Tennyson's "Break, Break, Break" is a brief poem which juxtaposes the speaker's lament for "the touch of a vanish'd hand" with the everyday activities of others in society who simply continue with their lives, untouched by the death which, to the speaker, has been felt as a tragedy. Tennyson utilizes boisterous images of children—"the fisherman's boy" who "shouts with his sister at play" and the "sailor lad" who sings while at his work—to emphasize the continuity of life, with the vibrant youth of these people representing rebirth and renewal, even in a world where death is a constant among us.
The speaker also uses the sea, which he addresses directly, as a representation of the constancy of our world; just as "the stately ships go on," the sea continues to "break, break, break" repeatedly and endlessly. The repetition in the line reinforces the poem's cyclical idea. Life, and the life cycles of human beings, will continue regardless of what happens to single individuals who may die. However, that is not to say that the loss of one person is meaningless—on the contrary, "the tender grace of a day that is dead" will never be recovered by the speaker; he will always be aware of his loss. Still, he appreciates that he is nevertheless still part of a world which is always moving onward, and that life, like the sea, will not come to a halt to mourn the speaker's loss.