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Published: 10-12-2019

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Analysis of Poetic Techniques in "The Lotos-Eaters"

In the opening line of Alfred Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters,” Odysseus concerns 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 location is clearly one more inevitable detour and not their ultimate destination of property even so, its exact nature and significance stay ambiguous throughout the very first 3 stanzas. Deploying numerous poetic techniques, Tennyson skillfully depicts the land as 1 that not only presents images of otherworldly beauty to the viewer but also holds inherent danger to the undiscerning visitor. By means of the use of inventive diction and variations in rhyme scheme and prosody, Tennyson’s scenic descriptions operate twofold: he unveils the accurate identity of the land by paralleling and mimicking its fascinating effects and qualities in the poetic language itself. Eventually, 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 seem 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 land immediately draws interest to its oddness and sense of detachment from reality: “In the afternoon they came unto a land/ In which it seemed constantly afternoon.” This enjambed line reinforces the identical good quality of constancy and recurrence with which it endows the land, as each of the two lines begins with the same word “In” and reiterates the exact same keyword “afternoon.” With this repetitive diction, there is a shift in the poem from the forceful drive and direct linearity of the opening two lines, “toward” and “shoreward” to a specific defined point (emphasized by the anapestic foot in the very first line, whose last stressed syllable reveals a forward thrust) instead, the reader is lulled into a sort of cyclical loop.

It is at this moment in the very first stanza that the movement of the lines becomes slower and much less teleological, a modify reflected by the substitution of words of action like “mounting” and “pointed” with those of inaction and sleep. Appropriately, it is right here that Tennyson transitions to describing organic rather than human activity the landscape is personified so that it, rather the humans, becomes the main actor in the 1st 3 stanzas of the poem.Throughout the 1st and second stanzas, words like “languid,” “swoon,” “breathing,” “full-faced” and “moon” as properly as phrases like “weary dream” and “slumbrous sheet” effectively convey the drowsy, lazy mood of the eternal afternoon. Even photos that would typically convey frenzied and energetic motion are imbued with a peculiar stillness and lethargy: “And like a downward smoke, the slender stream / Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.” Defying the ordinary flow of water, the waterfalls in this mysterious land appear to meander and float about in space and time. This is also reflected in the oddly inverted and enjambed building of the line itself (which breaks with the conventions of English grammar) and the expression “fall and pause and fall,” both getting interesting options that reinforce the temporal nonlinearity in the land of the Lotos-eaters.

Tennyson adopts the Spenserian stanza rhyme scheme for “The Lotos-Eaters,” which enables for three different rhymes to alternately seem inside the nine extended lines of a single stanza. There is a regularity and consistency to this specific option which parallels the peaceful, nevertheless aura of the realm he is describing. Each and every stanza semantically connects to the next: the streams described in the first stanza flow down to the second, exactly where they become the 1st line and focus of the second descriptor (“A land of streams!”) while the “sunset” in the initial line of the third stanza follows behind the initial description of mountains “sunset-flush’d” in the stanza preceding it. The stanzas themselves are fluidly interconnected through the use of enjambment – one particular sentence continues for five lines in the second stanza and an additional for six lines in the final. Inside the lines themselves, the identical phrases and words also appear and reappear: notably, the simile “like a downward smoke” and the motifs of “three” and “faces pale.” Time moves gradually each in the land itself and in the context of the poem the narrator’s observation and description of the land is shown to be just as continuous and lengthy a method.

While both the abundance of rhyme patterns and this repetition seem to recommend the predictability of a lullaby, Tennyson creates moments of unexpected tension which break the flow via the use of caesuras, incomplete rhymes, and trochaic feet. Exclamation marks punctuate the two main descriptors of the land (“A land of streams!” and “A land where all factors always seem’d the same!”) whilst colons and commas separate descriptions later on in the poem, similarly forcing pauses into the otherwise typical lines of iambic pentameter. Moreover, whilst the poem mostly consists of perfect rhymes, there are some examples that depart from this pattern: pairings of the very same or almost identical words (“land” and “land” in the first stanza, “adown” and “down” in the last stanza). These variations in rhyme scheme produce an uneasy effect for the reader, hindering the rhyme from reaching complete closure or completion and obstructing any expectations of faultless fulfillment.

Humans fade into the background as mere observers until they reemerge (in the kind of the apathetic Lotos-eaters) in the last line of the poem. Rather, Tennyson’s opening stanzas are a lengthy description of the land itself. There is some thing at after sinister and seductive about the landscape that Tennyson delineates, his painterly strokes providing images of sinuous temptation each in the kind of “slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn” and “charmed” mystification. Its complexities reflected in the extremely poetic language that creates it, this colorful land of perennial snow and sunset proves to be just as a lot of a linguistic and psychological obstacle as it is an image of paradoxical paradise.
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