While Scanning Through the Frosty Woods One Day…

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,

  • Scan reveals that begins with irregular meter already: Mostly iambs with anapest substituted for final foot. My initial impulse was to put stress on the final three syllables, but lacked a vocabulary for that. Felt that each of the last three single-syllable words deserved equal emphasis: Emphasis on individuality (“one”) as well as image (“gray day”). However settled on anapest in order to put stress on the described noun (“day”) above the descriptors.
  • Resisted categorizing into more than 5 feet, although later lines stray into hexameter with the “tailless” feet making the sixth foot. Partially because complying with iambic pentameter would require ending on an unstressed syllable which not only sounds unpleasant but also contradicts my rationale in selecting anapest (see above).
  • Deviation from Iambic Pentameter as opener: Like using a provocative quote in the opening of an essay. Creates a pattern, deviates slightly enough to engage the reader—will the pattern continue or break? Read on!
  • Crisp, concise imagery compliments, crisp, bleak setting.

I paused and said, “I will turn back from here.

  • A complete thought: End stopped line. Yet failure to close quotations indicates thought continues.
  • “Pause” at beginning of line compliments the preceding line break.
  • Compliant w/ Iambic pentameter; connects to the expectation of completed thought.

No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.”

  • Contrasted to preceding line: Filled with inconsistencies!
  • Addendum to “complete” thought of line 2; multiple caesuras indicate a lack of cohesion as though extemporizing, where the previous line (compliant with iambic pentameter) indicates a sense of composition.
  • Caesura directly after “No” separates it as an interjection, making it more forceful; again in contrast to the thought presented in line 2; as though an impulsive protest.
  • I would also argue that the final foot parallels the first line in the substitution of an anapest for an iamb; this—despite the disruption to expected pattern—creates a sense of cogency by connecting to the pattern established earlier.
  • Also (through repeated deviation from iambic pentameter) demarcates the boundaries of first sentence as the TRUE complete idea, with end stop and closed quotes after “see.”

The hard snow held me, save where now and then

  • Returns to conventional iambic pentameter.
  • Economical description again conveys sparse landscape.
  • Drops off in the middle of idea—like a foot cracking through the crust of snow.

One foot went through. The view was all in lines

-Regularity (return to conventional iambic pentameter) connects/re-emphasizes the image of regular “lines.”

– As does the consonance on “w” “s” & “l” – regular repetition of sounds like the regular repetition of trees.

Straight up and down of tall slim trees

  • Lacks any caesura: invokes unending expanse of swamp, unbroken view.
  • A “straight” through line, like a “straight” up and down tree.
  • Again, economical language evokes frozen landscape.
  • Consonance on “l” links two adjectives for trees; sonorous, creating cohesive tranquil image.

Too much alike to mark or name a place by

  • The first of the deviations into into tailless Iambic pentameter! Strange, because of reference to “alike” in line…perhaps more connected to the idea of “mark…name”? Would work with deviation in closer proximity to those verbs.
  • I think tailless Iamb rather than anapest for because “place” feels more important—and therefore requires greater stress–due to speaker’s desire to locate themselves within the swamp as expressed by the following line.
  • Assonance on “a” sounds; “alike” & “mark” vs. “name” & “place”. Creates pleasant symmetry. Again reminiscent of trees. Creation of pairs hearkens to “alike”, creating comparison.

So as to say for certain I was here

  • Reversion to iambic pentameter w/o caesura: Again presented as a complete thought. Hearkens back to pattern established in first three lines w/ deviance àcompliance—> repeated deviance.
  • Consonance on “s” creates a sloppy mess at beginning of line (like the confusion of being unable to locate oneself?) broken by “here”, which reinforces the speaker’s desire to establish a concrete, nameable place.

Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.

  • Unlike in first three lines, maintains iambic pentameter: breaking pattern by adhering to pattern. Connects to the concept of knowing/not knowing in “just far from home”.
  • Like line three, continues a completed thought, beginning w/ a conjunction.
  • Return to “s” consonance in first half of sentence reintroduces sense of muddiness in “somewhere else”.
  • Caesura isolates second half of sentence as a definitive statement; the speaker’s only concrete knowledge.
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