Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics, such as “Break, Break, Break”, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, “Tears, Idle Tears” and “Crossing the Bar”. Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses, although In Memoriam A.H.H. was written to commemorate his friend Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet and student at Trinity College, Cambridge, after he died of a stroke aged just 22.
The brook is a poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. In this poem, the brook plays the role of the narrator as it tells the reader about its journey. Here is the summary of the poem.
The brook starts out from the dwelling place of birds such as the coot (a water bird) and the hern (archaic word for heron). It makes a sudden rush as it flows out. The presence of sunlight causes the brook’s water to sparkle as it flows among the fern. It then continues its journey by flowing down a valley. While doing so, the sound of the flowing brook resembles that of people quarrelling. Hence the phrase, ‘bicker down a valley’.
The brook flows down along hills. Sometimes, it also glides between long and narrow hill ranges, called ridges. Thorpes refer to small villages or hamlets. Between two small towns, the brook passes several thorpes and a large number of bridges. The numbers used in this line such as ‘thirty’, ‘twenty’, ‘half a hundred’ should not be taken in the literal sense. These numbers are used to give the impression of ‘several’ or ‘many’ and to maintain the rhythm of the poem.
Finally, the brook passes Philip’s farm and flows into the overflowing river. The brook further states that men are transient. They come and go over time. But it outlives men and continues forever.
The lines ‘For men may come and men may go, /But I go on for ever.’, are repeated several times in the entire poem.
As the brook flows over stony paths, its water makes a chattering sound. This sound is high pitched, hence the phrase ‘sharps and trebles’ (both, high pitched notes in music).
As water flows past an obstacle, a reverse motion is created that leads to swirling. These are known as eddies. A lot of bubbles are also formed.
As the brook flows over pebbles, the sound it makes is similar to that made while talking rapidly. Hence the phrase, ‘babble on the pebbles’.
The brook does not flow in a straight line. It makes a lot of turns and etches out a path full of curves. ‘Fret’ means ‘fuss’ or ‘worry’. The brook forms so many curves, that it seems as if it is constantly troubling its banks to change shape. The brook continues beside many fields as well as fallow lands. ‘Fairy forelands’ refer to promontories. These are masses of land that overlook the brook. These promontories are home to plants such as willow weed and mallow. The brook passes them on its journey.
As the brook flows, on its way to the overflowing river, it makes a continuous sound. The sound is like that of people talking. Hence, the line ‘I chatter, chatter, as I flow”.
The brook repeats that although men are transient, it goes on forever.
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