Tennyson uses external circumstance, and particularly portraits of nature, to create mood in his poetry. He is especially effective at invoking melancholy in his work through a vision of decay in nature (e.g. Tithonus). He does not suggest that his characters seek out gloomy places but rather that the inherent melancholy in "nature red in tooth and claw" reflects the sadness of a human condition. Often nature, almost surreally, responds to the moods of the speaker, as when in "Mariana in the Moated Grange" the mouse "shrieks" or in "Maude" nature becomes a hostile animate force reflecting the unbalancing of the narrator's mind.
In "Break, Break, Break" the eternal cycles of natural and human life are contrasted with the narrator's loss, and rather than taking consolation in the notion that "life goes on", the narratopr reflects on his own loss contrasts with the happiness of the children who have yet to know loss and the vast indifference of the ships and sea which go about their normal routine actions.