How does Elizabeth Bishop use rhythm and tone to develop the theme of the poem “I Am in Need of Music”?

In the poem “I Am In Need of Music,” Elizabeth Bishop uses melodious tone and rhythm to develop the theme that the pleasurable harmony of music can help bring peace to the person who’s listening.

Expert Answers

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To find specific examples of how the rhythm and tone of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “I Am In Need Of Music” develops its theme, it might be useful to identify the theme first. It appears as if the theme has a direct correlation to the title. The theme centers on why the speaker needs music. Music helps heal and quiet the speaker. It soothes the speaker and makes them feel calm. Basically, it’s reasonable to say that the main theme is music and its restorative impact on the speaker.

The tone and rhythm develop the positive powers of music because they reflect the melodious sound that’s commonly associated with music. According to the famous American composer Leonard Bernstein, music can be defined as

beautiful notes and sounds put together in such a way that we get pleasure out of listening to them.

Think about how reading Bishop’s poem creates beautiful notes and sounds that are pleasurable to say and hear. To produce a tuneful, delectable tone and rhythm, Bishop frequently puts words together that start with the same letter. This technique is called alliteration. There’s alliteration in the second line of the first stanza when Bishop depicts the “fretful, feeling fingertips.” There’s alliteration in the fourth line of the second stanza when Bishop describes “the subaqueous stillness of the sea.”

Bishop furthers the lilting tone and rhythm with rhymes. The rhyme scheme, while somewhat complicated, reinforces the harmonious relationship between the words of the poem and the central theme of the poem. Music makes the speaker feel a sense of harmony, and Bishop’s harmonious poem about music could make readers feel serenity as well.

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