What does the speaker wish for in the third stanza of "Break, Break, Break"?

In the third stanza of this poem, the speaker wishes for "the touch of a vanish'd hand" and the sound of the voice which accompanies that hand. It is safe to assume he is longing for a dead loved one.

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"Break, Break, Break," a short poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is a depiction of grief. Its speaker stands by the seashore and can see everything in his world only as "gray." He notices that other people are happy, such as the shouting fisherman's boy and the sailor lad who is singing in his boat further out to sea. However, the speaker feels unable to echo these joyful feelings.

In the third stanza, the reason behind his melancholy explained to the reader. The speaker looks upon the ships sailing on to their "haven" in the distance, and there is a sense that this image may be metaphorical as well as literal, suggesting the sailing away of souls into a distant land. Several times, Tennyson makes use of the idea that at the ends of our lives, we sail off into the distance.

The speaker in the third stanza is filled with longing:

O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

The "touch" and "voice" belong, we must assume, a loved one who has died. His grief in this poem has been caused by the fact that the hand he longs for is "vanish'd" and the voice is "still."

The mood and tone do not shift in the final stanza of the poem, in which the speaker repeats the phrase "break, break, break" and mourns the fact that the days which are now in his past can never return. He is too trapped in his own grief and his longing for the vanished loved one to appreciate the beauty others find in the world.

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In the third stanza of "Break, Break, Break," the speaker wishes that he could touch the hand and hear the voice of a friend who has died. The poem is an expression of grief, and most critics feel that it is based on Tennyson's feelings after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. Hallam was only twenty-two years old when he died of a stroke. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Tennyson's sister.

In the poem, the speaker goes down to view the sea but finds it hard to express his thoughts. He finds the sea cold and bleak. In contrast, he observes a "fisherman's boy," "his sister," and a singing "sailor lad" who seem to be enjoying the sea, but all the speaker can think of is his friend and how much he misses him. The monotony of the sea breaking on the rocks reflects the desolation that the speaker feels. He has lost the "tender grace" of the company of his friend, and it "will never come back" to him.

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