In the poem "On This Island" by WH Auden, what scansion, rhyme scheme and sound devices are used? How does this fuse with the cognitive meaning?The poem itself is hard to find online; so I have...

In the poem "On This Island" by WH Auden, what scansion, rhyme scheme and sound devices are used? How does this fuse with the cognitive meaning?

The poem itself is hard to find online; so I have included it.

On This Island
Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.

Here at a small field's ending pause
Where the chalk wall falls to the foam and its tall ledges
Oppose the pluck
And knock of the tide,
And the shingle scrambles after the suck-
-ing surf, and a gull lodges
A moment on its sheer side.

Far off like floating seeds the ships
Diverge on urgent voluntary errands,
And this full view
Indeed may enter
And move in memory as now these clouds do,
That pass the harbour mirror
And all the summer through the water saunter.

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scanning a poem can sometimes yield results that are a little messy or ambiguous. The meter here is mostly iambic, that much is clear, but the number of stresses per line in each stanza varies quite a bit. I can find five stresses in the first line of each stanza if I look for them, but I often hear differing number of stresses in the other long lines. The short lines, at least, often or always have just two stresses.

The rhyme scheme seems prettty easy to determine by comparison, but it's nothing that seems familiar to me:


"X" here signifies any sound that doesn't have a rhyming partner.

Alliteration (and, more precisely, sibilance) is problem the most obvious and consistently used sound device in this poem.

How do these elements contribute to the poem's meaning? Maybe the varying line lengths, occasional rhyme, and alliteration help reinforce the notion of the rhythmic motions of the water, the "swaying sound of the sea."

kc4u | Student

The poem has been written predominantly in the Iambic measure with variable number of stresses in the lines, having varying length--2, 3, 4 & 5 stresses.

There is no regular rhyme-scheme;it is like--a b c d c e d f g h i g i j k l m l m m. Evidently, certain sounds do not get rhymed--a b / e f h / j k.

So far assound-devices are concerned, alliterations galore:

leaping/light; delight/discovers....line 2

stand/stable............................line 3

swaying/sound.........................line 7

falls/foam (mediated )................line 9

scrambles, sucking/surf..............line 12

far/off/floating..........................line 14

move/memory...........................line 18

There are also examples of para-rhyme(e.g. ledges/lodges)and internal rhymes(light/delight).The poem is quite challengingly experimental in its metrical variations, very curious rhyme-pattern, and intricate sound-effects. All this contributes to the variable spectrum of observation and the multifaceted fluidity of the whole scene.