For many years, Tennyson has attracted readers by what Edmond Gosse called "the beauty of the atmosphere which Tennyson contrives to cast around his work, molding
it in the blue mystery of twilight, in the opaline haze of sunset." He is one of the greatest
representative figures of the Victorian Age. His writing incorporates many poetic styles
and includes some of the finest idyllic poetry in the language. He is one of the few poets to
have produced acknowledged masterpieces in so many different poetic genres; he implemented perhaps the most distinguished and versatile of all the written works in the
The first time I read "The Lotus-Eaters"1, I have to admit that I had a hearty
dislike for it. Having read The Odyssey in Literature class last year, this seemed like its
replica. It occurred to me that Tennyson was plagiarizing Homer. But when I reread the
poem with greater depth, I noticed its poetic techniques, imagery, symbols, etc. It was
really exceptional actually, although the meter didn't remain uniform. But when you
thoroughly understand it, you see how it pertains and is true to life. This being the first time I had ever come about a work by Tennyson. I didn't know
anything about his life. The idea that manifested me was that when writing this poem,
Tennyson was depressed and cynical. Sort of like Hamlet2 in the "To be or not to be"
soliloquy. In one point in the poem, he says, "Death is the end of the world...life all labor
be?" I think he meant that life is hard to live; there are so many obstacles, so many wrong
turns, and you can never go back and change anything.
II. Analysis of Poem
The poem is about the journey of Odysseus to the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Here they encounter a race of creatures known as the Lotophagi (lotus eaters). They[Lotophagi] spend their days in a "daze", literally. This was the effect of the lotus flower. It was a primitive version of narcotics. The Lotophagi offered the plant to Odysseus and his crew members. Some of the clique ate it. And then, they too, experienced a state of euphoria. Under these circumstances, they start speaking of staying over here[land of Lotos Eaters], and only dream about home. They forget their wives and children; only dream about them.
Subsequently, the entire crew ate the lotos plant. Tennyson describes euphoria as "Falling asleep in a half-dream". They hallucinate about their wives and homes. It has been a considerable amount of time since they have had left Ithaca3. They ponder about what has changed. At the end, he[Odysseus] concluded "We will not wander more", meaning that they will just stay put.
The first five stanzas are narrative. They are in the Spenserian stanza form, which is associated with tales of adventure and action. The opening word of Odysseus to his men is courage, an ironic command because the rest of the poem shows their courage ebbing away. Arriving on the shore of this beautiful and dreamy land, the mariners disembark amidst a crowd of the inhabitants, who offer them the fruits of the lotos tree. As soon as they taste the fruit the men feel weary. No longer eager to return home to Ithaca, they are content to rest where they are.
The rest of the poem, from line 46, is the song (choric song) sung by the mariners. In it they express the beauty of lotus-land and their own heavy and melancholy sense of fatigue.
In the fourth stanza of the song, the repeated phrase "Let us alone" captures their feelings. The lines of the song are irregular in length but repetitious in phrasing, giving a lazy and stupor feeling, as if they are in a state of torpor. The stanzas gradually become longer toward the end of the poem, hinting their confusion and ominous feelings.
The last stanza has twenty-eight lines. In it the mariners suggest that they will lie about like the gods on...
Bibliography: 1."Lord Alfred Tennyson," Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia ‘99, October 1999
2. The Norton Anthology of Poetry, The Lotos-Eaters, W.W. Norton & Company,
New York, 1997, p. 540.
3. World Wide Web-http://charon.sfsu.edu/TENNYSON/tennyson.html.
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