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.”

svandagr's profile pic

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“Sea Fever” by John Masefield employs an AABB CCDD EEFF rhyme scheme to emphasize the positive qualities the speaker values in the sea. The rhyme scheme provides a rhythmic song-like quality that reinforces the musical language used to describe the sea and the repeated language, or anaphora, that works like a refrain throughout the poem.

The poem has 3 stanzas, each consisting of two rhymed couplets, or pairs of lines. The rhyme scheme creates a regular pattern for the poem, making the poem seem orderly and consistent. Had Masefield deviated abruptly from this rhyme scheme a few verses in, you, the reader, would feel surprised. The poem would feel less harmonious, and its subject, the sea, would seem more startling and unpredictable. Instead, Masefield uses a regular rhyme scheme to suggest balance and rhythm.

This orderly and regular structure provides the poem with a sing-song quality, like a nursery rhyme or, perhaps more appropriate for this poem, a sea shanty. This musical mood in the rhyme scheme works together with other song-like qualities in the poem, like the repeated phrases “I must go down to the seas again” and “And all I ask.” This repetition of an initial phrase is called anaphora, and within the poem it creates predictable refrain that, when paired with the rhyme scheme, makes the poem feel like it flows together, with one line leading to the next.

Finally, the rhyme scheme allows Masefield to depict the sounds he associates with the sea. The most obvious instance of this is how the regular rhyme scheme provides a steady rhythm similar to waves lapping against the side of a ship. For another example, in line 4, Masefield describes the wind as “like a whetted knife,” but places this description within the couplet that pairs “life” with “knife.” Both words have a high, breathy sound, and the assonance created by the repetition of this sound makes the lines themselves imitate like the whistling wind Masefield’s speaker longs to hear again and convey the musical nature of the wind and waves on the ocean.

The speaker of “Sea Fever” clearly has positive feelings about the sea, and describes how it has a “call” that draws him back to it. The rhyme scheme of the poem provides rhythm, flow, and assonance that demonstrate what a melodious and appealing call the sea offers.

If you need help with mapping or detecting rhyme scheme, look at the Purdue OWL website's guide to Sound and Rhyme

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