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.
Short Poem Analysis
"Break, Break, Break" by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a poignant and melancholic poem that reflects on the speaker's deep sense of grief and loss. The poem employs vivid and evocative imagery to convey the speaker's emotions and the impact of personal sorrow on the natural world.
The repeated use of the word "break" in the poem's title and throughout the verses creates a rhythmic and almost onomatopoeic effect, mimicking the sound of waves breaking on the shore. This repetitive structure contributes to the poem's mournful tone.
The speaker describes the sea breaking on a distant shore, and the juxtaposition of this natural scene with the speaker's inner turmoil creates a poignant contrast. While the sea continues its eternal cycle, the speaker is burdened by personal grief, creating a sense of isolation and disconnection.
The use of the phrase "But the tender grace of a day that is dead" suggests a profound sense of loss and nostalgia for a past time or relationship. The mourning for the "face" and the "voice" that will not return adds to the theme of irreparable loss.
The poem can be seen as a reflection on the permanence of nature compared to the fleeting nature of human emotions and experiences. The speaker's grief is intensified by the continuity of the sea, symbolizing the indifferent persistence of the natural world.
"Break, Break, Break" is a masterful exploration of grief and the relentless passage of time. Tennyson's skillful use of imagery and sound creates a somber and reflective mood, inviting readers to contemplate the enduring nature of loss and the transient quality of human existence.