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Break, Break, Break

Break, Break, Break

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Stanza 1 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 1-4

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

  • The speaker addresses the ocean directly, telling the waves to "break, break, break" onto the stony shore.
  • After telling the sea to keep doing its thing, the speaker regrets that he can't express his thoughts.
  • He doesn't come out and say, "I can't utter/ the thoughts," he says that his "tongue" can't "utter" them. This makes him seem kind of passive – he's not speaking, his "tongue" is doing it.
  • He's not really thinking, either – the thoughts "arise in" him almost spontaneously, without effort.

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