What literary devices are used in John Davidson's poem "In Romney Marsh"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Davidson's "On Romney Marsh" is a landscape poem that observes and celebrates a sunset over the marsh, as seen from a place called Dymchurch Wall. Romney Marsh is a natural setting in the south of England near the sea, where people raise sheep.

The tone of the poem is gentle and appreciative of the beauty of the natural world that the speaker observes. The theme or message of the poem is that nature is beautiful and should be appreciated for its loveliness. The speaker suggests that we take the time to stop and drink in the beauty that surrounds us.

Imagery that conveys a sense of nature's rich beauty includes the following, a stanza describing the vivid, sensuous colors of the sky as the sun sets:

A veil of purple vapour flowed
And trailed its fringe along the Straits;
The upper air like sapphire glowed:
And roses filled Heaven's central gates.

Davidson uses the literary device of simile in the stanza above as he compares the higher part of the sky to sapphires. He uses metaphor when he compares the purple vapor in the sky to a veil and the clouds in the middle of the sky to roses. He also employs metaphor when he likens the center of the sky as the sun sets over the water to heaven's gates. All of this imagery communicates the holy beauty of the evening sky, which seems as rich as the jeweled ceiling of a palace.

The vivid color imagery is repeated further down in the poem, along with alliteration, which is when words beginning with the same consonant are used in close proximity:

The crimson brands of sunset fall,
Flicker and fade from out the West.

Night sank: like flakes of silver fire
The stars in one great shower came down

"F" is used alliteratively in the first couplet above, along with imagery of the sky growing crimson as evening falls. As night comes in the second couplet, the "s" sounds are alliterative, along with the "f" in "flakes" and "fire."

The poem is it written in iambic tetrameter. What this means is that each line consists of four feet (a foot is two syllables) with the accent falling on the second syllable, as in "The CRIMson BRANDS of SUNset FALL." The poem uses a pleasing and regular ABAB rhyme scheme in each of its four-line stanzas.

The only discordant note in the poem is the sound of the telegraph line. Twice it is described with unpleasant imagery. It first is "ringing shrilly" in stanza two and is likewise "shrill" in stanza six. This suggests that technology brings a discordant note to nature, though at this point, the technology is also able to be incorporated into the natural world: the telegraph line is described in pleasanter terms as "taut and lithe" in stanza two and matches the shrillness of wind in stanza six.

All in all, this is a simple poem that paints a lovely picture of a sunset and invites the reader to stop and watch it with the speaker.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial