Analysis of "The Sound of the Sea" by Henry Wadswort Longfellow
“The Sound of the Sea” is a sonnet by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, describing the sounds of the sea and relating it to human inspiration. Through only auditory images of the sea and other powerful natural forces, Longfellow effectively alludes to the nature of human inspiration. Through detailed and sensory imagery, Longfellow communicates the subtle details of the human soul and how inspiration functions.
“The Sound of the Sea” consists of fourteen lines and a particular rhyme scheme (abba abba cde cde). The first eight lines of the poem consist of one drawn out sentence, which is the description of the sound of the sea and other natural forces, which then in the final sestet, which also consists of only one sentence, are used by
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The concept of a voice you can listen to and follow, but not see the source, is usually associated with a divine presence. This concept is solidified by the description in the following line, describing it as a sound “mysteriously multiplied”, as the word mysterious suggests that its provenance is not known and the word multiplied insinuates this multiplication of the strength of the voice, communicating a sense of power. This sense of power is furthered by the natural descriptions in the two consecutive lines, where the voice is compared to a “cataract from the mountain’s side” and a “roar of winds upon a wooded steep”. Both these descriptions are natural phenomenons of immense power, and who’s sources one can’t see, the wind being invisible and the cataract having its source deep within the mountain. These four lines can be related to the last four lines of the poem, where it claims that these inspirations aren’t our own, but some “divine foreshadowing and foreseeing of things beyond our reason or control”. This insinuates that this inspiration is in fact some sort of divine glimmer, a voice shedding light, and that these divine influences are like the tide, beyond our human understanding or control.
There is a cyclical pattern in the poem, where the content of the first four lines with rhyme scheme abab, are tied with the content of the first three lines with the rhyme scheme cde and conversely between the second and fourth part of the poem.