Introduction

This poem is extracted from “The Brook” by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poet speaks in the voice of a brook, or a small stream, and tells us about the journey it goes through to finally merge with the river. The poem is divided into twelve stanzas. The rhyme scheme of each stanza is abab.

Stanza 1- 3

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.

The poet assumes the voice of the brook. The brook says that it comes from the haunts of coot and hern. So, it originates in a water body that is home to birds such as the coot and the heron. It makes a sudden sally, or rushes forward suddenly. Its water sparkles under the sunlight as it flows among ferns. Then the brook flows down a valley.

The brook runs down thirty hills, or slips into the gaps between the hills. It flows by twenty thorpes or villages, a little town, and half a hundred bridges.

At last, it flows by Philip’s farm to join the brimming river. The brook finally joins the river after flowing past the farm of a man named Philip. It insists that men may come and men may go, but it goes on for ever. This means that although humans live short lives that are constantly changing, the brook will last forever.

Stanza 4- 6

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.

The brook flows over stony ways creating musical notes such as little sharps and trebles. It bubbles into swirling seas and makes a murmuring sound on the pebbles that line the bottom.

It curves many times along its banks, and passes by many a field and fallow. Fallow land is the farmland that is not currently under cultivation. It also passes by places that are so beautiful and enchanting that they seem to be inhabited by fairies. These lands are filled with plants such as willow-weed and mallow.

The brook makes noises that seem like chatter as it flows to join the brimming river. It again repeats that men may come and men may go, but it goes on for ever. Human lives are short and temporary, but forces of nature such as the brook are permanent.

Stanza 7- 9

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.

The brook winds about, or zigzags in and out of many places. It sometimes finds a flower blossom sailing along its surface. It also finds fish such as trout and graylings in its waters.

Sometimes, the brook foams up as it flows. It travels with many a silvery waterbreak above the golden gravel. This means that the surface of the brook breaks out in silvery waves that crash against the sand and pebbles below it.

The brook draws all these things along and flows to join the brimming river. The brook once again says that men may come and men may go, but it goes on for ever.

Stanza 10- 12

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.

The brook slips, slides, glooms and glances. The word “gloom” represents how the brook might turn dark and murky at times. The other words represent its playful nature. It is accompanied by skimming swallows. Birds known as swallows brush the surface of the brook as they search for food. The brook makes netted sunbeams dance against its sandy shallows. When sunlight passes through the surface of water, it forms a netted shadow on the sand below the water. This shadow keeps moving because of the flowing water, making it look like the sunlight is dancing.

The brook passes quietly in the night time under moon and stars as it flows past forests filled with shrubs. It slows down to linger by its shingly bars, or banks filled with little pebbles. It takes its time to loiter round the plants that grow along its banks, such as cresses.

It then it curves out and flows to join the brimming river. It ends by again stating that men may come and men may go, but the brook goes on for ever.

Conclusion

This poem narrates the journey of a brook. It flows over hills and by villages, seeing various sights on its way, to ultimately join the river. The brook’s journey shows us the beauty and power of nature. It also makes us aware of human mortality and nature’s eternity.