What are some literary devices used in "The Seafarer" by Ezra Pound?
There are two main poems entitled "The Seafarer." The first was written in Anglo-Saxon and published in the tenth century. The second was a re-imagining of the poem by Ezra Pound in the first part of the twentieth century. Other poets have also undertaken to write poetry based on the original poem, but Pound's poem is probably the most prominent.
Ezra Pound was remarkably aware of the history of literature, including Medieval literature. His poetry often reflected his knowledge, and his version of the Seafarer is no exception. In order to understand how he used the techniques of poetry (literary devices), let's look at the Medieval Seafarer.
Referenced below is a webpage that has both the original Anglo-Saxon and a modern English translation. You can get the meaning of the poem from the modern translation, but to understand the construction of the poem, it is important to look at the Anglo-Saxon version. The poet uses short lines which are grouped in pairs, but one technique used is that of alliteration. Here are some examples:
"siþas secgan" (line 2a)
"bitre breostceare" (line 4a)
Poets use the sound of words as a way of uniting a poem. Sometimes they use rhyme, sometimes meter, and sometimes the vowel and consonant sounds of the words themselves. This attention to sound differentiates poetry from prose. The Medieval writer uses alliteration quite often; that is, the first letter of each word in some lines is the same.
Pound's version does the same:
May I for my own self song's truth reckon,Journey's jargon, how I in harsh daysHardship endured oft.Bitter breast-cares have I abided (lines 1-4)
Storms there beat the stony cliffs,
where the tern spoke,
always the eagle cried at it,
dewy-feathered (Modern translation of Seafarer, lines 24a-25a)
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,Sea-fowls, loudness was for me laughter,The mews' singing all my mead-drink.Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the sternIn icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamedWith spray on his pinion (lines 21-25).