Identify the imagery, phrases or words that give the poem a terrifying atmosphere?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Thomas Hardy's prophetic poem "Channel Firing," written in 1914, shortly before the beginning of World War I, contains auditory imagery, phrases and words that connote danger and a foreboding and frightening atmosphere.

  • Auditory Imagery - (images that represent sounds) 

In stanza 1, Hardy writes that the gunnery on the English Channel "shook all our coffins as we lay." The dead, whose coffins have been shaken by the firing of the cannons believe that it is Judgment Day and are certainly terrified. Certainly haunting, also, are the "howl of wakened hounds."
In stanza 6, there is the sound of a "trumpet" like that of Judgment Day when Rafael blows his trumpet.
In stanza 9, the guns again "disturb the hour" and are "Roaring."

  • Visual Imagery - (images that are seen in the mind's eye)

In stanza 1, there are several visual images: the "great guns," "coffins," "chancel window-squares" of the church.
In stanza 4, "Red war yet redder," suggests the bloodshed of the wounded and killed. Some are "Mad as hatters," meaning some have lost their minds in this war. The imagery is of the character from Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland.
In stanza 5, the image of "Hell's floor" suggests the chaos and evil of war.
In stanza 8, the image of "a skeleton" is visualized as shaking his head--again a disturbing reference to the death.
In stanza 9, images of Stourton Tower, Camelot, King Arthur's kingdom, and Stonehenge, the prehistoric stone circle are mentioned, all reminiscent of ancient battles.

  • Connotative words and phrases that suggest a frightening atmosphere 

The language of the opening sentences with the "great guns" that catch people "unawares" suggests the terror of war.
In stanza 2, the speakers have "sat upright" in fear.
In stanza 7, the speakers lie down, worrying about the world.

So down we lay again. “I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,”
 

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