Study Guide

The Lotos-Eaters The Home

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Home

And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore (39-40)

These guys miss their home country of Greece (the "Fatherland"). They also miss their wives and kids and their slaves (although maybe their slaves don't miss them quite so much). It's not that these guys aren't a little homesick, or that they don't like thinking about the families they left so long ago. It's just that they can't stand the idea of getting back in their boats. Too much work… so sleepy…

And all at once they sang, "Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam." (44-45)

This is a big shift in the poem, the moment when all the sailors decide to stay put. They don't seem to need to talk it over—they all just suddenly know that they aren't going home. Again, it isn't that they don't miss their home, it's just that it seems so far away. These poor guys have been sailing around for years, and (especially now that they've had a little Lotos) they just can't take it anymore.

Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
And dear the last embraces of our wives (114-115)

Even though the guys have decided to stay put in this new place, their minds (and their song) keep wandering back to their old homes. They can't stop thinking about their wives, and the happy married lives that were so "dear" to them. This vision of home isn't just about where they used to sleep. It's about a whole world of love and comfort and happiness. That's a lot to give up, but in this stanza they manage to convince themselves that all of those happy memories are probably gone by now. Bummer.

Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy (118-119)

These travelers have been gone a super-long time. In these lines they imagine that their sons will have taken their place, and that the people they knew won't even recognize them. If they came home now, they figure, they'd just seem like ghosts from the past. Even now, this is a pretty familiar idea for soldiers far from home. What if no one remembers me when I get back? What if everyone has just moved on while I'm gone?

Is there confusion in the little isle?
Let what is broken so remain. (124-125)

For these guys, the possibility that things have changed at home turns into an excuse to not even try to go home. Why even bother? If the world they knew is "broken," then they figure it's best to just leave it that way. We think this is probably just the Lotos plant talking—these guys are feeling so lazy and sleepy now that they'll think of any excuse not to do the hard work of getting home.

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