‘Nothing Will Die’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a three-stanza poem which is separated into one set of ten lines, one set of sixteen, and a final set of nine. Each stanza follows its own pattern of rhyme.
The first contains rhyming sets of tercets and couplets, conforming to the pattern of, aaabbccddb. A reader should take note of the last, very short, five lines of this section as they come in the form of a list. The speaker is noting all of the reasons why the world will go on forever.
The second stanza is formatted differently, it follows a slightly less structured pattern of, abaccdeebdfghhfg. The lines do not match up in one precise order, but by the end of the stanza, each line has found its matching rhyme.
In the third stanza, the rhyme scheme is altered once more. It follows a pattern of aabcddceb. The only outstanding line in this section is the one that ends with the word, “die.” This has been done purposely in an effort to alienate the concept of death. It also connects the final lines to lines four and five of the first stanza which also end in the word “die.”
Summary of Nothing Will Die
The poem begins with the speaker asking a number of questions. The answer to each one of these is “never.” The wind will never stop blowing, the clouds will never stop “fleeting” and the heart of humankind will never become “aweary of beating.”
In the second section he goes on to state that the future is going to bring change, but that does not necessarily mean the end. As nothing can die, change only brings on a different form of life. Spring will always return, in one way or another, and revitalize the earth.
In the final lines the summarizes his previous points, coming to the final conclusion that everything will change, nothing was ever born that didn’t already exist, and that nothing can ever truly die as all life returns to the earth.
Analysis of Nothing Will Die
When will the stream be aweary of flowing
Under my eye? When will the wind be aweary of blowing
Over the sky? When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?
When will the heart be aweary of beating? And nature die?
Never, oh! never, nothing will die?
The stream flows,
The wind blows,
The cloud fleets,
The heart beats,
Nothing will die.
In the first stanza of this piece, the speaker begins by asking a number of questions of the reader. These are rhetorical, meaning they are not meant to be answered. The speaker knows the response he would like to get from a listener, and is ready with what he is sure is the correct one.
The first line asks when “the stream” will be tired, or “aweary of flowing / Under my eye?” He is attempting to prove a point to a listener, as will become clear, that “Never” is the answer to every question he asks. The river will not ever be tired of flowing, it will continue as it is for the rest of time.
The second question begins directly after the first. In these lines, he asks when the wind will be tired, or once more, “aweary” of “blowing.” As was the case previously, the correct answer, at least in his mind, is never.
These lines are followed by a third formatted in the same way. This time he references the clouds which will never get tired of “fleeting” through that same sky.
The wind, the river, and the clouds are forces that do not give in to exhaustion. Time and bad circumstances cannot wear them out. Tennyson’s speaker is hoping to relate these natural elements to the heart of humankind. As humanity is part of nature, it too will never become “aweary of beating.” The force which is “nature” will never “die.”
In the second half of the stanza the format in which the lines are constructed changes considerably. They are shortened to less than half their previous length and proceed in the form of a list. The speaker is so sure of himself, he declares these elements will go on forever. He reiterates the subjects of the previous lines, wind, clouds, the river, and one’s heart, utilizing the title of the poem and stating that “Nothing will die.”
Nothing will die;
All things will change
‘Tis the world’s winter;
Autumn and summer
Are gone long ago;
Earth is dry to the centre,
But spring, a new comer,
A spring rich and strange,
Shall make the winds blow
Round and round,
Through and through,
Here and there,
Till the air
And the ground
Shall be filled with life anew.
In the second stanza of the piece, the speaker’s optimism takes on a new form. The lines begin with a repetition of the title, “Nothing will die.” Although he still believes this to be the case, he knows that things are always going to change as one moves “Through eternity.” It is impossible for the world to stay the same.
As an example of this, he speaks on a future world in which the “winter; / Autumn and summer /Are gone long ago.” These seasons do not exist as they once did and “Earth is dry to the centre.” This depressing view of the future is quickly lifted. It turns out he does not expect the world to dry up permanently, but just for a period of time.
Soon enough the “rich” spring will come again. It will be “strange” in that it’s been so long since the season happened. With it, the winds will “blow / Round and round,” traveling throughout the world from “Here to there.” This process will rejuvenate the world and allow life to begin “anew.”
The world was never made;
It will change, but it will not fade.
So let the wind range;
For even and morn
Ever will be
Nothing was born;
Nothing will die;
All things will change.
In the final stanza, which is the shortest of the three, the speaker tries to summarize his various points which were described over the previous two stanzas. The first line speaks of the world as being a place that “was never made.” It was not constructed to be one thing, or the simple “world” that humankind currently knows. It “will change.” This change is not something to be feared as it will never “fade.” The world will never end.
In the next section, he asks that a reader give in to the forces of the world and allow the “wind range” through the days of “eternity.” It will travel, as will life, in one form or another, for the rest of time.
The final lines act as a short and concise summary of the speaker’s beliefs. He states that “Nothing” was ever born, nothing came about without some prior history or connection, in this case, to nature. Additionally, he says that “Nothing will die,” as all life returns to the earth, and finally, “All things will change.” He does not perceive change as something to dread. It is a natural part of the world in which humankind lives and it should be embraced.