-black men) relate. And then that last line, "On the bald street breaks the blank day." I could feel the unwelcome sunrise.

Of course all of this made me want to go play some Mobb Deep...

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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