“The Marshes of Glynn,” consisting of 105 lines, is considered Sidney Lanier’s best long poem. In this poem, he experiments with new rhythms in opposition to the old, established meters of the poetry of his time. Using a form of logaoedic verse, Lanier freely employs iambs, anapests, and dactyls as well as a wide range of patterns from rhyming couplets to single-syllable lines to achieve the desired effect. Because of his interest in both poetry and music, Lanier explores the relationship between these two disciplines in this poem. Consequently, “The Marshes of Glynn” is arranged almost orchestrally, with the elements introduced and arranged much as instruments in a symphony perform together for maximum effect.
“The Marshes of Glynn” follows its first-person narrator from the edge of the marsh into its lush and mysterious depths. Lanier’s use of long, flowing sentences filled with alliteration and assonance gives a sense of lushness to the setting his narrator inhabits. As the narrator contemplates life on the outskirts of the marshes, he is inexplicably drawn “To the edge of the wood// to the forest-dark.” However, the edge of the marsh, though attractive during the “noon-day sun,” is not enough to satisfy the seeking narrator. He has been content to spend the daylight hours on the edge of the wood, but, as twilight approaches, he recognizes the beauty of the “sand-beach” to the east and finally acknowledges his desire to...
(The entire section is 478 words.)