W. H. Auden

by Richard Davenport-Hines

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What poetic techniques are used in W.H. Auden's "On This Island" and how do they influence the poem's overall impression?

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By the Time Auden wrote On This Island, he had relaxed his poetic forms and found a freer less constrained pattern. In this particular poem, it is not so much about form as it is imagery. Auden's diction and use of figurative language gives the reader a real sense of the sea, and the island. Simile, metaphor, light personification, alliteration, assonance, and consonance coupled with a loose rhyme scheme blend together to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind. The heavy alliteration of the "s" sound throughout the poem helps to create the sound of waves moving. Rather than alliterate the description of the sea wall, Auden uses assonance to soften the image all the while continuing the description of the tide and the surf. Even gulls whose noise is harsh are surrounded by softened consonants and vowel sounds.

There is a sleepy quality to the imagery and readers will notice a lulled feeling as if the poem were a lullaby and the sea the soothing sounds.

Victoria Arana has a 2009 publication which discussed Auden's poetry and techniques in depth. Enotes has an introductory discussion of Auden with a list of major works and a link to several critical essays. the Auden Society is also an excellent place to begin research on his poems and life.

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