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Break, Break, Break

Break, Break, Break

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Sea

Symbol Analysis

The sea is an appropriate image in this poem. Have you ever heard the expression "the tide waits for no man"? Well, that's what the speaker is realizing in this poem, and it totally bums him out. Now that his friend is dead, he can't imagine the world continuing without him. And yet, the waves keep breaking on shore, over and over, as though nothing has happened. The sea doesn't seem to care.

  • Lines 1-2: The speaker uses apostrophe when he addresses the sea directly as though it were capable of responding to him. He also uses repetition within the first line, repeating the same word three times. The assonance in the second line, or the repetition of that long "o" vowel sound ("cold," "stones," and "O") helps to slow the reader down.
  • Lines 9-10: The speaker uses alliteration in line 10 when he repeats the "h" sound ("haven" and "hill"). The "stately ships" that go to their "haven under the hill" might be a metaphor for coffins – going "under the hill" sounds a lot like going underground, or being buried. As "stately" or fancy as these "ships" might be, that doesn't make us want to be passengers.
  • Lines 13-14: The speaker repeats lines 1-2 almost exactly, again apostrophizing the sea.

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