Interpretation Quiz: 'Break, Break, Break' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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5 Questions

What is the overall tone of the poem?

Melancholic and sorrowful

What is the significance of the fisherman's boy and the sailor lad in the poem?

They are used as contrasts to the speaker's melancholy state.

What is the symbolism of the sea in the poem?

It represents the passage of time and the transience of human existence.

What does the phrase 'the touch of a vanished hand' most likely refer to?

The speaker's lost love or relationship.

Which of the following best describes the structure of the poem?

A repetitive refrain with contrasting verses

Study Notes

Imagery and Symbolism

  • The speaker implores the sea to break on the cold gray stones, symbolizing the turmoil and power of nature.

Emotions and Longing

  • The speaker yearns to express the thoughts that arise within them, suggesting a deep emotional response to the scene.
  • The speaker envies the carefree innocence of the fisherman's boy and sailor lad, highlighting their own sense of loss and longing.

Nostalgia and Loss

  • The speaker mourns the loss of a past love or loved one, referred to as a "vanished hand" and a "voice that is still", evoking a sense of irreparable loss.
  • The "touch of a vanished hand" and "sound of a voice that is still" emphasize the speaker's deep sense of longing and grief.

Setting and Atmosphere

  • The poem takes place near the sea, with the speaker observing the ships sailing into the haven under the hill, creating a sense of serenity and tranquility.
  • The "cold gray stones" and "crags" evoke a sense of ruggedness and wildness, contrasting with the peaceful atmosphere.


  • The poem explores the themes of loss, longing, and nostalgia, highlighting the speaker's sense of isolation and melancholy.
  • The contrast between the natural world's tranquility and the speaker's emotional turmoil underscores the complexity of human emotions.

Test your understanding of the poem 'Break, Break, Break' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson with this quiz. Explore the themes, emotions, and literary devices used in this classic work.

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