This poem is based on the story of
Odysseus's mariners of Homer's
Odyssey. In this poem, Tennyson
powerfully evokes the mariners'
yearning to settle into a life of
peacefulness, rest, and even death.
Reasons for the poem
 Tennyson, like his father, was a hard worker while those
around him lived a life of leisure
His father was disinherited from his family and later died;
Tennyson had to leave college and help his family
Angered with those around him living the life of leisure
and escapism through alcohol and other means
OR – was he endorsing a life of relaxation? Many lower and
middle class of England at the time were working in
factories and preoccupied. Did they need to relax?
OR – was he just responding to The Odyssey? Was he
arguing a life of moderation?
 The poem also draws on the
biblical Garden of Eden in the
Book of Genesis.
 A "life of toil" is Adam's
punishment for eating the
forbidden fruit of the Tree of
Knowledge: after succumbing
to the temptation, Adam is
condemned to labor by the
sweat of his brow.
 In this poem, fruit (the lotos)
provides a release from the
life of labor, suggesting an
inversion of the biblical story.
 Nearly every stanza presents a different
argument to justify the mariners'
decision to remain in the Lotos Land.
 For example, in the second stanza the
shipmates express the fact that man,
who is the pinnacle of creation, is the
only creature made to toil and labor all
the days of his life.
 The mariners may be deceiving themselves in
succumbing to the hypnotic power of the flower.
 Eating the lotos involves abandoning reality and
living instead in a world of appearances, where
everything "seems" to be but nothing actually is: "a
land where all things always seemed the same" (line
 The word "seems" recurs throughout the poem, and
can be found in all but one of the opening five
stanzas, suggesting that the Lotos Land is not so
much a "land of streams" as a "land of seems.”
 In the final stanza, the poem describes the Lotos
Land as a "hollow" land with "hollow" caves. Here we
can infer that the vision of the sailors is somehow
 Odysseus will drag his men away from the Lotos
Land. The sailors' case for lethargy is further
undermined by their complaint that it is unpleasant
"to war with evil" (line 94).
 By choosing the Lotos Land, the mariners are
abandoning the opportunity for meaning in life and
the potential for heroic accomplishment.
 Tennyson forces us to consider the appeal of a
life without toil: although we share the longing
for a carefree and relaxed existence, few people
could truly be happy without any challenges to
overcome, without the fire of aspiration and the
struggle to make the world a better place.
Your task: poetry analysis
 In your group, begin by reading each section of the
poem individually.
 Next, decide on the focus (and this can be more than
one) of that section, looking at each stanza. Is it a
complaint about labor or justifying a reason to stay?
Or is it neutral? Annotate lines which support your
argument. Write the focus in the margain.
 Find any literary devices for this section. Underline
and label.
 Continue this way throughout your reading of the