Study Guide

The Lotos-Eaters Stanza 3

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Stanza 3

Lines 19-20

The charmed sunset linger'd low adown
In the red West: thro' mountain clefts the dale

  • In this new stanza, we get a little more detail about that setting sun. It's sinking down—sort of like most suns do in the evening.
  • Except here, it's a little difference. It seems to "linger" a little, as if it was enchanted ("charmed"). This new land is beautiful, but also a little spooky.
  • In the second half of line 20, Tennyson leaves the sun behind, and starts off on a new description. He mentions a valley ("dale") that we can see though breaks ("clefts") in the mountains. Then the description breaks off at the end of the line. That technique, where a sentence carries across multiple lines, is called enjambment. Keep an eye out for it, because Tennyson uses it a bunch in this poem. You could even say it's his enjambment. Get it? His jam? Anyone?

Lines 21-23

Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
Border'd with palm, and many a winding vale
And meadow, set with slender galingale;

  • In these lines we get a few more images of the landscape in this beautiful new place. The guys can see yellow fields ("down" is another term for a field) with palm trees around them. They also see lots of winding valleys and meadows, with ginger ("galingale") plants around them.
  • The whole look of this place reminds us of a tropical paradise. We're seeing something like Kauai. Exotic plants, the waterfalls, the palm trees—we're not in Kansas anymore, gang.

Line 24

A land where all things always seem'd the same!

  • This is a key line, which really helps to establish the mood of this beautiful landscape. It describes it as a place where nothing seems to change. That's an echo of line 4, where this spot was described as a land of endless afternoons.
  • Again, this seems both tempting and a little spooky to us—a beautiful land outside of time.

Lines 25-26

And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,

  • Now, all of a sudden, some new folks show up. At first we just see them as faces, gathering around the "keel" (that's the bottom part of the boat our friends the sailors arrived in).
  • The image of these new faces is mysterious. At first they are described as "pale" then as "Dark." Put together, these "Dark faces pale" seem like a kind of contradiction in terms—an oxymoron. Then we learn that it's the sunset, the "rosy flame" that is making them seem pale. 
  • Whatever the explanation, this is turning out to be a place where nothing is clear and simple, and things may not be quite as they seem. (Cue spooky music.)

Line 27

The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

  • Who are these new arrivals, with their pale-dark faces? Well, it turns out they are the famous "Lotos-eaters" of the title of this poem. They seem calm and friendly ("mild-eyed"), but also bummed-out ("melancholy").
  • So, who are these guys? Well, they're the folks who live in this enchanted land Tennyson pulled this story out of ancient legends of an island where the inhabitants ate a plant called the Lotos. That plant made them sleepy, lazy, and unable to leave the island. 
  • The most famous version of this story, and the most important source for Tennyson, was Book 9 of Homer's Odyssey, where Odysseus visits the island of the Lotos-eaters and nearly loses his crew to them (see our "Allusions" section for the full scoop on that).

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