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Themes

Time is really screwy in "The Lotus-Eaters." The land of the Lotos-eaters seems to be stuck in some kind of endless afternoon, and the speakers of the poem are obsessed with eternity, death, and endless sleep. It sounds like a hoot. Over the course of the poem, we lose track of when and where we are. Tennyson takes us out of the everyday world of appointments and schedules and minutes and hours. He immerses us in a place where reality is subtly altered, and the strangeness of time is one of the big clues to that difference.

Questions About Time

  1. Do you get the feeling that time really works differently in this poem, or have the sailors just been tricked into thinking that it does?
  2. How does the sense of time's flow change between the intro and the sailors' song? 
  3. Why is eternity such an important concept in "The Lotos-Eaters"? Why do you think the sailors keep bringing up endless time?
  4. Do the sailors seem more excited or scared about eternity? Are they looking forward to endless sleep? What parts of the poem support your answer?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Time, in this poem, represents all of the misery and torment of being human. The sailors imagine that if they can get rid of time, they will be free from the pain of existence. Um, good luck with that.

The sleepy feeling that the Lotos plant gives the soldiers is a little taste of heaven, a hint of eternal happiness outside of time. Hooray?

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