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Looking At Poetic Sound Devices

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2621 words Published: 28th Apr 2017

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While the poem’s tone, speaker, and choice of words serve as the basic outline for the poem, poetic sound devices give poems a special musical quality, which also contributes to the theme. You might have heard of devices such as alliteration, rhyme, assonance, consonance, and onomatopoeia; all these give poetic verses that special sound quality. You’ll explore these devices in this interactivity.

Ozymandias Tab:

Present the entire poem here.

Show 4 titles with a hotspot next to each. On clicking the hotspot next to each title, display the following text in the pop-ups.

On clicking Rhyme:

The poem follows a strange rhyme scheme of ababacdcedefef which doesn’t fit into any standard sonnet rhyming pattern.

Take a look at how the rhyming words in the poem carry the theme:

“land”/”sand”: By reading just these two words, you’ll understand that the land that’s being described is a desert. These help reiterate how “nothing else remains” of Ozymandias’ kingdom, except for sand.

“read”/”fed”: Shelley venerates the sculptor who perfectly recreated or “read” the kings expression; and in a way “fed” could mean that he enlarged the king’s ego. This brings out two themes; one of impermanent art and the other of pride going to a fall.

“things”/”kings”: These words contribute to the theme of impermanence of earthly “things” including once powerful “kings.”

“despair”/”bare”: These rhymes bring out the theme of desolation since there’s only “despair” now that everything is “bare.”

You’ll also notice the presence of half-rhymes or imperfect rhymes in “stone”/”frown” and “appear”/”bare”

On clicking Assonance:


Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

Particularly explain the sound devices in the last 2-3 lines of the poem e.g. the assonance and alliteration in “Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,” emphasizes the vastness and desolation of the desert surrounding the statue of Ozymandias.

On clicking Alliteration:

Mention extensive use of alliteration e.g.

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Explain how the alliteration “lone” and “level” and “sands” and “stretch” contribute to the image of the desert and add to the theme of desolation as all that remains is the vast stretches of sand.

Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio Tab

Read the poem Hony Tonk in Celeveland, Ohio (OR PUT THE ENTIRE POEM HERE)

Carl Sandburg beautifully describes the sights and sounds of a honky tonk. A honky tonk is a tawdry drinking establishment with musical entertainment, usually found in the South and Southwest. As you read the poem, you’ll feel like you’re in a honky tonk yourself. And you get acquainted with the sounds, sights, and the people usually found in such places.

Show 3 titles with a hotspot next to each.

On clicking Onomatopoeia

This poem is filled with Onomatopoeia which is the naming of a thing or action by an oral imitation of the sound associated with it such as the “banjo tickles and titters.” Take a look at onomatopoeia in Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio:

“drum crashes“

“coronet razzes“

“trombone pony neighs“

“tuba jackass snorts“

“banjo tickles and titters“

Each of these create a vivid sound image in the reader’s mind and go on to build up the poem’s theme.

On clicking Alliteration and Assonance

Alliteration which is the repetition of same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables; is evident in the poem. Take a look at the use of Alliteration in Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio:

“jazz” and “razzes”

“trombone” and “tuba”

“fleet of floozies etc.”) and assonance (“jazz” and “razzes,” “weep’ and “beer” etc.) in the poem and focus on how these devices bring out the theme of the poem effectively (vividly evokes images and sounds commonly found in a honky tonk).

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Show the following stanza in the graphic from Lord Byron’s poem,

When we two parted

When we two parted

In silence and tears,

Half broken-hearted

To sever for years,

Pale grew thy cheek and cold,

Colder thy kiss;

Truly that hour foretold

Sorrow to this.

If you like, you can read the entire text of Lord Byron’s When We Two Parted. How do poetic sound devices in this stanza of Byron’s poem, When we two parted contribute to the theme?

Onomatopoeia and rhyme bring out the theme of pain and loss at the lovers’ parting. (Look closer… the poetic devices don’t only highlight the pain and loss of the lover’s loss.)

Alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia are used to describe the farewell scene of the lovers. (Look closer… the poem talks about more than just a farewell scene.)

Alliteration, assonance, and rhyme create a sad atmosphere at the lovers’ separation. (Correct! Poetic devices in the poem create a sad atmosphere which intensifies the lover’s feelings on separation)

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Show the following stanza in the graphic from Robert Browning’s poem, Meeting at Night:

And the startled little waves that leap

In fiery ringlets from their sleep,

As I gain the cove with pushing prow,

And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

If you like, you can read the entire text of Robert Browinngs’ Meeting in the Night

Now that you’ve read the poem, answer this question: How do the poem’s sound devices contribute to its theme?

Alliteration and rhyme bring out the theme of how a man faces the travails of a long and arduous journey across the night sea. (Look closer… There’s more than just the man’s journey in the poem. For instance, “waves that leap” from “their sleep suggests stronger emotions.)

Alliteration and repetition bring out the theme of a man’s fears and doubts as he journeys across the night to meet his beloved. (Look closer… The poem remotely talks about fears and doubts on the man’s part. For instance repetition of “and” and “quench its speed i’the slushy sand” suggest determination rather than fear on the man’s part)

Rhyme, repetition, and alliteration bring out the theme of the man’s passionate tenacity as he journeys to meet his beloved. (Correct! Passion can be seen in the rhymes, “leap”/”sleep” which attribute to the distraught sea. Yet the man reaches “the cove with pushing prow” and quenches “its speed i’the slushy sand” which suggests tenacity. Further, the repetition of “and” makes the task seem arduous. Yet the man goes on, with great passion to meet his beloved.)

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Rhythm and Form

You just saw how poetic devices like alliteration, assonance, and repetition enhance a poem’s theme. Now let’s take a look at what rhythm has to do with poetry. Rhythm is that musical quality, produced by the repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables in words. A combination of these stressed and unstressed syllables or “feet,” are called a poem’s “meter”. All of these together, make up a poem’s “form” such as a ballad, elegy, sonnet etc. While many standard patterns of meter and form exist, poets may not necessarily conform to these standards; just as in Ozymandias.

Take a look at the poems rhyme scheme: ababacdcedefef. This pattern doesn’t conform to any traditional pattern and even as you read it, you might get the feeling that something’s not in order. Probably the rhyme scheme itself could represent the discord between the way Ozymandias thought the future was going to be and the actual, grim reality.

The poem is in iambic pentameter which are lines that of five feet each. Each of the feet comprise of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Take a look at these lines with which conform to iambic pentameter:

“Who said: / Two vast / and trunk / less legs / of stone”
” Half sunk, / a shat / tered vi / sage lies, / whose frown,”
“And wrink / led lip, / and sneer / of cold / command,”

However, a few lines do not conform to the iambic pentameter (note the syllables in italics):
“I met / a travel / ler from / an an / tique land
Stand in / the des/ ert… Near / them, on / the sand,”
Tell that / its sculp / tor well / those pas / sions read,”
Nothing / beside / remains. / Round the / decay”

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What is the poetic form of Ozymandias? You might want to take a look at the various poetic forms to refresh your memory.

A poem or song composed especially as a lament for a deceased person.

A narrative poem, often of folk origin and intended to be sung, consisting of simple stanzas and usually having a refrain.

Sonnet (Correct! A sonnet is a poetic form consisting of fourteen lines, usually iambic pentameter.)

elegy (Look closer… An elegy is a poem that commemorates or laments for a departed person. Ozymandias does not commemorate or lament the king’s death, but despises his pride instead.)

ballad (Look closer…A ballad is a narrative poem or song, often of folk origin and consists of simple stanzas with a refrain. Ozymandias doesn’t have simple stanzas or a refrain.)

free verse (Look closer…. Free verse refers to verses that are usually unrhymed with no fixed metrical pattern. As you’ve seen, Ozymandias does follow a metrical pattern.)

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So as you just saw, Ozymandias follows a sonnet form. Sonnets are fourteen-line poems which can be traced back to the great Italian poet Petrarch. In a Petrarchan sonnet, the first eight lines, the octave specify a concern and the following six lines, the sestet which seeks to resolve the posed concern. The sonnet’s ninth line, the volta, marks a shift in the poem’s direction. The other famous sonnet form is the Shakespearean sonnet which comprises of three quatrains of four lines each; and ends with a rhyming couplet.

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Ozymandias follows neither form entirely… but both! While it starts off with the Shakespearean form with rhyme scheme abab. However, the rhyme scheme changes to acdc rather than the expected cdcd. And finally, it ends without a rhyming couplet but with an efef scheme, like the Petrarchan sonnet. So finally we get a strange ababacdcedefef rhyme scheme. Yet, it retains the qualities of a Shakespearean sonnet because it uses iambic pentameter in a few verses. So, though the poem is a sonnet, it does not fit the exact definition of Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet. This hybrid form contributes to the theme that Ozymandias’ expectation or vision of grandeur does not match the reality. It also brings out the theme that some things like art/sculpture and nature (sand) stand the test of time whereas other things like arrogant and tyrannical rulers perish.

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Take an example of an elegy, Robert Bridges’ Nightingales:

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You’ve just seen how the rhyme carries the theme in an elegy. Now let’s see how this is done in a ballad. Read Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Meri and pay attention to its rhyme scheme.

It won’t take too long to indentify the simple abcd rhyme scheme in each of its twelve four-line stanzas. The poem is in iambic tetrameter, where the first and third lines contain four stressed syllables while the second and fourth lines contain three stressed syllables. The second and fourth lines are set in perfect end rhyme with one another, giving it the musical sound typically found in ballads. This form compliments the poem’s theme which is a narrative that tells a story of a knight who falls in love with a beautiful fair lady, who then casts him aside, and the knight is left sad and moping.

Reread Sharon Old’s Rite of Passage, and pay attention to its form and rhythm. You’ll notice that it doesn’t carry any specific form at all! This is known as a free verse form. A free verse doesn’t follow the traditional orderliness of rhyme and rhythm. This chaotic form, contributes to the poem’s theme since the poem itself carries a disillusioned, ironic tone and disturbing theme. This style effectively explores the two colliding, yet complementing themes, of innocence and adulthood as the boys act as if they were men. One would expect a typical birthday party with lighthearted, hyper excitement. However, the mother views this party differently and sees hidden adults in the children. Through the use of free verse the mother’s thoughts and feelings at the loss of innocence are effectively expressed.

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As you’ve seen, a poem’s theme can be elevated and can touch readers with the effective use

Review the main points. Mention that the theme of a poem can be elevated and can touch the readers by the effective use of tone, speaker, word choice, poetic sound devices, rhythm, and form.

Mention how these elements contribute to the theme of a poem. If we are attuned to these elements, we will be able to understand the theme better and have a deeper appreciation of the poem.


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