The Lotos-Eaters: by Alfred Tennyson Summary & Analysis

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INTRODUCTION

      The Lotos-Eaters appeared first in the 1832 volume and revised in the selections of 1842. This poem is based on a familiar story of Odyssey of Homer. Its five opening stanzas describe how the mariners of Ulysses, sailing home to Ithaca from the Trojan War, come to the island of the Lotos plant. Drugged into inaction by eating the plant, they sing together a Choric Song of the sorrow and pain that comes with toil, and the joy they had in that magic languor. The whole poem is heavy with the atmosphere of sleep, first in the introductory stanzas, Spenserian in form as well as in style, and afterwards in the sweet but weary music of the mariner's song. The picture of human sorrow and distress, which Tennyson draws is a fine example of his skill in bringing Nature into harmony with the thoughts and deeds of men, that artifice, which Ruskin termed 'pathetic fallacy', in allusion to the convention by which Nature is made to suffer (to be pathetic or sympathetic) with human life.

Ulysses and his sailors came to the strange land of the Lotos-Eaters in the course of their wanderings. It was an Island where sad, mild-eyed lotus-eaters live. It was a place where it always seemed afternoon, where all things always seemed the same. A sleepy dreamy air blew all round the coast. Under the languid moon, innumerable streams descended on the valley like wreaths of smoke or rolled seawards in sheets of foaming water. Far above, the rosy sunset made the three, old snow-clad mountain tops blush.
The Lotos-Eaters

      The tragedy of the Lotos-Eaters was that they turned life itself into a mockery, for, to Tennyson the ease and luxury of the body meant the death of the soul. Time and time again he protested against the mere avoidance of pain and sorrow. A negative existence he abhorred.

      "On the tenth day we set off on the land of the Lotos-Eaters who feed on food of flowers, and there we set foot on shore and drew us water. When we had tasted our food and drink, I sent forward shipmates to go and ask what manner of men they might be who lived
in the land. And they went their way forthwith and mixed with the Lotos-Eaters, so the Lotos-Eaters plotted no harm to our shipmates, but gave them Lotos to eat. But whoever of them ate the honey-sweet fruit of the Lotos no longer was he to bring back tidings or to come back but there they wished to abide, feeding on the Lotos with the Lotos-Eaters and all forgetful of home" This is how Homer describes the incident in his Odyssey, This is the story which Tennyson has woven into a poem. He has invented the charming landscape and the choreic song. In The Lotos-Eaters, it signifies an old Greek fable of wandering sailor reaching an unknown land of fruits and flowers; and the poem's narrative melody, with the mixture of scenic presentation, is in great contrast to the quite line and feeling of the Homeric narrative where the impression is created by describing and stressing influences upon the men. In the picture of luxurious repose as the ultimate bliss attainable both in this world and in heaven we have the shadow of the earth projected on the sky; it is that natural reflection of human experience and desires which is the common source of all primitive conceptions of a future experience.

CRITICAL SUMMARY

      Ulysses and his sailors came to the strange land of the Lotos-Eaters in the course of their wanderings. It was an Island where sad, mild-eyed lotus-eaters live. It was a place where it always seemed afternoon, where all things always seemed the same. A sleepy dreamy air blew all round the coast. Under the languid moon, innumerable streams descended on the valley like wreaths of smoke or rolled seawards in sheets of foaming water. Far above, the rosy sunset made the three, old snow-clad mountain tops blush.

      The sun seemed to be setting in the west, but doing so slowly. Palmfringed valleys and meadows peeped through mountain clefts. In the pale darkness, the Lotos-Eaters gathered round the ship of Ulysses. They carried in their hands branches full of fruits and flowers of the magic lotos. All the Greek sailors who tasted the lotos grew dreamy and lazy and seemed to have fallen deep asleep—so faint grew their voice and so sleepy their tired eyes.

      They landed from their ships and seated themselves on the yellow sand of the sea-shore. The setting sun was before them, and the rising moon was behind them. The sweet murmur of the streams sounded like music in their ears. It gave them exquisite delight to think of their homes, their wives and children, but to get up again and to ply the oar and to labour in their ship seemed to be an unwelcome task. In their present frame of mind they thought it rather unjust that man should be made to lead a life full of toil and worry.

Choric Song

      They sang of the sweet music, falling in cadence softer than the rustle of the falling rose petals, or the night dew in silent streams. The coolness, creeping ivy, the long-leaved water flowers and poppies hanging from rocks — all seemed to produce a sleepy quiet from which no man would like to be disturbed.

      If death is the inevitable end of life, then, where lies the fun of toiling and striving? All labour is meaningless. A ceaseless battle against evil promises no happiness. Why should we be victims of hard work and bitter sorrow when all the things in nature enjoy rest? Leaves, flowers and fruits, in fact, everything grows and decays in peace. There is no fuss, no hustle, and all is ripening towards death peacefully. Man alone is toiling. Why should man's life be all full of labour? Why not spend it peacefully and enjoy rest? "How sweet would it be to spend our days here in a kind of half sleep, dreaming for ever, eating the lotos daily, watching the waves of the ocean, and surrendering our spirits completely to a mood of calm and tranquillity! It would be sweet also to recall memories of our old friends who are no more in this world."

      Thus argued the sailors of Ulysses. They, therefore, wanted to stay in the island of the Lotos-Eaters. They would think of their dead friends and past experiences in peaceful retrospect. They loved their families but it was useless now to return to their homes. They have been absent from home for a long time. They must have been taken for dead and their children must have taken over the responsibilities of home. So why go and disturb them or why think at all of going back to a place, which might as well have been usurped by the island-princes during their long absence?

     So they thought that it is best to be left alone. It would be far more pleasant to recline on the beds of fragrant flowers on the island and hear the soft sounds of the water and waves of the ocean in the distance.

      They have already toiled hard enough. They would wander no more. It was time they gave rest to the their weary limbs. They would rest on the hills like gods in their heavenly abodes. After all, the gods are indifferent to man's suffering; in fact they take pleasure in man's sorrows. The sailors too will rest and wander no more.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND APPRECIATION

      Tennyson rose to great power of poetical expression in the poem The Lotos-Eaters. Apart from the subject-matter, which is a romantic tale, the poem gives us an insight into the various aspects of Tennyson's poetry.

Adaptation of Greek Mythology

      The Lotos-Eaters is based on an incident in the famous Greek epic Odyssey where Homer describes how Ulysses, the hero of the Trojan Wars, along with his sailors reach a strange country, the land of the lotos-plant. Ulysses and his sailors are greeted by the inhabitants and given the lotos-fruit to eat But everyone who eats it is overcome by a strange mood of indolence. The sailors refuse to continue their wanderings over the sea. They decide to stay in the land of the lotos-eaters.

      In this poem, as in Oenone, Tennyson takes a classical story and adapts it to represent a mood of the modern mind — the tendency to lose in dreaming all touch with the actualities of life. Those who surrender themselves to this mood become callous, in the end, to the sufferings of humanity, like the Epicurean gods. The attitude of mind towards life here is the exact antithesis of that in Ulysses; it is the same as that in The Palace of Art, and the results it produces are seen in The Vision of Sin.

Philosophy of Inaction and Escape from Life

      After describing, in the first part, how Ulysses and his sailors reached the land of the lotos-eaters, what the land looked like and how the sailors were offered the lotos-fruit to eat and were overcome with a mood of inactivity, the poet gives us the choric song which forms the main part of the poem. In this song, the sailors say that struggle is futile and they do not want to return to their native land. They say that the land of the lotos-eaters holds for them an irresistible charm. Living on lotos and enjoying life here is the very opposite of cease-less labour and wandering over the sea. The slow-moving streams, the gentle breeze, the soft-music of sea-waves, the echoes of dripping caves and everything else belonging to this place has a lulling effect. They want to merge themselves into this dreamy atmosphere, lying half asleep on flower-beds. The sailors say that everything in the world enjoys rest. Fruits and flowers grow and ripen effortlessly, free from worry and the necessity to work. Why should human beings then toil and undergo troubles — human beings who are the best creation of God? The sailors see no use in returning to their homes; though their memories of their past life are dear to them. Everything has changed, they say. They won't be recognised by their own wives and children and return home only as kill-joys. Their property has probably been inherited by their sons or grabbed by the princes. Or possibly there is chaos in their native land. They do not deem themselves equal to the task of restoring order there, having grown too old and tired for such a task. The sailors, finally, give vent to their disgust for the world and for incessant hard work. They hate the ocean and think that it is futile to struggle against the forces of evil. They think that the gods are cruel to human beings and derive vicious pleasure out of their suffering This philosophy leads the sailors to the conclusion that it is hotter to rest in peace than to continue their wanderings.

      Inaction, isolation and detachment from society, (not of useful labour and social service) form the central idea of the poem. The poet makes the fellow sailors of Ulysses express a mood of weary disgust with the world. The sky and the sea fill them with a sense of hateful dullness. Under the influence of lotos they feel drowsy. Somnolence and indolence seize them. They criticise life and read its lessons from a new angle. What is life? Is it not all-futility and emptiness? What is virtue? Is, it not all empty struggle against evil, which can never be overcome? What is the good of life's toil, if at the end of all this, all our best achievements are but a handful of dust shut in an urn of brass? Is it not better far to be propped on beds of Amaranth and Moly and imitate the gods, in high heaven, who enjoy themselves and send on earth blight and famine, war and misery? The sailors want no more of toil and wandering. 'Let us alone' that is the key-note and master appeal of the poem.

Two Views

      Some critics suggest that the philosophy of life preached in this poem is merely the expression of the opinion of the tired mariners. Others hold the view that Tennyson wanted to expose the weakness of self-deception, because he makes the mariners of Ulysses indulge in passive inactivity from a sense of defeat and frustration, and that, under the depressing self-deception in which a man can keep his conscience clean and go on resting in ease.

      It is entirely wrong to attribute any particular view to Tennyson. Tennyson's ideal was more probably Ulysses. Tennyson was too much a utilitarian Puritan to believe in passive inactivity or romantic but lazy Lotous-Eater, was a fighter who believed in 'shining in use' — who took for his life's motto —

To follow knowledge like the sinking star
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.

Universality

      Whether Tennyson expresses his own conviction in the poem or not, there is a universality about the theme that cannot escape us. The poem is representing the point of view of the tired mariners of Ulysses, who were fed up with a wandering life of toil. All the same, the appeal of the theme is very human indeed, universal. It is the tired spirit of man calling for rest and peace. At times, like the comrades of the great Greek hero, we also feel weary and lazy. Life seems to be an empty, vain struggle. We are overcome by a spirit of desolation and feel like giving up the struggle. For, after all, what is to be gained by ceaseless labour? If death is the inevitable end of life, then it is better to rest and enjoy. The poem has its origin in the Greek poet Homer's epic poem Odyssey. It expresses a mood of fatigue and weariness when we question ourselves whether it is at all worth while to labour and strive when all the objects of Nature live and die peacefully. The mood of weariness is given a concrete form by reference to Ulysses and his followers who, in the cause of their wanderings, are supposed to have come to an island, with a narcotic (sleep-inducing) atmosphere. This seems to be a universal appeal of Tennyson though it is to be noted that the poem does not express any settled philosophy of life but only passing of mood.

Lotos-land — A Spiritual Wasteland

      John Pettigrew comparing the poem to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, writes: "Lotos land offers not abundant life but spiritual death: it is no Garden of the Hesperides but a magnificently ironic variation upon a wasteland." In Eliot's poem, hollow men exist in a trance-like state with, 'tired eyelids upon tired eyes', their voices, 'thin / Like voices from the grave', isolated from other men and unable to communicate with them, cut off from communion with family, country and a meaningful and vitalizing Nature. "In both poems, the past has become a bucket of ashes, a heap of broken images; fragmented and dimly remembered, it also is incapable of giving a sustenance which is not wanted any way: Let what is broken so remain." The Epicurean gods of the Lotos land are remote just like Eliot's dying and buried gods: in Lotos land too, men believe that 'Death is the end of life'. In both poems, enervation and desiccation of spirit is refracted through a symbolic landscape; the waters of the 'hateful sea' of troubles and life are as much resented as the spring rains of The Waste Land, stirring memory and desire, Lotos land has yellow down and sleeping poppies, thick-twined vine and weeping, long-leaved flowers, not Eliot's dull roots, city streets and endless plains, but it is, as surely as Eliot's 'Waste Land', a spiritual desert."

Technical Excellence of the Poem

      Sensuous Description: An Echo of Keats. Tennyson has made the poem rich with the descriptions of Nature. The colours and sounds of Nature are blended with vague undefined feelings of sweet repose and dreamy languor. Only a great artist could do this. The description of the island, where 'it always seemed afternoon', with streams rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below, of music falling gentler than 'tired eyelids upon tired eyes' are sensuous to a degree. The obsolete and compound word-making (like 'up-clomb', 'thick-twined vine' etc.) reminds us of Keats. Keats' technique was to use as many suggestive compound words as possible.

      Mood and Atmosphere Artistically Created. In this poem as in Oenone, Tennyson constructs an ideal landscape: it is a dream land fit for the dreaming Lotos-eaters, though details of the scenery are taken from things seen in the Pyrenees. The sensuous images are deliberately chosen to subdue:

Our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy...

      Tennyson's chief poetic skill in this poem lies in the fact that he has marvellously conveyed the atmosphere of dreamy ease. The description of the land of the lotos-eaters creates an effect of drowsiness, so that Nature throughout embodies the languid indolence of the lotos eaters ideal. The lotos-island is,

...a land,
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
And, like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along, the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

      The scenery in the poem is of Tennyson's own invention. There is no description in the Odyssey of the land of lotos-eaters. Tennyson has added the landscapes from his own imagination. The vale is filled with the soft murmur of a river which glides slowly into sea. Everywhere below the pines, in every creek and alley, on every lawn, besides every stream, the lotos blooms and sheds its yellow dust upon the weary wind.

      The sunset here is under a spell of stillness, the poppy hangs in sleep, the amber light seems to dream, and all things always seem the same. Tennyson stresses everywhere the dreamy aspect of Nature to express the mood of drowsiness, to symbolise indolence and inactivity. The effect of drowsiness is enhanced by the occasional introduction of lines in a different key. While most of the lines in the poem are slow-moving, here and there a few lines burst into sharp cries and sudden energy. We have slow-moving lines in

Music that gentler on the spirit lies,
Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes;

      Or in

And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

      But for the sake of contrast, to heighten the effect of the slow moving lines, we occasionally come upon such lines as —

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

      Or

Roll'd to starboard, roll'd to larboard, when the surge was seething free.

      The whole of the first part of the poem contains natural descriptions, which is simple superb. Nowhere alse did Tennyson excel the scenic beauty and atmospheric charm of this poem. Throughout the poem there is an exuberance of richly coloured pictures.

      Pictorial and Sound Effects. The dreamy atmosphere is not produced by the details of description alone. Throughout, Tennyson uses the sound and melody of his verses to convey this atmosphere. The poem abounds in word and sound-pictures. 'Three silent pinnacles of aged snow', 'girdled with the gleaming world', 'fiery sands', 'flaming tower, and sinking ship and praying hand', are all excellent word-pictures. 'Roaring deeps,' 'clanging fights', 'the dewy echoes calling from cave to cave' are excellent examples of sound-pictures. Tennyson in this poem shows himself a great artist in description and in diction and music. His descriptions of landscape bring picture after picture before our eyes. His eye for detail, again and again, serves to conjure up the required image. Along with this, he is a master of effects devised to make the sound correspond with the sense. He uses all possible devices — frequent use of sibilants and liquids, echoes, repetitions, assonance, alliteration, vowel music, similarity of sounds, change of rhythm, etc. — to get the desired effect. The poem is full of examples illustrating the use of one or more of these devices. Here are a few, in addition to those given above. The sibilant I and liquid r has been used here:

And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

      Repetition is used in Stanza IV of the choric song, or in—

Most weary seem'd the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.

      Assonance, vowel music and alliteration can be found in Stanza V of the choric song:

To hear each other's whisper'd speech,
Eating the Lotos day by day. 
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray.

      Here is marked assonance with o and on sounds —

Where the wallowing monster spouted his
Foam of fountains in the sea.

      Echoing sounds o and ol permeate stanzas VII and VIII of the Choric Song.

LINE BY LINE PARAPHRASE

      L. 49-52. There is sweet.....the blissful skies. These lines are taken from 'The Lotos-Eaters' Choric Song. The mariners of Ulysses, on reaching the interior of the land of the lotos eaters, are charmed by the beauty of the land. Having eaten the lotos, they do not want to move. In the Choric Song, the mariners give a beautiful description of the music they hear. The music in lotos-land is extremely soft, sweet and soothing. Its sound is softer than that of the falling petals of roses. This music is even softer than the sound of the little dew-drops falling on the still waters of streams which flow through a pass of dark stones in a mountain from where light is faintly reflected from the particles of mica and quartz. The poet gives further description of the music by making a comparison. He says that when the eyes are tired, the eyelids close very gently and softly. The sound of music produced in the lotos-land is gentler than this. Hence this music produces a more soothing and calm effect than sleep on the mind of a tired man. Again the music is so soft and peaceful that it seems to come down from the tranquil and peaceful skies. The use of I and s makes the sound soft and sleepy to match the sense of the words.

      L. 57-63. Why are we.....another thrown. These lines are from the Choric Song, in The Lotos-Eaters. The mariners are charmed by the peace and tranquillity which they find in every object of Nature in Lotos land. Nothing is engaged in any kind of activity. All of them are enjoying perpetual peace and rest.

      The inactivity and tranquillity of the objects of Nature make the mariners think of their own condition. Their lives are full of feverish activity and endless strife. They ask why men who are the best and the highest creation of God should be oppressed by constant worries, anxieties and responsibilities. Why do they not enjoy eternal peace and physical rest? When all the objects of Nature have peace and rest why are men alone consumed by sorrows and suffering? They feel pity on the lot of men because they cannot free themselves from toil and trouble, and enjoy perfect peace and rest. Though the highest creation of God, they are tossed by fate from one sorrow to another. They pass through an endless chain of troubles and sufferings.

      L. 64-69. Nor even fold.....crown of things. In these lines from Tennyson's Choric Song in The Lotos-Eaters, the mariners say that men are always engaged in some work or the other. Their activities never come to an end. They remain so much engrossed in their material pursuits that even sound sleep is denied to them. Thus sleep fails to act as balm on their hearts and minds by making them forget their cares and anxieties. Due to their ceaseless material activities, they find no time to hear the inner spiritual urges. It would be much better if they heard the voice of their inner spirit which says that the greatest joy in life lies in passivity or inaction and calm. The mariners ask why men alone, the highest and finest of all creation, should toil when all the things in Nature have the privilege of rest and peace. The central idea of the poem is the philosophy of inaction.

      L. 70-79. So in the.....adown the air. In these lines from the Choric Song of The Lotus-Eaters, the mariners contrast their life of ceaseless labour with the peaceful life of the objects of Nature. With a feeling of joy and surprise, they, the sailors observe the peaceful life of a leaf in lotos-land. The leaf has to make no effort to grow and develop. The softly blowing wind touches and kisses it when it is folded in a bud. Thus the wind induces it to open, grow in size, and become green in colour. During its growth, the leaf is not beset with anxieties like men. At noon it gets the healthy bright light of the sun. At night small drops of dew fall on it and give it food and nourishment. Thus the leaf grows and develops without any effort in a very healthy atmosphere. After living for the allotted period of time, it becomes dry and yellow. Then it floats down in the gentle air. Note that everything, even the falling of the leaf is gentle and requiring a minimum of effort. It is an atmosphere of blissful inactivity, though we may wonder what purpose such a life has.

      L. 84-94. Hateful is the.....with evil? In these lines from Tennyson's The Lotos-Eaters, the mariners express their disgust with the voyaging sea-life. While voyaging, they have the dark-blue sea around them and the dark blue sky above them. This dull and monotonous scene has no attraction for them. Hence, instead of voyaging, they want to pass the rest of their lives in peace and inactivity in lotos-land. They give another reason why they are attracted towards such a life. They say that death is the end of all life. There is nothing in the world which does not come to an end. Hence, if death is the end of life, then why should all life be full of endless toil and labour? Why should they not enjoy freedom from strife and struggle when they have to die one day whatever they do? Hence they want to be left alone to enjoy peace, and to lead a life of inactivity. The sailors further say in their song, that life is short and men are moving fast towards their graves. In no time they die and become speechless. Not only life, but everything else in the world has its end. Nothing is imperishable. When men die, they can take nothing with them from this world. They have to leave behind them all their hopes, deeds and possessions which soon become part of the past and are lost to them for ever. After their death, they and their deeds are forgotten. If every thing is to perish, it is mere foolishness to hope that fighting against evil is of any use. The evils driven out by them may appear again. Therefore, in the opinion of the sailors, there is no sense in fighting for a cause or against evils.

      L. 99-107. How sweet.....of creamy spray. The mariners of Ulysses having eaten the lotos, find no more charm in the blue sea and the blue sky. They say that it would be very pleasant to just lie comfortably in the land of lotos-eaters. They would pass their days in a state of drowsiness or day-dreaming. Their eyes would be half shut (Even to close them fully would be an effort!) They would hear the soft murmuring sound of the stream flowing down the hill. It would be a rare pleasure to them to remain lying and dreaming. They would not like to be free from their state of drowsiness caused by eating the Iotos- fruit, just as the golden rays falling on the myrrh-bush do not want to depart from there. They would eat the lotos-fruit with relish every day so that their state of drowsiness may not come to an end. In their delicious drowsiness they would speak to one another in whispers so that they may not disturb the calm atmosphere. They would observe the curling waves and the lines of soft, white foam gently and gracefully curving on the sea-shore. All these things would add to the joy of the sailors. The long vowel sounds actually lend an air of pleasant drowsiness to the verse.

      L. 126-132. The gods are.....the pilot-stars. The mariners in The Lotos-Eaters do not want to go back to their native home. They say that whatever prayers and sacrifices are offered to the gods, the gods are displeased with them. It is difficult to please them. Moreover, the worst possible disorder and confusion that prevails in Ithaca cannot be set right by them. There would be an endless chain of troubles and suffering in their native island. To create order, out of chaos would be an impossible task for them. They have become old, and so they cannot lead an active life again. Their eye-sight have become weak by looking constantly at the Pole Star and other stars to steer their ship in the right direction. Moreover, all their energy and enthusiasm have been exhausted by taking part in many wars. In view of all these handicaps and difficulties, the sailors were determined to make the lotos-land their home and not return to the island which they inhabited once.

      L. 133-138. But propt on.....the purple hill. In The Lotos-Eaters, the mariners describe the life they would lead in the land of the lotos-eaters. Their life in the lotos-land would be pleasant and sweet. They would lie comfortably on soft beds on amaranth and moly flowers, which never fade, and which possess magical properties. While reclining on these beds, they would be lulled to sleep by the warm and gently blowing breeze. They would actually not go to sleep. They would remain lying in a drowsy state. Their eyes would be half-open and they would gaze listlessly at the various beautiful scenes and sights under the dark and peaceful skies. They would feel very happy when they would look upon the shining water of the long river flowing slowly down the hill which looks purple in the light of the setting sun. Such would be the pleasure of their life in the lotos-land, in comparison to the troubles in their home-land.

      L. 153-158. Let us swear gleaming world. The mariners firmly resolve to live in the lotos-land till they meet their end. Thus bound by an oath, they would pass the remaining days of their lives in the lotos-land. Just as their gods live in perfect peace on Mount Olympus without caring about the miseries and sufferings of mankind, in the same way they, the sailors, would live in the valleys of the lotos-land without having any cares and worries about other men's pains and troubles in the world. They would lead a perfectly carefree life like the Greek gods. These gods live in shining houses of gold on the top of Mount Olympus. They are blind to the world of man. Their houses are surrounded by light clouds and bright twinkling stars. In these lovely houses, the gods lead a happy life, drinking nectar — the divine drink. They are absolutely carefree and indifferent to the heart of human beings who live in the world below them.

      Here is a picture of the Epicurean view of gods as indifferent to mankind. It is opposed to the Christian view of a benevolent God.

      L. 159-170. Where they smile.....and praying hands. In these lines from Tennyson's Choric Song in The Lotos-Eaters, the mariners present a picture of the life of their gods. These gods live on top of Mount Olympus in beautiful houses of gold. They drink nectar freely. They are not even absolutely indifferent to the heart of human beings, they can even be malicious.

      The gods see the sorrows and sufferings of man in the world. They see that on the earth below people are in the grip of great miseries. Land has been destroyed. Plants and crops have been ruined by disease, there is scarcity of food due to famine. Pestilence and earthquake have taken a heavy toll of life. Wars are going on in which thousands of men are being killed. Towns are being burnt and ships are being sunk causing overall destruction of life and property. Hands of men are raised in prayer to gods. But the gods are not moved by pity for the suffering mankind. They do nothing to save men from their sorrows and affections. On the other hand, they feel delighted on seeing the calamities which have befallen men. They even rejoice secretly at the unhappiness of mankind. They hear the painful cries of men, but they remain quite deaf to it all. As they have been hearing man's tales of woes from the beginning of creation, they have become accustomed to it. The ancient tale of sorrows and suffering fail to produce any effect on the gods who lead a joyful life in their splendid homes. What is strange, men's sighs and groans are music to them. Their sufferings are a source of good amusement to the gods. Men plough the land, sow the seed, and reap the harvest with great labour, but they get very little return in the form of wheat, wine, and oil-seeds. Throughout their lives they undergo endless toil till at last they die without getting a proper reward for all their labour. Then it is sad, some of these unfortunate and unhappy men go to hell. There they suffer endless pains. Others who are more fortunate, go to heaven. There they at last get some rest on the soft beds of asphodel flowers. 

      The philosophy of inaction is the central idea in this poem. Whether it is Tennyson's point of view or not, his technical craftsmanship makes his style suit the content in the poem.

Conclusion

      We find The Lotos-Eaters a perfect poem in many respects. The theme and its treatment are harmonious. The introductory narrative, where Tennyson uses the Spenserian stanza, is devoted to Nature's description. The Choric Song, consisting of completely irregular stanzas, illustrates the use of a large number of poetic devices to produce the desired atmosphere. The idea and atmosphere, superbly woven together, run throughout the poem, making it a single harmonious whole. Tennyson's mastery of description and painting, sound and melody and of diction and music is best illustrated in this poem. The poet's gift of song finds no-where a happier expression than here. Throughout, the unity of the poem is also kept. In The Lotos-Eaters, Tennyson gives dramatic expression to that mood of weary disgust in which doubts will force themselves on the mind whether life's toil and trouble is of any worth at all.

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