This poem by the "great rhythmic teacher and prophet...of a Spiritual Universe" is melancholic as were his early poems. Also, it calls to mind the reflection of Ralph Waldo Emerson that "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit." Truly, Tennyson's poem achieves its effect by the evocation of this mood of melancholy that deals with one of life's salient issues.
In the poem "Break, Break, Break" the rhythm of the title reflects the striking of the waves against the rock as well as the striking of pain upon the heart of the speaker that is breaking in sorrow. And, when sorrow claims the soul of a man, his perception--to quote St. Paul--is like "looking through a glass darkly." Indeed, the striking of the waves against the gray stone reflects the feeling of the speaker's soul that mourns his loss of a friend. Like the waves that hit the rocks, the repeated thoughts of loss each strike harder than those before them as the speaker ponders the finality of death and the transience of life that is like the wave that breaks against rock.