Derek Walcott

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What is the rhyme scheme and poetic structure of "The Castaway"?

Derek Walcott's poem "The Castaway" has no regular rhyme scheme, although there are some rhymes throughout the poem. In terms of the poem's structure, the first half focuses mostly on describing the "seascape" scene, and the second half focuses on the speaker's thoughts about his own mortality.

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In some of the poem's stanzas, the first and third lines rhyme. In the third stanza, for example, the first line ends with the word "lie" and the third line ends with the word "multiply." When the third and final line of a stanza rhymes with the first line, there is a sense of closure, suggesting that each stanza has a distinct, separate focus. In the third stanza, for example, the speaker describes a seemingly idyllic scene as he lies in the shade of a palm tree. In the sixth stanza, the speaker begins to contemplate "nature's plan."

Structurally, the first half of the poem has an external focus. The speaker describes the scene around him. He describes "the ribbed shadow of a palm" tree, a "salt green vine with yellow trumpet-flower," and "the waves of the sea." In the second half of the poem, the speaker becomes more introspective, and thus the focus shifts from the external to the internal. For example, he compares signs of decay and maturation in the natural world to signs of his own decay. The "dog's feces" whitened in the sun reminds him that all people "end in earth," and a "yellow nut" reminds him of his own "ripe brain rotting." By structuring the poem in this way, Walcott demonstrates how the world around us can shape the thoughts and feelings that we experience.

Another interesting structural feature of the poem is that the tone, which starts off as positive, becomes darker and more morbid as the poem progresses. The poem begins with the aforementioned image of the speaker lying beneath a palm tree, and ends with images of a "ripe brain rotting," a wine bottle "choked with sand" and "a wrecked ship." This increasingly negative tone of course reflects the speaker's darkening reflections throughout the poem.

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