Study Guide

The Lotos-Eaters Stanza 12

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Stanza 12

Lines 133-134

But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)

  • As this stanza opens, the lazy sailors are dreaming about their new life on the island of the Lotos-eaters. They imagine themselves reclining on beds of plants, with warm sweet air blowing all around them. That sounds pretty good, huh?
  • The two plants they mention are significant, too. Amaranth was a legendary flower that never wilted, so it's a great symbol of the freedom from pain and suffering that these guys are looking for.
  • Moly is mentioned in Homer as a medicinal herb that counteracted the poison of the evil witch Circe. (It rhymes with "holy," FYI—as we'll see below.)

Lines 135-136

With half-dropt eyelid still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,

  • Here's a little more of one of the sailors' favorite themes—being half-asleep (see lines 100-101). Here they imagine their eyes being half closed under a dark sky. That's another image that's both quiet and calm and (we think) a little spooky and death-like, too.

Lines 137-138

To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill—

  • These guys will be so chilled out in their Lotos haze that they won't need any more entertainment than watching the river fill up with water. Wow—sounds like fun, huh? 
  • This second-to-last stanza is full of images that echo the beginning of the poem. Remember we last heard about this river in the second stanza (14). It's a subtle touch, but it helps to make the poem feel symmetrical, orderly, and calm. Check out "Form and Meter" for more on how this is put together.

Lines 139-140

To hear the dewy echoes calling
From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine—

  • Here's a little more about the sailors' idea of a good time. No video games for them. Nope, they'd rather sit and listen to sounds echoing in caves. Those caves are covered in thick vines, which adds to the tropical, lush, exotic feel of the landscape.
  • Tennyson is really emphasizing the sailor's lazy, stoned mind-state. They don't want anything but to enjoy the beauty of their new home. Far out, man.

Lines 141-142

To watch the emerald-colour'd water falling
Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!

  • Water and plants are the dominant images in this stanza. It's all sort of beautifully simple, a completely calm and uncomplicated life. 
  • The acanthus was another plant that the ancient Greeks loved. Its shape is even incorporated into the tops of Corinthian columns. Like the moly and the amaranth mentioned in line 133, this plant is associated in this poem with a kind of hold power (the sailors call it "divine").

Lines 143-144

Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine.

  • It turns out these guys will be happy just looking at and listening to the far-away, glimmering sea. In earlier stanzas the sea is scary, dangerous and threatening. Now it's just decoration. 
  • In fact, these guys don't even need to see the beautiful sea as they lie around. All they need to do is hear it. They think it would be "sweet" to just lie under a pine tree and listen to the waves. Okay, they got us there—that does sound pretty sweet.

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