“The Brook” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make 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 thorps, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

* * *

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.

* * *

And here and there a foamy lake
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.

Apart from the delightful simpilcity of this nature poem by Tennyson,we may look at the sensory images he creates about the brook’s journey notably the auditory and visual ones.

I make a sudden sally
and sparkle out among the fern
to bicker down a valley

The start of the brook’s journey is described in just three lines, so full of detail compressed in sixteen words. The detail is amazing:

A sudden sally : The brook starts at the haunt of the coot and hern.Just picture a calm starting point with coots and herns flying about in peace. Suddenly the brook starts its sally , a military metaphor for an attack by the defenders of a town under seige. The brook starts flowing among the fern sparkling in the sun against their green .And then it bickers down a valley, continuing its aggression. To bicker is to quarrel loudly.To bicker down a valley suggests an abrupt noisy fall. Repeat “s” in suden sally/sparkle out” suggest softness of flow followed by abrupt “down a valley”.

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

The numbers thirty, twenty, half a hundred are meant to convey the enormous speed the brook picks up as it passes the hills, thorps, ridges,a town, half a hundred bridges.

The brook is personified with two human attributes :running and babbling. The running is a continuous activity that goes on ,now fast on the ridges and now slow in the plains.The running never stops unlike of men who come and go:

…men may come ,men may go
But I go on for ever

Men come only to go but not the brook that goes on for ever.Its chatter in the woods will never stop.It goes on for ever.

The simple musical lines in monosyllables are so much like the babble of a brook

Men may come/ men may go
But I go on /for ever

Men merely come and they go. But the brook goes on and on.

The poet achieves a rare kind of musical density in each stanza by repetition of a single sound ;

“b” in

I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles
.
,
“y” in

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

“f” in

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

And “ow” in

fallow,willow,mallow

Of course,the dominant sense employed is the auditory one:

bubble , babble, chatter ,bicker, fret.

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