What is the speaker's wish in the third stanza of "Break, Break, Break"?

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

In "Break, Break, Break," the speaker's grief at the loss of a close friend is generally thought to reflect Tennyson's own grief at the loss of Arthur Henry Hallam, his closest friend who died tragically young.

The speaker of the poem is so utterly crestfallen, so overcome with grief, that he is unable to put into words just how he feels about his recent bereavement. We can see this from the opening stanza, when he tells us that he is unable to articulate the thoughts that have been troubling him recently:

And I would that my tongue could utter

The thoughts that arise in me.

The speaker's predicament is by no means unusual. Many of us who've been plunged into grief at some point in our lives find it no less difficult to express our feelings in words. For the most part, grief is something to be shown, not told. Even so, the speaker clearly wishes that he could talk about his feelings.

What makes things all the more difficult for him is that he sees people—the fisherman's boy and his sister, and the singing sailor lad—who are unburdened by grief and are thus able to enjoy themselves.

What's more, the natural rhythm of the waves as they crash against the "cold gray stones" gives us an example of the complete indifference of the natural world to human suffering and loss. It thus cannot provide the speaker with much in the way of comfort for his bereavement. The speaker may well be in a slough of despond, but nature goes on as before without the slightest concern for anyone or anything.

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

In the fourth stanza of "Break, Break, Break," the speaker says that "the tender grace of a day that is dead" will never come back to him, implying a wish to return to the past, along with the knowledge that this is impossible.

Tennyson's poem "Break, Break, Break" expresses one of the poet's major preoccupations: the indifference of nature and the rest of the world in the face of human suffering. The poet lost his one of his dearest friends (Arthur Henry Hallam, who died at the age of twenty-two) and wrote several poems, including this one, mourning that loss. However, as he observes, the sea and the stones, the fisherman's children and the sailor, neither know nor care of his grief.

Time is just as indifferent to the poet's suffering as his surroundings are. Tennyson wishes he could return to a time of "tender grace" when his dear friend was alive, but the entire mood of the poem proclaims this to be an impossibility.

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

In his poem "Break, Break, Break," the speaker looks out over the sea and listens as it crashes against the rocks. He wishes that he could give voice to the thoughts that fill him.

In the poem's second stanza, the speaker remembers the innocence and joy of childhood. He thinks that it is very good to be a "fisherman's boy" who plays with his sister, shouting in his games. It is also very good to be a "sailor lad," singing on his boat. These young people are happy, joyful even, and they enjoy life to its fullest in the present moment. They are not plagued by memories and loss, as the speaker seems to be. The speaker implies that he wishes he could be like these children in their careless freedom.

Yet the speaker is not a child, and he longs for "the touch of a vanish'd hand" and "the sound of a voice that is still." He has been touched by death, and he mourns for someone he has lost as he stands and looks out at the sea, reflecting on "the tender grace of a day" that has passed and will not return. The speaker has been touched by melancholy, and he feels that there is no going back to the innocent joy of the fisherman's boy and the sailor lad.

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