What is the rhythm, tone, and figurative language of "The Secret Heart"?

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kmcappello eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I assume you're talking about the poem by Robert Coffin. "The Secret Heart" is about a child's memory of his father checking in on him at night. The speaker of the poem compares the lit match held in the father's cupped hands to "A heart that gave out such a glow." In fact, the entire poem uses this extended metaphor of the glowing heart to symbolize the father's pure love for his son. Coffin was known for his formal, often rhyming poems, and "The Secret Heart" is no different. The rhythm of each line is iambic quadrameter--that is, four iambs per line. Moreover, the lines are in rhymed couplets. This gives the poem a sing-song quality. The tone of the poem is gentle and sentimental. Lines like "His love had kindled in the dark" can even border on maudlin at times. Because Coffin focuses on light throughout the poem, using it as a symbol for love, his poem feels bright and warm.
mkcapen1 | Student

The tone in the poem "The Secret Heart" is one of nostalgia, warmth, and love.  The rhythm is set to the aa, bb, cc pattern.  Metaphors are used to represent different things in the poem. 

"His love had kindled in the dark" means that his presence in the room has demonstrated that he loves his son.

"too tender for the day to trace.” means that his father hides his love because he does not express it openly.

The whole poem represents something to the child different and yet the same as the father's intentions.  The father enters the room to check on his son.  His presence and concern for his son's safety and well being demonstrates his love.  The boy sees something different that represents his father's love.  He sees the light from the match enclosed in his father's hands in the shape of a heart.  It is symbolic of his father's love. 


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