The Brook by Tennyson — Analysis
Stanza by stanza analysis
Stanza 1 ..
I come from haunts of coot and hern, I make a sudden sally And sparkle out among the fern, To bicker down a valley.
Here Tennyson, a keen observer of Nature, personifies a rocky stream when he describes its cross country journey. This is why, the stream describes itself as a human being that observes the myriad manifestations of Nature along its path. This is why, the word ‘I’ appears as the narrator.
The stream originates from a place which is a habitat of aquatic birds like the coot and the heron. Then it takes a quick sharp turn to enter a field where the flowerless wild fern grows. Then, it makes the ‘bickering’ sound (akin to humans) as it moves down the valley.
Stanza 2 ..
By thirty hills I hurry down, Or slip between the ridges, By twenty thorpes, a little town, And half a hundred bridges.
The stream races past a land full of hills. The number ‘thirty’ is used as a metaphor to denote the vast number of hills the stream passes by. It makes it way through ridges that are common in hilly terrains. As it continues its journey, it leaves behind many villages and a town and so many bridges. Like the earlier word ‘thirty’, the words ‘twenty’ and ‘half a hundred’ have been used to express a great number.
Stanza 3 ..
Till last by Philip’s farm I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.
The stream has assumed the garb of a human being. It knows a man called Phillip whose farm it flows by before it plunges in to a river full of water. Then, the stream gloats over its ability to defy the ravages of time. It says that it has outlived even the mightiest men born on earth. The author has perhaps been overwhelmed by the timeless existence of the stream and man’s helplessness before the cycle of birth and death.
Stanza 4 ..
I chatter over stony ways, In little sharps and trebles, I bubble into eddying bays, I babble on the pebbles.
The terrain the stream travels through is vast and varied. It negotiates turns, runs over trebles, blows up bubbles when the going gets rough. When it dashes against the innumerable stones and pebbles, it makes a continuous drone.
Stanza 5 ..
With many a curve my banks I fret By many a field and fallow, And many a fairy foreland set With willow-weed and mallow.
The stream appears to rejoice at its gorgeous flow through the undulated countryside that abounds in farming fields and uncultivated lands. It flows past some pieces of land that have rich vegetation. They look exquisitely beautiful. There are the willow-weeds and mallows. Colorful birds chirp in the company of humming insects and butterflies that look like fairies from the sky.
Stanza 6 ..
I chatter, chatter, as I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.
The stream, agog with exuberance and joy, continues with its ‘chatter’. It flows relentlessly to meet its final destination – the brimming river. The stream appears to have an uncanny ability to weather the vagaries of nature and defy the onslaught of time. It is indestructible, unlike the boastful humans who, despite their best efforts, can not escape the jaws of death.
Stanza 7 ..
I wind about, and in and out, With here a blossom sailing, And here and there a lusty trout, And here and there a grayling,
As the stream continues its journey amid the flora and fauna of the countryside, it gets a flower as its companion. It carries the flower along. It happily offers sanctuary to small fishes like the trout and the grayling.
Stanza 8 ..
And here and there a foamy flake Upon me, as I travel With many a silvery waterbreak Above the golden gravel,
The stream encounters turbulence along its way as it hits various obstacles like stones, rock pieces and gold-colored gravels. The splash creates foams and bubbles. These foams shine brilliantly in sunshine assuming a silvery glow.
Stanza 9 ..
And draw them all along, and flow To join the brimming river For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.
The force of the flowing water of the stream pushes all that come its way – from the light flower to sand particles to gravel and stones. The destination remains the same – the brimming river where the stream will empty its contents. This relentless flow of the stream continues unmindful of time’s devouring potential. It is not a mortal like the humans who have to surrender to death and destruction one day or the other.
Stanza 10 ..
I steal by lawns and grassy plots, I slide by hazel covers; I move the sweet forget-me-nots That grow for happy lovers.
The stream passes by lawns and patches of meadows. It leaves behind shrubs like the hazel. Some blue-colored ornamental flowers like the ‘forget-me-not’ associated with romance fall on the waters of the stream. It carries them gladly. Thus, the stream becomes nature’s messenger of love, life and longevity.
Stanza 11 ..
I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance, Among my skimming swallows; I make the netted sunbeam dance Against my sandy shallows.
The stream has to maneuver its way past the many obstacles that tend to stop it. But, the exuberant stream is unstoppable. It flows as the swallow birds looking for insects skim over the surface of its water. The stream dances majestically in the sunlight as it flows past its shallow sandy banks.
Stanza 12 ..
I murmur under moon and stars In brambly wildernesses; I linger by my shingly bars; I loiter round my cresses;
The stream has no break in its journey. During its journey at night, it sees the moon and the stars. The wilderness of the surrounding full of the thorny bramble shrubs does not unnerve it. It mingles with the sand pebbles and the cabbage like plants. This stretch of the journey appears to be slower in pace.
Stanza 13 ..
And out again I curve and flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.
Then the flow resumes in its relentless pace negotiating turns and curves. Finally it joins the river, its final destiny. The stream again mocks the humans as ordinary mortals who get consumed by time. On the other hand, the stream is perennial and undying.
The Brook [in 200 words]
Here Tennyson, a keen observer of Nature, personifies a rocky stream while describing its cross-country journey. This is why, the word ‘I’ appears as the narrator.
The stream originates from a place inhabited by aquatic birds like the coot and the heron. Then it takes a quick sharp turn to enter a field full of ferns. It makes a ‘bickering’ sound as it moves down the valley crossing some hills and their ridges. It leaves behind many villages, bridges and a town.
The Brook Phillip whose farm it flows by before it plunges in to a river. The author underlines man’s helplessness before the cycle of birth and death.
It flows past beautiful land rich in vegetation. There are the willow-weeds and mallows. Colorful birds chirp joined by humming insects and butterflies.
The Brook flows relentlessly until it meets the brimming river. Small fishes like the trout and the grayling live in its waters. The stream passes by lawns and meadows meeting shrubs like the hazel.
It flows as the swallow birds looking for insects skim over the surface of its water.
Finally it joins the river, its final destiny. The stream again mocks the humans as ordinary mortals who get consumed by time.