The Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

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.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

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.

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.

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,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

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.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

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.

Summary

The poem is an autobiography of a brook. The narrator is the brook itself. It describes the journey of its life. It comes from the places which are frequently visited by water-birds like coot and heron. It emerges suddenly and flows down a valley with a lot of noise.

It hurries down the hills and slips by the ridges. During its journey it passes by thirty hills, twenty villages, fifty bridges and a little town. It then flows by Philip’s farm and joins the brimming river. Generations after generations of men come and die, but it flows for ever.

The brook makes strange and loud noises as it flows over stony paths and rocks. Sometimes its water moves in spirals, It gets angry when it makes many curves on its banks and fallow fields. It also passes with noises by many places and fairy forelands covered with willow-weed and mallow. Then it joins the brimming river.

The brook moves in a zig-zag manner. Here and there one can see flowers floating on its surface. Many lusty trout fish or grayling are found in it. Swallows skim over its surface. Foam-ing flakes are also seen. It carries all these things to join the brimming river.

The brook passes silently by lawns and grassy plots. It slides by small hazel trees. It takes the sweet forget-me-not flowers for happy lovers. The swallows fly over its surface, The sun-beams fall on its surface and appear to dance. It slips, slides, glooms and glances merrily while flowing.

The brook passes through thorny wildernesses at nights. Then it murmurs. The moon and stars shine. It flows very slowly by its shingles. It loiters round the pungent leaved plants like creases. It then curves and flows to join the brimming river. It says that men may come and men may go but it goes on for ever.

Analysis

The poem ‘The Brook’ appears to be a symbol of life. It describes the journey of a brook from its source to the river that it joins. The poem is an autobiography in which the brook has been personified.

There is a close parallelism between life and the brook. Like men the brook has a beginning a middle and an end:

  • A child is born, the brook emerges from the haunts of coot and heron. The child grows up rapidly. The brook too makes a sudden sally.
  • During youth a person in young, vivacious, strong and full of courage and enthusiasm. The brook too hurries down, ‘sallies’, ‘bickers and ‘chatters’ in its youth. All these words describe movement and denote youthfulness.
  • Men in old age shed anger and become peace-loving and wise. The brook too avoids clashes with the disturbances it faces on its course. It flows by them quietly and smoothly.
  • Human beings are a source of support and help for others. They preserve life. The brook too supports life. It has ‘trout’ and ‘grayling’ in its water.

The poem is full of images that come alive through skillful use of words. One image is that brook flowing rapidly through hills and valleys, under the bridges and by the villages. The second image is that of zig-zag movement of the brook. It moves on carrying the blossoms or foam on its waves. We can see ‘trout’ and ‘grayling’ gliding in its water.

Just like the journey of brook the human beings have to face many ups and downs before they are finally successful. The message of the poem is that one should not give up, one should overcome difficulties and keep on moving, happily till the target is achieved.

Man is mortal while the brook goes on for ever.

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