The Brook By Lord Alfred Tennyson

Central Idea: The brook is a tiny stream born in a certain mountain. In the course of its journey, it grows bigger and stronger. As it flows through the pebbles, it makes so many types of sounds. Their movements are varied as well. It slips and slides; its curves and flows are stealing and winding. It’s chattering and babbling, making both musical and harsh sounds. The birth and growth, chatter and babbling of the brook are very similar to a human being’s activities. Overall, the brook represents life. Both have an origin, an intermediate stage, and an end. Both are fighting different adversities, odds and moving forward towards their goal. The brook is life above all. Men may come and men may go, yet life goes on eternal. In the case of the brook, a similar guideline applies. It continues streaming like life everlastingly.

The Brook Summary

The Brook is a beautiful poem written by Lord Alfred Tennyson. The poem is symbolical of human life. The brook usually originates from the mountains and quickly moves down to follow its course. In the poem, the brook has been shown to start from the place of coots and herns and it quickly rushes down sparkling in the sun through a ground of ferns. The brook swiftly moves down many hills and between the long narrow hilltops. The brook rushes down past many villages and bridges. Thus, the brook rushes down past many places making noisy sounds. This noisy and vigorous movement of the brook to reach its destination is symbolical of a man in his youth who is vigorous, enthusiastic and full of energy and for whom anything is possible.

The brook flows by a farm owned by a man named Philip, to join an overflowing river. Here the brook completely describes the cycle of human life. The lifespan of a man is very short and his cycle of coming and going has been there and will remain forever. But, the brook is different from a man because of its immortality. The brook chatters because of its quick flow over the stony ways and pebbles.

The brook curvily flows because the path it takes curves at one point and passes through many fields and unplugged land. Many pieces of land are seen sticking out in the brook, having some plants where colorful insects like butterflies come along with the bright birds. While the brook flows it takes a lot of things along with it like blossoms, trout, foamy flakes, gravel, slit which resembles the way map meets people in his lifetime and moves forward. The brook wears away because of its meandering flow. The brook slips slides, dances and its moment is oven hindered by pebbles and small plants but it overcomes everything to reach its destination river. The last two lines suggest that the flow of the brook is continuous and goes on forever. And, as far as, human life is concerned, it is very short-human life comes to an end to make a room for another generation.

  1. ‘I’ in the poem is referred to the brook.
  2. The brook starts its journey from the place of water birds, moving down the hills noisily, curving at many places, overcoming the obstacles, and finally reaching its destination – river

  3. In these lines, human life is compared and contrasted with the brook. Human beings are mortal because they’ve got a short span of life. They have to go through the cycle of arrival and departure. But the brook is immortal. It witnesses the coming and going of human beings because it itself is eternal.

  4. Sudden sally, willow weed, foamy flake, skimming swallows, sandy shallow.

  5. Yes, the journey of the brook can be compared with human life. The way the brook originates and then flows with the vigor overcoming all the hurdles and taking along with it the blossoms, trout, gravel, etc can be compared with the vigour and enthusiasm of human beings when they are young and full of energy to overcome anything here obstacles, in order to reach their destination and in their journey they meet different people and continue to move ahead in their journey of life.

Short Summary of The Brook

The poem ‘The Brook’ is written in the first person, so it strikes a self-portraying note. It continues like a journey, which has various stages, different ups, and downs, demonstrating various types of development.

The Brook starts its adventure from some place in the mountains, which are home to birds like ‘coots’ and ‘heron’ and stops it by joining the ‘brimming stream’. On its way, it goes by numerous slopes, ridges, towns, villages, bridges. The brook’s movement is at times commanding and solid, here and there relaxed. It advances by eroding the banks, through developed, uncultivated terrains and forelands. The brook is also the territory of numerous sorts of fish and is brimming with willows, mallows, and blooms. It moreover gives a gathering point to darlings and surface to swallows to skim. Its surging water fills in as a background for the dance of the beams of the sun.

The Brook starts its adventure from somewhere in the mountains where birds like’ coots’ and’ heron’ live and ends it by joining the’ brimming stream.’ It goes through numerous slopes, ridges, towns, villages, bridges on its way. The movement of the brook is sometimes commanding and solid, sometimes relaxing here and there. It advances by eroding the banks, through developed, uncultivated terrains and forelands. The brook is also the territory of many kinds of fish and is full of willows, mallows, and blooms. It also gives the lovers a gathering point and the surface to skim swallows. Its surging water fills the dance of the sun’s beams as a background.

The brook continues on its adventure slipping, sliding, gliding, dancing, lingering, gushing. The moon, the stars make it mumble. On its way, it beats numerous obstacles also, deterrents yet achieve its last goal at last.

The adventure of the brook becomes parallel to the journey of human life. The poet makes an intelligent remark which highlights the continuity and external existence of the brook to the short-lived nature of human life. The poet wishes to teach that just as good and bad times don’t stop the stream from its voyage, in the same way, people should also take the obstacles and distresses in their stride.

The Brook by Tennyson

Explain the following lines with reference to context.

a) I come from haunts of coot and hern……..

And half of a hundred bridges.

Reference to context:- These lines have been taken from the poem, “The Brook” written by Alfred Tennyson. The brook has been personified in this poem and it itself narrates its musical journey through mountains, hills, towns, villages, wilderness, farms, fallows, forelands, grassy lawns and stony courses to finally embrace the brimming river. This journey of the brook is akin to human life as human life too like a brook passes through different phases and encounters different situations sometimes good and sometimes troublesome until it finally meets the river of death. The poet has made use of beautiful visual and auditory imaginary to make the recitation of the poem a lifelike an experience. Besides these, the poem has also used onomatopoeic words and alliteration to infuse the poem with a great melody.

Explanation: In these lines, the brook speaking as a living being says that it is born at a place that is visited by water birds like coot and hern. It at once acquires speed and passes through the ferns displaying the shiny texture of its waters. After crossing the ferns, it quickly moves down a valley making a characteristic sound. Then, it passes through various hills at a great speed.

This haste in the brook, immediately after it originates is like that of a child who is eager to learn new things, stumble while reaching out for things and is full of energy.

b) Till last by Philips farm, flow …

I babble on the pebbles.

Reference to context:– Same as 1

Explanation: The brook says that it reaches the farm of Phillip – a common Englishmen. It keeps flowing to finally join the brimming river that is its final destination. The brook says that many men come to this world and many others leave it but it goes on without any halt that is to say life doesn’t stop for anyone. The brook takes a stony course and produces a chattering sound and it hits against the stones. It produces high-pitched sounds while moving along with the stony ways. It sometimes produces bubbles and become a water body full of whirlpools.

c) Till last by Philips farm, flow …

I babble on the pebbles.

Reference to context:– Same as 1

Explanation: The brook further says that as it passes through various fields and uncultivated lands, it twists itself and zigzags through these lands. It tends to say that its journey is never a straight one like that of human’s life which is full of twists and turns. It passes through the capes inhabited by willow trees and wallow plants. It keeps on producing sounds while on the move to join the brimming water. It again mentions that people come and leave this world but the journey of the brook is eternal.

d) I wind about, and in and out…

But I go on forever.

Reference to context: Same as 1

Explanation: The brook says it continues its wavy motion and meets various other creations of nature on its way. Sometimes, it happens to come across a flower sailing on it, sometimes it shelters a strong and active trout and sometimes a grayling finds its home in the brook. As the brook rushes to meet its fate i.e. a brimming river, various foamy flakes rise from it and the brook makes them dance as it moves. The waters of the brook move the gravel along with them. This could be the poet’s way of saying that when a man passes through any stage of life it draws the experiences that he has gained and carries them with him throughout his life. The brook flows to meet the brimming river. People come and leave this world but the journey of the brook is eternal.

e) I steal by lawns…

Against my sandy shallows

Reference to context: Same as 1

Explanation: In these lines, the brook saysc.Y that it passes, through grassy lands. Slowly, it slips the hazel trees, it makes the lovely purple flowers of forgetting – me – not come to motion. These flowers are for lovers. It slips, slides, it grows dark at turns bright as it glides through its deep passages and when it passes through its sandy and shallow courses, it creates beautiful patterns when the sunlight hits its waters. This course of the brook is the most beautiful one. The words used in these lines are all suggestive of a controlled speed of the brook like that of a human being when he reaches its maturity level has acquired the quality of patience and does not rush for everything.

f) I murmur under upon and stars …

But I go on forever.

Reference to context: Same as 1

Explanation: The brook says that it continues its journey even while the sun is hidden and the moon and the stars are out. It produces a murmuring sounds while it passes through the covers of night. It passes through the difficult most part of its course, it is thorny and wild. Its speed slows down as it passes through the rough pebbles. The brook seems to have come of age by now.

The small plants even challenge their speed and hinder its movement and then finally it moves out of these traps to join the brimming river. It says people may come into this world and people may go from this world but its journey has to go on forever. That may be the reason why the poet hasn’t concluded the poem with the mention of the brook finally joining the river. This may be because the poet wants to lay all emphasis on the journey of the brook rather its destination and to acknowledge this flowing process of the brook as a never-ending journey. This theory and wild course of the brook’s journey may be compared to the old age of the human being where his health slows him down and he has difficulties doing the easy and simple jobs even.


1. Give examples of alliteration and the beautiful images that form the texture of the poem ‘The Brook.’

Ans. Sudden sally, twenty thorpes,
I slip, I slide, willow-weed, field, and fallow, bubble babble are examples
of alliteration. The poem contains many beautiful images- the first one is formed in stanza 2 ‘By thirty hills- a hundred bridges’. This vivid image is of the brook flowing through hills and valleys, under bridges and passing by the villages.

There is one more beautiful and strikingly vivid image in the poem is that of the brook making serpent-like motions slipping, sliding, glancing among meadows, grassy plots, forget me-nots and floating fish.

2. How is the journey of the brook similar to the journey of life and yet different?

Ans. There are many similarities between the brook and the journey of life, e.g., both have a beginning, a middle age, and an end. There are struggles in the lives of both – human life continues in spite of struggles and ups and downs, and the brook continues to flow against all odds. But one thing is different – man is mortal, whereas the brook is eternal, a man may come and man may go but the brook goes forever.

3. ‘The Brook’ proceeds like a travelogue. Discuss the importance of the various places that the brook encounters on its journey.

Ans. The brook travels through hills and valleys, between ridges and under bridges, next to Philip’s farm, fallow land, and foreland, making its way through, with a flower here and a trout there and a lot of grayling through sand and gravel obstructions until it falls into the big river. It passes thirty hills and fifty bridges.

4. Describe four movements that the brook makes during its journey.

The various movements that the brook makes on its journey are best described by the poet Lord Tennyson through words like sally, sparkle, slide, move, slip, hurry, flow, go, loiter, linger.

It sparkles as it emerges among the plants with slender leaves, it sparkles in the sunshine among the ferns. It hurries down hills and slips between ridges. It steals by lawns and slides, by hazel covers, it slips and slides, it glooms and glides and glances. It means it moves gently, slowly, unobserved, smoothly and then comes out into the open.

5. What is the symbolic meaning conveyed by

“For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever”?

Ans. The brook is a stream that originates in some mountain. It becomes greater and stronger over the span of its adventure. It makes numerous sorts of sounds as it moves through the stones. Its movements are also varied. It slips and slides; it steals and winds its bends and streams. It chatters and prattles, it makes melodic as well as cruel sounds. The brook’s birth and development, chattering and babbling are very much like the exercises of a human. The brook speaks to life all in all. Both have an origin, a middle stage, and an end. Both battle against different afflictions, chances and continue moving towards their objective. Most importantly, the brook speaks to life. Men may come and men may go, however life goes on forever. A similar principle applies in the case of brook. It continues streaming endlessly, like life.

6. What does the poet want to convey through the poem, ‘The Brook’?
The brook is a symbol of the battle of human life. The poet wishes to call attention to the fact that as ups and down don’t dissuade the stream from its adventure, similarly, human beings should also take the obstacles and sorrows in their stride.

7. Name the different things that can be found floating in the brook.

The brook goes through numerous slopes, ridges, gardens, and valleys. It continues on its journey with extraordinary power. So it carries numerous blossoms, greeneries, stones, weeds with its stream. Commonly brilliant fish like the trout or the grayling can be seen floating in it. When the current is strong, froth assembles on its surface. The brook grasps all that it experiences with great joy.

8. What is the message given by the brook?

The poet wants to convey the message by personifying the brook that like the brook conquers numerous obstacles and obstractions in its adventure boldly and achieves its last goal similarly people should likewise stay undaunted to acknowledge the delights and sorrows of life and, face bodily all the impediments, that come in the way of their aim.


Q.1. Who is “I” referred to as in the poem?

Ans. ‘I’ is referred to the brook that has been personified in the poem.

Q.2. Trace the journey of the brook.

Ans. ‘The Brook’ is a story about the musical journey of a stream from its origin to its end. It’s a story about the various courses it takes to reach its destination i.e. a brimming river. The brook is personified in the poem and its itself narrates its story of life, therefore, the poem is written in the first person.

The brook originates from a place that is frequently visited by water birds like coot and hern. It at once acquires great speed and flows down producing its characteristic sound. It passes through various hills, ridges, various villages, and a town as well. It flows beneath about a fifty bridges, passes beside Phillip’s farm to ultimately reach the brimming river. It takes stony paths and makes a loud noise while passing through them. It produces whirlpools, it passes curving through the fields and fallows and capes with willows and mallows. It moves in a zigzag fashion and meets flowers, trout’s, gray lines and foamy flakes on its way. It carries the golden gravel with it. It passes through grassy lawns, it glides over its deepest and shallowest passages, it passes through the thorns of the woods, pebbles, cereses and what not with only aim to join the brimming river.

Q. 3. Explain the following lines:

For men may come and men may go but I go on forever”. What purpose do these lines serve?

Ans. The poet has used these lines as refrain i.e., they get repeated at regular intervals.

In these lines, the brook mentions the natural phenomenon of the universe the phenomenon of life and death. Billions of people came to this world, lived their lives and eventually met their inevitable fate i.e. death. Nobody came to live forever unlike the brook, whose the journey started since the creation of the world and is still going on oblivious of the fact that how many people have lived and died during this time.

The purpose of these lines is to impart an idea that the world does not stop for anyone. The phenomenon of nature goes on no matter what. The cycle of life and death keeps moving. Humans are only a part of this phenomenon. There are things that have been there before their arrival and will be there after their departure. Nature is all powerful, everlasting and so humans must not think of themselves as eternal beings.

Q.4. Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in verse such as “I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance’. Pick out more examples of alliteration from the poem.

Ans. Alliteration is the repetition of the initial sound usually a consonant or first sound of two or more neighbouring words in a line of prose and poetry. Examples from the poem are:

Sudden Sally Sparkle, twenty, town; Phillips, from flow; men, may; bubble, bays, babble; field, fallow, fairy, foreland; with,Willow, weed; foamy, flake, golden gavel, slip, slide, gloom, glance, skimming swallows’ sandy shallows; murmur, the moon.

Q5. Can the journey of the brook to be compared to human life? How?

Ans. The poet has employed symbolism in the poem using the journey of the brook as a symbol of the human journey. The use of personification and the first person ‘I’ relates the brook to a human even more. The journey of a brook runs parallel to the journey of a man. The changes of size, shape, speed, sound, and courses that a brook encounters along its journey are similar to the different stages and experiences that a man confronts in his lifetime. Like an infant, a brook is born, it is wild energetic. It rushes forward to meet challenges like a human baby. It undergoes various changes making different sounds i.e. showing various dispositions like a human baby then comes the ripe age of the brook where it flows with patience just like a grown-up individual who performs calculated actions. Then comes a stage for the brook where it loiters like an old man who finds it move and after this age. As the brook flows again to meet its fate i.e. brimming river, humans move to their fate i.e. death. The journey of the brook never stops and so does not stop the cycle of birth and death. Individuals die but the existence of the living continues to be there.

Poetic Devices in the poem.


The refrain is a verse, a set or a group of some lines that appears at the end of a stanza or appears where a poem divides into different sections. This technique may, sometimes, involve minor changes in its warding. It also contributes to the rhyme of a poem and emphasizes an idea through repetition.

The refrain is a type of repetition, but it is somewhat different from repetition.

Refrain in a poem, may appear at the end of a stanza, however, repetition may occur in any line of the stanza.

Example of the set of lines used as a refrain in the poem is:

To join the brimming river for men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.

Visual Imagery:

It is a type of literary device that stimulates our sense of sight and creates visual images in our mind. Examples from the poem are: sparkle out among the fern, bicker down a valley, slip between the ridges, brimming river, bubble into eddying bays, many a curve my banks, a blossom sailing, lusty trout here and there a gray line, silvery water break, move the sweet forget me no’s. I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance, skimming swallows, netted sunbeam dance, sandy shallows, under the moon, stars brambly wilderness, and round my cresses.


Sound Imagery:

It is a type of literary device that stimulates our sense of hearing and creates audible images in our mind. Examples from the poem are:
Bicker down, chatter over, stony ways, bubble into eddying bays, steal by lawns, murmur under moon and stars, in little sharps and trebles.

Onomatopoeia: it is a technique of imitating natural sounds by expressing them through words e.g. natural voice of a dog is expressed as
‘bow – wow’ when water hits against anything it makes a certain sound that is imitated by the word ‘splash’. There are many onomatopoeic words in the English vocabulary. Examples of onomatopoeic words from the poem are chatter, murmur. bubble, babble.

Personification: It is a figure of speech, in which an inanimate object (lifeless object) or an idea is given human attributes and treated as if they were human beings or having human qualities.

• Death lays his icy hands on kings.

• My pen pleads me to stop.

• Flowers are dancing in the air.

In the poem, ‘The Brook’ the brook has been personified. The brook is actually a lifeless entity but it speaks of its journey and mentions its movements as if it is a human being.


I come from the haunts of coot and hern

I murmur under moon and stars etc.

I loiter around my cresses

I go on forever.


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