How does the rhyme scheme of the poem "Sea Fever" by John Masefield contribute to the overall sound and music of the poem?

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jmj616's profile pic

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John Masefield's "Sea Fever" uses a simple rhyme scheme: AABB, CCDD, EEFF.  In another words, lines 1-2 of each stanza use one rhyme, and then lines 3-4 use a different rhyme.

Although lines 1-2 (sky-by) do not rhyme with lines 5-6 (tied-denied) or with lines 9-10 (life-knife), there is a common denominator to all these lines: they all contain the "long i" sound, and are thus examples of assonance.

Both rhyme and assonance are types of sound-repetition. Another type of sound-repetition in this poem is the fact that each stanza begins with the same phrase: "I must go down to the seas again."

All this sound-repetition helps this poem to sound like some of its subjects: "the wind's song," "the white sail's shaking," "the call of the running tide," and "the sea-gulls crying."



michael-niagara's profile pic

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The rhyme scheme of the poem "Sea Fever", by English poet John Masefield, contributes to the overall sound and music of the poem in the following ways:


1. A rhyme scheme within formal stanzas


The rhyme scheme is also part of a formal stanza framework in this poem. This poem consists of three stanzas. Each stanza consists of four lines. Therefore, examining each stanza one can see that the first two lines of each stanza rhyme, and the last two lines of each stanza rhyme. Hence, the rhyme scheme of “Sea Fever” within these stanzas is AABB – stanza 1; CCDD – stanza two; and EEFF – stanza three.


These stanzas and their rhymes contribute to the overall sound and music of this poem in that the rhyming sounds move elegantly from one line to the next and from one stanza to the next – just as a song often moves elegantly from one lyric line to the next and from one verse to the next, with a song’s typical rhyme scheme and verse/chorus arrangement. The stanzas of “Sea Fever” give order to the poem and the rhyme is musical within this order.


2. Proper word choice and rhymes that reflect the poems meaning


John Masefield incorporates words into this poem, rhyming and un-rhyming, that evoke the sea. In stanza one he uses the words “sky”, and also “shaking” and “breaking”. These certainly convey the mood of time spent out on the open water…white sail’s shaking, and also, grey dawn breaking.


In stanza number two it’s the use of the single word “tide”,and also the rhyming ofclouds flying, andsea-gulls crying. Again, the word choices relevant to waters, oceans, seas, marine-life, and the environment, along with the rhyming words give the poem its musical forward movement.


In stanza number three it’s the words “gypsy life” and “whetted knife” that convey the aura and image of life on ships on the sea. Again, the rhyming of these words impress upon the reader the atmosphere of the sea. The rhyme helps the reader remember the images and thoughts conveyed by John Masefield.


These contribute to theoverall sound and music of this poem because the right choice of words about the sea, while including end rhyme causes this poem to flow with regularity – like waves in the sea course along their paths with a natural regularity.


3. The repetition of phrases


Each stanza begins with these eight words:


I must go down to the seas again,


As a result, this is rhyme. The first part of line one in stanza one repeats in the first part of line one in stanza two and the first part of line one in stanza three. Therefore, we have exact words exactly rhyming to begin each stanza. This is a formal poetry construction and it gives the poem structure and rhyme and makes the poem more a constructed “literary song’ as opposed to an unregimented and un-rhyming free verse piece. Consequently, the emphasis on formal construction by the poet contributes greatly to the overall sound and music of “Sea Fever.”

williamsagar17's profile pic

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In his poem, "Sea Fever," John Masefield uses rhyme and lyrical meter to not only develop a continuous flow to the piece, but also to subtly symbolize the cadence of the ocean. 

The poem focuses on a man's reluctant return to life on the sea, and the AABB rhyme scheme is very effective in reflecting the characters feelings on the in-and-out monotony of the tide.  This is especially fitting because of the way the character describes his task with a "get in, get out" mentality. 

The lyrical meter created by this rhyme scheme is also reminiscent of the sound at sea. The first line in each couple is the wave building up, and the next is its crash back down to earth.

If you look deeper into the final lines of each stanza, the lines are rhythmically dissected into thirds (ex: And the flung spray /// and the blown flume /// and the sea-gulls crying). 

The lyrical meter to these lines is very deliberate, and so important to Masefield, that he even couples it in line 3 and 4 to emphasize the meter for later in the poem. 

This meter, at least in my mind, symbolized the wave rising /// the wave breaking /// and the wave rolling to shore, which made sense as to why he used it at the end of each stanza, as if each stanza symbolized a waves trip from the middle of the ocean to shore.

So by using these patterns, along with the monotonous AABB rhyme scheme, Masefield enables his readers to hear and feel the pulse, or perhaps metronome, of yet another day at sea.






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