Tennyson’s Poetry

by: Alfred Lord Tennyson

“The Lotos-Eaters”

Summary “The Lotos-Eaters”

The reader, too, is left with ambivalent feelings about the mariners’ argument for lassitude. Although the thought of life without toil is certainly tempting, it is also deeply unsettling. The reader’s discomfort with this notion arises in part from the knowledge of the broader context of the poem: Odysseus will ultimately drag his men away from the Lotos Land disapprovingly; moreover, his injunction to have “courage” opens—and then overshadows—the whole poem with a sense of moral opprobrium. The sailors’ case for lassitude is further undermined morally by their complaint that it is unpleasant “to war with evil” (line 94); are they too lazy to do what is right? By choosing the Lotos Land, the mariners are abandoning the sources of substantive meaning in life and the potential for heroic accomplishment. Thus in this poem Tennyson forces us to consider the ambiguous appeal of a life without toil: although all of us share the longing for a carefree and relaxed existence, few people could truly be happy without any challenges to overcome, without the fire of aspiration and the struggle to make the world a better place.