Break Break Break Summary and Analysis by Alfred Lord Tennyson: 2022

Alfred Lord Tennyson- Alfred Tennyson was born on August 6, 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England. The fourth sibling in twelve, he showed an early interest in writing and had penned down a 6000-line epic at the age of 12. He escaped home with his brother Charles in 1827 due to the troubled environment at home, and attended the Trinity College in London. The two brothers published a book of poems, and he later published two volumes of poetry which gained critical appraisal with time. At 41, Tennyson was a Poet Laureate, one of the most popular poets of the Victorian era. He gained substantially from his work and appeared tall as a large and bearded man with a booming voice. In 1884, he became Alfred Lord Tennyson. He passed away on October 6, 1892 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Break Break Break- “Break, Break, Break” is a short poem dealing with loss. It opens and continues to speak in a dark tone of the crushing rocks in the sea and the elements that thrive in it to describe his inner disturbance on being separated from a close friend. It primarily mentions the booming sound of the sea, coupled with the fisherman and the sailor and the ships that sail in it. The poem moves in a negative manner around the inevitable phenomenon that is death and reflects the poet’s sorrow caused by the death of a closed one entwined with the setting of the sea. This poem is an apt example of an elegy, a kind of poetry based on lamenting a lost, close relation. It closes with the poet saying “…a day that is dead, shall never come back to me” and the purpose of describing the gory of separation is accomplished.

Setting of Break Break Break

The poem is set in the seas of the Victorian era and speaks in abstract comparisons about death, an unexpected but inevitable phase of life. The poet describes the physical occurences in the sea and compares the booming waves and the jutting rocks to his inner disturbances. He also looks at the joy of the fisherman and the sailor who possess what they yearn for and how he is devoid of this joy because of his sorrowful state of mind. The poet further goes on to refer to death directly, emphasising on the waves of the sea crashing down on the sea shore, whereas the poet cannot go back to his past experiences with his lost friend, thus closing the poem in the same dark tone it opened in, and the same setting the poet has used to describe his torment.

Poetic Devices in Break Break Break 

Metaphor – “And the stately ships go on/To their haven under the hill” – the ship is a metaphor of life.
Personification – “…a day that is dead” – Giving an inert thing like day, a character.
Synecdoche – “But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand/And the sound of a voice that is still” – hand, voice.
Onomatopoeia​ – “Break” – sound of the waves.
“Break, Break, Break, (A)
On thy cold gray stones, Of sea! (B)
And I would that my tongue could utter (C)
The thoughts that arise in me” (B)

Summary of Break Break Break

The poem is a comparative play, the rhythm moving in quatrains, on the feeling of loss and the inner tribulation that results from it. The first quatrain opens with the poet describing the sea crashing on the grey rocks which is much like his inner struggle to deal with his disturbing thoughts and how he can present them in a similar, rushing way.
The second quatrain of the poem is a more realistic observation of the poet of the fisherman’s son and daughter and their joy as they’re laughing and shouting happily which is in contrast with the poet’s current state of mind, his grief at being separated from his friend. The poet also places an insight on the sailor, who is content in his boat and admires the magnificence of the sea while the poet is only lamenting the loss of his dear friend and cannot comprehend these pleasant feelings. The third quatrain of the poem describes the huge ships on the sea that are travelling to their destination under the hill. The poet seems clueless about his destination and looks back at his life which now has no such direction except his sorrow. He misses his friend, whose touch was tender and voice so still and desperately wishes he could experience it back again which glorifies his sadness and introspection.
The fourth quatrain comes back to the first one, as the poet asks the waves to continue coming back to the land which is in contrast to the poet’s condition who cannot go back to his past experiences with his friend and live them again, no matter how much he wishes to. The poem ends with a disclaimer on death, that shall never bring a presence back again and feels sad for his close relationship with his friend who has passed away.
Critical Analysis of Break Break Break
“Break, Break, Break” is an excellent play on the comparison between life and the booming sea. The poem deals with the inevitable phenomenon of death entwined with the waves of the sea and the feelings the poet feels when he observes it. The poem faced a lot of appreciation in the Victorian era due to its abstract framework of writing about life as a physical entity and introspecting on one’s feelings based on observation and comparison. The poet lost his friend Hallam and dedicated this and other poems such as his infamous “In Memoriam” to him. The poet’s final urge to the sea is a closure on his description on the tribulations in his life due to the death of his friend as he states how death is irreversible and no matter how much he wishes, he cannot have his friend back or the experiences he had with him and has to accept that there is no going back anymore. The poem beautifully describes negative emotions i. e. grief which plays a critical role on the psychological perception of life. Beautifying grief has often been received negatively by a majority of the population and perhaps it is the abstraction of the contrasts and similarities of the poet’s life and emotions as seen with respect to the sea’s nature and elements which makes this poem a victorious account in literature. The poem is an elegy, or a poem lamenting about the sorrow of a loved one and thoroughly sticks to the theme of death, talking about the intense feelings that arise as a result of it.

Central Idea of Break Break Break

The central idea of the poem is the loss of a loved one. The emotions the poet indirectly describes pertain to this loss and the medium used to describe it, the sea and all that it consists of, is also a play on the feeling of loss and separation. The poem goes on about the gory crashing of the waves and the grief of the poet as well as his inability to register pleasant feelings of joy and laughter as his sorrow has engulfed him, his loss being the loss of a very dear friend. It is an intense poem that brings forward the phases of life with the booming waves, the adventurous and content sailor, the happiness present in the presence of family, the journey of life to a destination and an eventual death, and though life might not be in the same order, the poem concludes on the note that loss is irreversible and separation painful and that completes the cycle of the presentation of loss as a central idea.

Tone of Break Break Break

The poem proceeds in a very gloomy tone describing the rough phases of life and even the pleasant phases he describes is only coupled with his contrasting dark emotions. The tone of the poem is gloomy as well as negative that is clearly present in its entire framework of the different happenings that take place in the sea and the poet’s socially retreating emotions with regard to them. The poet manages to instil his depressing state of mind in the struggling, continuing and treasured moments he observes in the sea and thus maintains a holistic suppressed sorrow caused by the death of his close friend.
Conclusion- The analysis of “Break, Break, Break” concludes the poem as an excellent play on the emotional consequence of the death of a loved one told with respect to the struggles of the sea which are compared to the different, eventual and inevitable phases of life, focusing on the irreversible phenomenon of death and how this Ir-reversibility regretfully must be accepted by the poet who now cannot go back to his times with his friend regardless of how much he wishes to.

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