Break, Break, Break Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Break, Break, Break

Rating: 3.2


Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM

Tennyson employs beautiful contrast in this poem, beginning with the thrice repeated break of waves ‘On thy cold gray stones, O Sea! ’, to portray the constant breaking, suffering of a human heart in the agony of mourning. Immediately after this metaphor of suffering, describing the inability of the tongue, to describe this pain of loss. The joy of the fisherman’s children ‘at play! ’ and ‘the sailor lad, That he sings in his boat on the bay! ’, is the illustration of shades of life, as some mourn in deep sorrow, others enjoy moments of happiness. There is beauty everywhere, in the passage of ‘stately ships’, safely reaching ‘their haven under the hill; ’ but this seems to intensify the suffer of a hand never to be touched again, the voice never to be heard again. The first line of the fourth stanza, neatly rounds the brief circle of life, repeating the ‘Break, break, break’ beginning the opening stanza, but intensifying the suffering, as ‘cold gray stones, O Sea! ’ becomes ‘At the foot of thy crags, O Sea! ’. This imagery contains a note of increasing suffering, terrible loss that does not quickly pass; the danger perhaps of dark suicidal thoughts, and the suggested ‘tender grace of a day’, when the suffering and pain of the dying loved one, ended in the mercy of death. Tennyson displays a mastery of contrasted imagery, in this lyrical poem of heartache and bereavement. Tennyson’s pain is real, as he expresses the indifference of nature, in a cruel and unfeeling world, through personification in an address to the sea. The shock at the sudden death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam from a stroke at age 22; a fellow poet engaged to his sister Emily, teaches us the priceless value of youth and good health.

40 9 Reply
Mohammad Akmal Nazir 17 April 2011

In these fine lines, Tennyson mourns the death of his beloved friend, Arthur Hallam. These lines contain great vivid imagery and a grand style. The poem is a masterpiece of English poetry. Excellent work of Tennyson.

32 10 Reply
Joseph Poewhit 19 July 2013

Progression of life the sea and one day incorperated

5 9 Reply
Nicole Reyes 17 November 2013

We should learn to move on from the things that are already gone and accept that they will never ever come back again. There are still some important persons who are waiting for us to continue our life with them and not with our departed ones.

14 0 Reply

Dude... me

0 0 Reply
John S 23 February 2020

The repeated words “break, break, break, ” and the “cold grey stones” conjure a dramatic, desperation. “I would that I could utter the thoughts that arise in me” like an existential meltdown! Great poem!

1 0 Reply
Ratnakar Mandlik 01 September 2019

the tender grace of a day that is dead Will never come back to me. Great lines.

1 0 Reply
Adeeb Alfateh 17 July 2019

O, well for the fisherman's boy, That he shouts with his sister at play! O, well for the sailor lad, That he sings in his boat on the bay! And the stately ships go on To their haven under the hill; But O for the touch of a vanished hand, And the sound of a voice that is still! great write great poem great 10++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 0 Reply
Vidya 11 November 2018

Bad poem

0 4 Reply
John S 23 February 2020

Articulate, if you will, why this is a “bad poem”

0 0 Reply
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