Poetics and Poetry Discussion
Peter A. Crowther
(4/18/2005 6:20:00 AM)
I am no expert but will give you my ‘take’ on Auden’s poem for what it is worth. The poem is composed of three seven-line stanzas. The lines are of unequal length but generally the shorter lines consist of two feet and the longer ones of four or five feet in a fairly consistent pattern such that lines 1-2 and 5 (and in the third stanza 7) are long and lines 3-4 and 6-7 are short. The metre is mostly iambic but is varied with the substitutionn of some anaepestic feet and several lines begin with a spondee (e.g. Look stranger, Stand stable, Far off) . The poem is a very musical one and this effect is enhanced by the frequent use of alliteration (e.g. leaping light, delight discovers, falls to the foam, shingle scrambles sucking surf etc etc - almost every line is rich with alliteration) and internal rhymes (e.g. line 2: light delight; line 9: wall falls, tall, and the lovely last line rhyme water saunter!) . At first sight the poem seems to be written in blank verse and the last stanza is in fact so but the first two stanzas do contain some subtle end rhymes with the pattern ABCDCED and similarly in stanza 2 ABCDCBD.
To my mind the poem has more sound and music than content but it does conjure up a pleasing picture of the poet standing on an island at the cliff edge listening to the sound of the sea below and looking out across it to the distant ships plying their trade and resolving to hold the scene in his memory. Pete