Study Guide

The Lotos-Eaters Stanza 9

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Stanza 9

Lines 84-85

Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
Vaulted o'er the dark-blue sea.

  • At the start of this new stanza, the sailors get back into griping about their lives. Honestly, we don't know if it's just the Lotos talking, but this is a pretty whiny bunch, huh?
  • Anyway, their whole thing is that they don't want to go back out on the ocean. They just want to hang out in their magical new home and eat Lotos. So they sing about how much they hate the "dark-blue" sky, which arches over the "dark-blue" sea. That repetition of "dark-blue" does a pretty good job of making the ocean sound boring and maybe a little weirdly claustrophobic—not the place you'd want to be, especially if you have a full day of just chilling out and staring into space planned.

Lines 86-87

Death is the end of life; ah, why
Should life all labour be?

  • Now the boys really get down to it. "If we're all going to die, what's the point of working?" they ask. 
  • In our opinion, they sound a little depressed. Maybe they caught that from the locals, with their "mild-eyed melancholy" (27).

Lines 88-90

Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?

  • Finally, all these guys want is to be left alone. Time is moving fast, they know they're going to die, so why not just hang out and do nothing on the beach? Nothing's forever anyway, so why worry about it?
  • It's not quite clear from the poem who it is that won't leave them alone. Maybe the other sailors? In The Odyssey, Odysseus finally had to tie his Lotos-eating sailors up to get them off the enchanted island. So maybe this is an allusion to that version of the story.

Lines 91-92

All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.

  • Okay, now this just sounds like flat-out depression. When someone just can't ever see the good side of things, when everything in life just seems "dreadful" and when it seems like only bad things can happen, that's when you start to worry. The effects of the Lotos seem more and more sinister to us. This stuff doesn't just make you sleepy—it makes life look horrible.
  • The poem's still pretty, though—check out the alliteration of "portions and parcels."

Lines 93-95

Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?

  • Life just seems like an endless fight to these guys. It's no fun to fight evil. It's not relaxing to climb up waves forever, like they did when they were sailors. They just want to be left alone. These rhetorical questions are just another way of letting us know that they are sick of having to do anything active.

Lines 96-97

All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence; ripen, fall and cease:

  • Basically, these guys would like to turn into plants. Really, we don't blame 'em. They want to rest and get old ("ripen" is an echo of the plant metaphors from stanza III, lines 70-83). 
  • On top of that, they'd really like things to be quiet. That's really all they want. Perfect rest and perfect silence until they die. These guys would be a real drag at a party—take it from us.

Line 98

Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.

  • This line, at the end of the stanza, takes us straight to the disturbing conclusion we've been heading towards. These guys don't really care if they rest, sleep, or die. In any of those states, they'd at least be at peace. That's all they want.
  • So… let's recap: what started out sounding like a fun weekend on the beach has turned into a creepy fantasy about death. The death obsession of the Lotos-eating sailors is driven home by the repetitive alliteration ("death, dark death") in this line. It almost sounds like a creepy prayer.

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