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Monday, March 11, 2013

Thoughts on a Poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Continuing with some essays I wrote last semester, this one was also written for my English Literature class, this time about the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  

As we transitioned from learning about the Romantic Era and its poetry into learning about the Victorian Era and the poetry produced in that time, one of the poems that really struck me was “The Lotos-Eaters” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  The entire poem, with its theme of wanting to give up, stand still and rest, I found really fascinating, but I particularly connected with this stanza:
They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland
 Of child, and wide, and slave; but evermore
 Most weary the wandering fields of barren foam,
 Then someone said, “We will return no more”;  
And all at once they sang, “Our island home
 Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.” (NAEL 1959)
 The sentiment expressed in this excerpt is one that I feel
has permeated our society today and I find there are times when it ends up creeping into my own thought processes. 
The feelings expressed by the sailors are feelings that I can identify with, as I have experienced them myself.  I have a pretty go get it personality.  I am very goal oriented and driven.  However, at times being in constant motion – striving vigorously for something can be exhausting, especially when I am relying more on my own strength than on God’s.  There are times, and there have been times even in the last few weeks, when I, like Odysseus’ men, want to give up on what I am pursuing and simply sit and stop trying.  The idea of sitting calmly on a beautiful beach, living in a daydream with no responsibilities or obligations is incredibly enticing.  But this is not realistic, nor is it a fulfilling or sustainable lifestyle.  I cannot live like that forever, not only because one cannot survive by living in a dream, but also because my very nature inevitably will wake me up and force me to live again.  Thus, after indulging in a daydream for an hour or two like Odysseus, I shake off the alluring lotos-induced dream world and re-enter reality.
Our modern culture as a whole it seems has embodied the sentiments expressed by the sailors in “The Lotos-Eaters”.  With the advanced technology that is ever at our fingertips and a society that no longer values hard work and personal responsibility, people in general often are sucked in by the “lotuses” of our time.  While the lotus differs from person to person, the result is the same – a disconnection from reality and a complacent or apathetic desire to stay in one place.  For one person this lotus could be video games, another movies and TV, for another it could be sports, books, hanging out with friends, you name it.  While all of these things seem unrelated they are connected in one way.  Depending on the person utilizing them, they all provide a means of escaping reality.  It gives the person utilizing it a feeling of comfort and stability and allows the person to stay still and not move forward, like the sailors who had eaten the lotus.

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