A Poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
Type of Work and Date of Composition
"Break, Break, Break" is a lyric poem that Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was believed to have completed in 1834. It centers on Tennyson's grief over the death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet. Lyrical poetry presents the deep feelings and emotions of the poet as opposed to poetry that tells a story or presents a witty observation. A lyric poem often has a pleasing musical quality. The word lyric derives from the Greek word for lyre, a stringed instrument in use since ancient times. Rhyme Scheme and Meter
Lines 2 and 4 of each stanza have end rhyme. The meter in the poem varies, but the anapestic foot creates the musicality of the poem, as in the following lines: .iamb.........anapest......anapest.........iamb
But O| for the TOUCH | of a VAN | ished HAND,
And the SOUND| of a VOICE| that is STILL!
Following are examples of figures of speech and other rhetorical devices in "Break, Break, Break": Apostrophe (Lines 1 and 2): The narrator addresses the sea. Personification and metaphor also occur in Lines 1 and 2, for the poet regards the sea as a human being. Alliteration (Line 8): boat on the bay
(Lines 9-12): Stanza 3 uses this figure of speech as follows: 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!
Alliteration (Line 15): day that is dead
Repetend: Line 13 repeats Line 1; Line 7 repeats the first two words of Line 5. Paradox: Touch of a vanished hand (Line 11), sound of a voice that is still (Line 12). Themes
The main theme is bereavement, heartache, emptiness. In the narrator's dark hour of grief, the sun rises, children laugh, business goes on as usual. How could the world be so cruel and unfeeling?...