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"There Was an Indian" is written in sonnet form. Comprised of fourteen lines and an ABAB-CDCD-EFEGFG, the poem does not perfectly reflect the format for a petrarchan sonnet or a shakespearean sonnet; although it most closely resembles the shakespearean format.
"There was an Indian" uses imagery to recreate the vision of Columbus' ships as first seen by Native American eyes:
For in the bay, where nothing was before,
Moved on the sea, by magic, huge canoes
With bellying cloths on poles, and not one oar,
And fluttering coloured signs and clambering crews. (5-8)
Squire's descriptive phrases portray the ships as the Indian perceived it, in his own terms, like "huge canoes." The sails of the Columbus' ships are "bellying cloths on poles;" Squire's diction uniquely casts the moment from the perspective of the Indian.
In the third stanza, Squire combines anaphora and alliteration to emphasize the impact of the moment.
His lips gone pale, knelt low behind a stone,
And stared, and saw, and did not understand,
Columbus's doom-burdened caravels
Slant to the shore, and all their seaman land. (13-16)
Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or phrases through mulitiple phrases, clauses, or verses. Squire uses "and stared, and saw, and did not understand" to define the Indian's utter confusion in the moment, broken down into fragments of disbelief. Squire also heightens the tension of the moment through alliteration, using repeating 's' sounds: "stone," "stared," "saw," "slant," "shore," and "seaman."
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