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Rudyard Kipling

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Analyze Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Sea and the Hills."

Quick answer:

Kipling's "The Sea and the Hills" is a comparison between life at sea and life in the hills. Through poetic devices such as terminal rhymes, alliteration, and anaphora, Kipling effectively conveys how life at sea, though exciting, robs people of safety, stability, and companionship with fellow humans.

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“The Sea and the Hills” is a poem written by English novelist, short story writer, and poet Rudyard Kipling, first published in part in the author’s 1901 novel Kim. While the poem follows no strict form or meter, it utilizes a consistent terminal rhyme scheme in each stanza. As such, the first two lines of each stanza rhyme with each other, as do the succeeding three lines, and the last two as well—totaling in seven lines each stanza, with three separate terminal rhymes.

Apart from its rhyme scheme, the poem also heavily utilizes alliteration, leaning on words beginning with s and h the most:

The shudder, the stumble, the swerve, as the star-stabbing bowsprit emerges?

The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?

Through the rolling and repeating consonant sounds of the poem, images of the tempestuous waves of the sea are efficiently evoked. Alliteration serves to bring the poem sensory power and urgency, helping to portray the sea as a mighty and formidable entity.

Finally, the poem also utilizes anaphora, as the phrases “who hath desired,” “his Sea,” and “so and no otherwise” are repeated each stanza. This is to consistently drive in the point that although the sea promises adventure and a life of excitement, perhaps a tranquil existence in the hills is preferable.

Ultimately, Kipling’s "The Sea and the Hills" is a complex ode to the adventurous spirit of mariners and sailors in a bygone age where much of the world was largely unmapped. In the last stanza of the poem, Kipling describes the stable and down-to-earth life one is able to lead in the hills, effectively contrasting it with the unpredictability of life at sea. One who desires the sea, therefore, reaps not just adventure—but trouble and misery as well.

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