Study Guide

The Lotos-Eaters Setting

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Over the 13 stanzas of this poem, we learn a lot about the setting. The opening narrator and the sailors both talk a lot about the land of the Lotos-eaters—how it looks and sounds and feels and smells. We get a pretty good sense of the geography, for starters. It's a "land of streams" (10), full of rivers and creeks and waterfalls. The sailors arrive on the shore, but they never make it past the "yellow sand" (37). However, "far inland" (20) they can see valleys and meadows and "three mountain-tops" (15).

We also hear a lot about the plants that grow here. Some of them are familiar, like moss and ivy and pine trees. Others are way more exotic, like the "slender galingale" (23), and that helps to set the tropical mood for this poem. There even seems to be some kind of music playing. It's a little hard to tell whether that's really happening, or if it's a metaphor, or a hallucination. That's the thing about this setting. It's realistic in some ways, but it also shades off into fantasy and imagination and dreams. We seem to be in a physical place, but we're also in the minds of the sailors, and as we know, they're not quite in their right minds themselves…

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