Religion is a powerful, prevailing entity, influencing mankind since before the inception of civilization; Christianity in particular, has had a profound impact on Western literature in modernity. Christianity defines the underlying message within Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Break, Break, Break.” Every line of the poem can be broken down and interpreted in a religious aspect. Highlighting each Christian reference in the poem through the utilization of allusions, Tennyson relates every line to important characteristics of the Christian religion to display his piety.
The poet ingrained Christianity in this poem from the title itself throughout the first stanza. The title of the poem- “Break, Break, Break”- is an allusion to the Holy Trinity: the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Many groupings of three in Christian literature relate to this divine trio that rules in eternity. Tennyson similarly uses the title in the first line of the poem as well; however, as the poem reads “Break, break, break/ On thy cold gray stones, O sea!” (Lord Tennyson 1-2) the allusion has a different meaning. The first two lines together can be interpreted as an allusion to the storm on the Sea of Galilee in the fourth chapter of Mathew in the Bible. From his boat, Peter cries out for help during the storm. The third and fourth lines of the first stanza, “And I would that my tongue could utter/ The thoughts that arise in me” (3-4) are an allusion to these desperate prayers and distressed cries during such a trying trepidation. After Jesus walks across the stormy sea to approach Peter in his time of need, the future disciple became docile and accepting of the Messiah whom he followed until the time of the As...
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...at God is larger than life. As a final warning relating to the power of God, Tennyson writes, “But the tender grace of a day that is dead/ will never come back to me” (15-16). This is a reminder that the transient grace of Jesus Christ will not return to Earth until long after the First Coming and alludes to the fact that the Second Coming of Jesus will be the end of the world. Tennyson says this to show he knows his place in the world and reveres God, the Almighty.
The poet wrote this poem as a form of worship in the mid-nineteenth century when religion was at the forefront of society in England. Many artists displayed their beliefs through artistic expression at this time period because art is close to the heart. Similar to the importance of poetry in Tennyson’s life, his religion is central to his identity and evident through his subtle references to faith.
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