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Compare and Contrast 'Break, Break, Break' and 'Crossing the Bar'.

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Introduction

Rob Williams Compare and Contrast 'Break, Break, Break' and 'Crossing the Bar' Although the two poems, 'Break, Break, Break' and 'Crossing the Bar' share a similar major premise, the expression of death through the metaphor of the sea, Tennyson is able to extract two antithetical responses to the subject of death. In 'Break, Break, Break', the overwhelming emotions are ones of melancholy, of despair and horror at the thought of death (or rather the death of Hallam). This is unsurprising as Tennyson was writing this poem in 1834, shortly after the death of his best-friend Hallam. His death, along with other problems at the time led to Tennyson writing very pessimistically about life (and death), however it was during this turbulent period in Tennyson's life that much of his greatest work was written. In contrast 'Crossing the Bar', although discussing his own death, is a poem of acceptance of the inevitability of death. ...read more.

Middle

The fact he is starting his journey at the end of the day implies that he is ready to leave the mortal world. Furthermore the soft, warm s' of the first line are in complete contrast to the harsh, bleak 'Break, Break, Break'. The only comparison with the opening of 'Break, Break, Break' is the spondee, "one clear call", with its long syllables. However, it emphasises the clarity and simplicity of its feelings, along with a religious undertone which is eminent throughout the poem. The contradictory descriptions of the sea are a major point of comparison between the two poems. Tennyson used the Sea many times during his creative career to symbolise the passage to death, and to demonstrate the differing moods of his poems. With its inconsistent forms, raging from 30ft waves, to perfectly level, mirror like oceans, it is a the perfect metaphor for description of emotions. ...read more.

Conclusion

This sea is calm, peaceful and still, much like his 'passage'. The sea also, rather than tormenting is comforting. Firstly the lines, "When I put out to sea" and "when I embark;" suggest the beginning of a journey, rather than the end of one and therefore an increased sense of optimism. If the religious, christen values are followed (which seem to be the case in 'Crossing the Bar' ) the journey is the one to the after-life, to heaven. Secondly "When that which drew from out the boundless deep/ Turns again home" with the long first line consisting of 10 syllables, followed by a short line, with three words, each mono-syllabic and stressed, all culminate in the emphasising his journey 'home'. There is a heightened sense of acceptance and contentment with his return, and certainly is comparably with the loneliness and melancholy at the static nature of the central character's life in 'Break, Break, Break'. The stasis of the character in 'Break, Break, Break', along with his bitterness and loneliness, is accentuated in the second and third verses of the poem. ...read more.

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