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‘Break, break, break’ and ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’ are both poems describing the death of a loved one. While Tennyson used very turbulent, depressing and futile words to show his feelings, Wordsworth used more gentle and calming words comparatively. Both poets however, avoid mentioning the death of their friend or loved one directly because it is such a mournful subject for them.
The biggest difference between the two poems is their attitude and emotional feelings towards the death of their loved one. In ‘Break, break, break’, Tennyson describes his own depressing feelings and insecurity rather then describing the person who died. Instead of remembering the memories he had of the person, Tennyson describes how the death of this person he really loved affected him. He says, “And I would that my tongue could utter,” implying that he wants to express his thoughts and memories, but he is too depressed to do so.
His emotions have become too powerful to say aloud. The setting for this poem is at the sea, “On thy cold grey stones.” This immediately creates a dull and sad atmosphere because the colour grey is associated with dullness. It brings a disturbed mood to the poem. On the other hand, Wordsworth uses a different approach.
He begins by writing “She dwelt among the untrodden ways”.
This creates a much more peaceful but sad atmosphere. By saying, “Besides the springs of dove,” he creates a very youthful, happy and calm image. Although the poet is slightly unhappy, because he writes, “A Maid whom there were none to praise and very few to love,” his poem is much more peaceful then Tennyson’s. By saying that, Wordsworth is effectively showing that she was not a very popular person and had relatively few admirers or associates. Wordsworth gives a vague impression of the personality of the girl who died.
Wordsworth used several metaphors and similes in his poem to get his point across. “A violet by a mossy stone,” means that she was so beautiful that she stood out from the rest. She was an attractive young girl, while her surroundings were dull. By saying she was ‘Fair as a star”, he is implying that she was a very special person. She twinkled and was so beautiful. He has produced an image for her to show that she stood out from the rest. Like stars are far away from people, so was she. This is completely different compared to Tennyson’s poem because Tennyson does not describe the person who died. He does not even tell the reader his relationship with him or her.
While Wordsworth compares ‘Lucy’ to her dull surroundings to produce a better image of her, Tennyson compares himself to “the fisherman’s boy, that he shouts with his sister at play!” He compares himself with the “sailor lad that he sings in his boat on the bay.” By doing this, he is depicting that those people have what he does not have. They are happy, cheerful and are having fun. They have companionship and they do not have a reason to be mournful. Tennyson goes on to talk about the ships going “to their haven under the hill.” He is implying that they all have security and joyfulness. He is insecure. He has no companion and no goal in life. He is missing the touch of someone else in his life to make him felicitous and cheerful. The death of this one person who did just that has changed his life.
Wordsworth is not as troubled as Tennyson. Rather than using futile, powerful and depressing adjectives like Tennyson does, he creates a more gentle mood. The last line he wrote in the poem is the most emotional one, “But she is in her grave, and, oh, the difference to me!” Wordsworth only describes his own feelings at the end compared to Tennyson who describes his emotions throughout the poem. By saying that it made a big difference to him, Wordsworth is implying that he was one of her very few admirers. He may have loved her and was sad to see her go. He may have gone to those untrodden ways just to see her. Her presence appealed to him and without her, his life suddenly changed because he had lost the person he admired so much.
The setting in the two poems also appears to be quite different. Tennyson’s poem is on the seaside, with the waves crashing on the stones. This is significant because it shows the reader that Tennyson is feeling like the waves at the time, turbulent, futile and bleak. In Wordsworth’s poem, the setting is by the springs of dove. Springs are associated with peace and calmness. The word dove creates an illusion of gentleness. So in effect the settings of the two poems create a different atmosphere.
The biggest similarity between the two poems is that they both avoid talking about death directly. It is a very depressing and sad subject and so they get their message across by saying it indirectly. Tennyson wrote, “But the tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me.” This shows that his friend who died was a spiritual blessing. The blessings have gone for him. Tennyson tells the sea to keep crashing on the rock, emphasizing on the gray, dull and sad atmosphere. By suppressing his feelings and using vivid but bleak adjectives, Tennyson has written a lament. Wordsworth also hesitates to say directly that Lucy has died. He wrote, “When Lucy ceased to be; but she is in her grave”, implying that she was not like the ordinary people. She stayed to herself and so remained unknown. As a result, people never knew that she even existed. Both poets announce the death of their friend or lover indirectly.
The other similarity between the two poems is that they both are not very descriptive in describing the person who has died. ‘Break, Break, Break’, for example, has no personal pronouns. Nothing is told about the physical appearance nor the character of the dead person, not even the name. Although Wordsworth does describe Lucy slightly, it is an extremely vague description. She is not actually there except by name. The reader still will not know what her character and physical appearance is like.
Tennyson’s ‘Break, break, break’ and Wordsworth’s ‘She dwelt among the untodden ways’ both describe the death of someone close to them, but they do so in different ways. The loss was so great for Tennyson to bear, that he could not even utter the thoughts in his mind. He could not think of the good times he had with the friend and of the old memories because they would just make things worse. He could not describe the friend because he was so disturbed and distressed. His emotions were too powerful.
On the other hand, Wordsworth was saddened, but not to any extreme. The death of the girl had made a difference to his life, but unlike Tennyson, he could still talk about his thoughts and about her. By using very colourful visual images, he got his point across. He used attractive descriptions to describe her, while Tennyson used mournful and dreary words to describe his own mood. Tennyson had lost his spiritual blessing and felt insecure without this friend. He knew that those days would never come back to him. Wordsworth was not as troubled as Tennyson was.