“House on a Cliff” is a sixteen-line poem in flexible iambic pentameter rhymed abcb and divided into three stanzas of four lines each. The title sets the scene and, to a certain extent, the mood as it creates an image of a life lived in a precarious place exposed to the elements. The poem is written in the third person, and the narrator is seemingly omniscient, moving quickly and repeatedly from descriptions of the interior of a house and its inhabitant to descriptions of the night outside and back again.
“House on a Cliff” begins indoors, where the poet notes “the tang of a tiny oil lamp,” a detail that gives the impression of a confined, stifling space. The scene then switches immediately to a view of the “waste of sea” outside. This formal procedure of alternating between descriptions of the interior of the house and the outside environment will be followed throughout the rest of the poem. The stanza continues with a mention of the wind before concluding indoors with images of emotional frigidity: “the locked heart and the lost key.”
The alternation of outdoors and indoors continues in the second stanza, which begins with a depiction of the inhospitable elements outside. There is, however, an important difference in this stanza: A character, the inhabitant of the house, is introduced. From this point on, this man, rather than the physical setting, is the focus of the indoor sections of the poem. The description...
(The entire section is 516 words.)