Tennyson's Poems

Passing Time and Poetic Technique in Alfred Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters” College

In the opening line of Alfred Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters,” Odysseus issues the rallying call of “Courage!” to his men as they head forward in their trajectory towards a strange and unnamed “land.” For these weary wanderers, this place is clearly another inevitable detour and not their ultimate destination of home; even so, its exact nature and significance remain ambiguous throughout the first three stanzas. Deploying various poetic techniques, Tennyson skillfully depicts the land as one that not only presents images of otherworldly beauty to the viewer but also holds inherent danger to the undiscerning visitor. Through the use of inventive diction and variations in rhyme scheme and prosody, Tennyson’s scenic descriptions work twofold: he unveils the true identity of the land by paralleling and mimicking its interesting effects and qualities in the poetic language itself. Ultimately, it is the poet and not the hero who first unravels the mystery of the land of the titular lotos-eaters, revealing it not as the sublimely serene sanctuary it might initially appear to be, but as a diversive trap that threatens to stall Odysseus and his crew forever in the amnesia and melancholia of unmoving time.

The opening descriptor of the...

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