Lo! in the middle of the wood, The folded leaf is woo'd from out the bud
With the opening of this new stanza (part III of the song), the sailors switch gears. Before, they were talking about how tiring it is to be a human. Now they imagine how relaxing it would be to be a plant. It's weird, we know, but maybe that's just what Lotos does to you.
They start out by imagining a new leaf unfurling out of a bud. But this leaf doesn't just pop out—no sir. This leaf is "woo'd" (that means "courted," like when you start to date someone). This little personification turns a pretty basic natural event into a little love story. The leaf isn't just growing, it's stepping out on a date. This helps to underline the feeling of carefree happiness that the sailors are obsessed with.
With winds upon the branch, and there Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
The leaf is "woo'd" out of its bud by the wind, and when it's out, it grows big and green and strong. Most importantly, though, it doesn't have any worries ("takes no care"). Remember, the singing sailors are obsessed with how much more relaxed everything else in the world is. Even the leaves have it easier—luckies.
Sun-steep'd at noon, and in the moon Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow Falls, and floats adown the air.
These three little lines tell the rest of the story of the life of a leaf. It drinks up the sunshine and the dew. Then, when it finally turns yellow and dies, it's no big deal—it just floats down gently to the ground. That sounds like a pretty happy little leaf if you ask us.
Be sure to notice all the little poetic tricks that Tennyson lays in here. There's some nice alliteration ("sun-steeped" and "falls and floats"), as well as some cool internal rhyme in line 74 ("noon" and "moon"). For more on this poem's sounds, check out "Sound Check."
Lo! sweeten'd with the summer light, The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow, Drops in a silent autumn night.
Now the sailors tell basically the same story with another plant. This time it's an apple (mmm, apple) that gets big and fat in the summer, and then falls down in the autumn when it gets too ripe ("over-mellow").
Just like with the leaf, this is a gentle metaphor for peaceful death. The sailors are fantasizing about slipping off to an eternal sleep. In a way, this poem is a dream about death without fear. Notice how words like "silent" and "mellow" help to reinforce that feeling of calm and ease.
All its allotted length of days The flower ripens in its place,
One of the things that bugs these sailors is that they have to move all over the place. They're travellers by profession, and they have to roam and row all over the ocean (with no frequent sailing miles or anything).
A flower, on the other hand, spends all its time "in its place." Now that they've had some Lotos to eat, they want to do the same thing—just "ripen" in one spot.
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil, Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.
The guys finish their weird little plant fantasy by imagining the end of the flower's life (just like they did with the leaf and the apple before). The two really important things about the flower are that it stays put ("fast-rooted" just means solidly anchored, stable) and it doesn't have to work ("hath no toil").
While we're here, at the end of another stanza, let's take a quick look at the form of this chunk of the poem (the "Choric Song"). There are eight numbered stanzas in this section. In the first part of the poem (stanzas 1-5), all the stanzas were the same length (nine lines) now they are all different lengths. There's still plenty of rhyming too, but now it doesn't follow a set pattern from one stanza to the next. So what's up with all that? Well, be sure to check out our "Form and Meter" section for a full breakdown.