How does the sound "f" make a reader feel in the alliteration, "The furrow followed free"? 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quoted words occur in the stanza that reads in full:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free:
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

"The furrow followed free" is a visual image which should give the reader, first, a visual impression of the white foamy wake of the ship as it cut through the water. Then the reader would probably feel a sense of freedom, movement, and adventure, being on board a big sailing ship with a good wind behind it speeding it through an unknown ocean. There is no feeling like that of being on board an ocean-going vessel which rocks from side to side and from bow to stern and it rises and sinks with the up and down movement of the ocean billows, sometimes shuddering like a living sea creature. A sailor has to acquire "sea legs" in order to be able to walk on such a ship, because the deck underfoot is unstable. Sometimes the deck rises to meet his descending foot, and sometimes it seems to sink under his weight. (Charles Baudelaire mimics the many different movements of a ship's deck in his famous poem "Le Voyage.") The words "the white foam flew" in the stanza quoted above seem to suggest what would be seen from the bow. The ship would come down bow-first and make a splash that would send the white foam flying off to both sides. And in the stern the ship would be leaving a spreading white wake as it "plowed" the water. The word "furrow" more commonly suggests the long, narrow trench made in the ground by a plow preparing for planting seeds.

The stanza in Coleridge's poem which suggests exhilarating speed and freedom will provide a strong contrast to ensuing stanzas describing what it is like aboard a sailing ship when it is totally becalmed. One famous stanza of this kind in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Read the study guide:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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