Study Guide

The Lotos-Eaters Stanza 4

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Stanza 4

Lines 28-29

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave

  • The Lotos-eaters come with their favorite food—the "enchanted" Lotos. The branches of the Lotos are weighed down ("laden") with flowers and fruit, and the natives give them to the sailors.
  • A quick note on the meter, now that we're pretty deep into the poem. For the most part, the rhythm of the poem is iambic (that means that the syllables come in pairs, with the emphasis on the second syllable—daDUM, daDUM, daDUM). This is the most common meter in English poetry—it's the primary one Shakespeare used, for example.
  • Occasionally, though, Tennyson switches it up and does the opposite, opening a line with a trochee (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable—DUMda). In line 28, the word "branches" is trochaic, but the rest of the line is in iambic meter. Here, we'll show you what that looks like with the syllables all split up:

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,

  • See how that goes? DUMda, daDUM, daDUM, daDUM, daDUM. For the full run-down on how this poem's put together, be sure to check out our "Form and Meter" section.

Lines 30-31

To each, but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave

  • The Lotos-eaters give some of their magic fruit to each of the sailors, but only some take them and taste them. This choice turns out to be a big deal, but we don't figure out what the enchanted Lotos does to them right away.

Lines 32-33

Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,

  • Turns out that this fruit has an effect on how these sailors see the world. It's almost like a hallucinogenic drug. Suddenly, the sound of the waves is personified. It starts to sound to them like a person, who seems to "mourn" and "rave" (that means to talk incoherently).
  • They imagine the human voice of the waves crying and ranting on strange beaches ("alien shores"). A taste of Lotos has turned these poor guys' worlds upside-down. Not even the speech of a fellow sailor sounds the same.

Lines 34-35

His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake,

  • Because of the effects of the Lotos, the voices of other sailors sound "thin" and ghostlike. The enchanted plants make these guys seem like they are both "deep-asleep" and "all awake." That oxymoron (you can't be asleep and awake at the same time) is a great way for the speaker to express the weirdness of this place, and the strange effect of eating Lotos.

Line 36

And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

  • With their changed perception, these guys hear their own heartbeats as if they were music in their ears. Pretty trippy, huh?
  • That takes us to the end of another stanza. Now, this probably isn't such a bad spot to bring up the first part of this poem's rhyme, now that we've seen a few stanzas. The rhyme scheme for these opening stanzas might seem a little complicated at first, but it's also the same for the first five stanzas. Here, we'll show you how it works in this stanza by sketching out the end rhyme sound with capital letters:

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem, A
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave B
To each, but whoso did receive of them, A
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave B
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave B
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake, C
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave; B
And deep-asleep he seem'd, yet all awake, C
And music in his ears his beating heart did make. C

  • See how that goes? If we wrote out all those capital letters rhyme scheme would look like this: ABABBCBCC. We'll be back later with more info on how the rhyme works in later stanzas. For an overview of the whole deal, though, check out our "Form and Meter" section.

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