Essay: American Literature What Elements of Free Verse

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American Literature

What elements of free verse do you find in Aboard at a Ship's Helm? Identify three elements of free verse used by Whitman. Give an example of each from the poem.

Free verse gives a poet practically freedom to do whatever they would like with their writing, breaking conventional rules of how a poem is supposed to be structured. The elements of free verse however, can be seen as a structure within itself, and can be found in Walt Whitman's poem, Aboard at a Ship's Helm. Repetition and punctuation, are what stand out the most in this poem as being a precursor for free verse. The way that the poem is spaced out, also allows one to see this as being an element of free verse used by Whitman in Aboard at a Ship's Helm.

The first example of a free verse element is in repetition in the lines, "O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing / Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place" (lines 5 & 6). The word ringing is repeated three times in these two lines, at the end of the first line and beginning of the second, giving the reader a sense of the continuance of the sound of this word. The second element of free verse is the punctuation used. This can be seen in Whitman's poem with the lines, "But O. The ship, the immortal ship! O. ship aboard the ship!" (line 11). Although repetition is also found in this line with the word ship, the emphasis placed on this particular line with the exclamation points, makes this particular sentence stand out from the rest of the lines in the poem. The last example of an element of free verse found in Aboard at a Ship's Helm is in the lines, "The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds away gayly / and safe" (lines 9 & 10). The spacing of these two lines, makes it an element of free verse, as more emphasis is being placed on the words and safe as it is it's own line. This shows the importance that these two words have in completing the previous sentence.

2) Write a paragraph in which you agree or disagree with the following statement.

Both poems deal with the theme of finding direction in life, but the Whitman poem envisions personal direction coming from within, whereas the Dickinson poem envisions direction coming from an external source.

Be sure to support your opinion with at least two examples from Aboard at a Ship's Helm and The Moon is distant from the Sea.

Emily Dickinson's poem The Moon is distant from the Sea and Walt Whitman's poem Aboard at a Ship's Helm both deal with the theme of finding direction in life, but I do not agree that Whitman's poem envisions personal direction coming from within. While I do agree that Dickinson's poem envisions direction coming from an external source, it is Whitman's that I disagree with. Whitman's poem seems to be envisioning a desire for direction to come from within just as easily as direction comes from within for the ship. He makes sure to write that the young steersman and the ship are two separate entities, "Aboard at a ship's helm, / A young steersman steering with care" (lines 1 & 2). The direction that the ship goes in is due to the warnings that the bell gives, so the ship will always be safe because the steersman heeds to those warnings and guides the ship away from danger, but that is not the case for man himself, as is expressed in the lines, "The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds away gayly / and safe. / But O. The ship, the immortal ship! O. ship aboard the ship!" (lines 9, 10, & 11). The fact that the man is described as being separate from the ship, a desire for the same guidance that the ship receives is expressed in the final line of the poem, "Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging" (line 12). However, in Emily Dickinson's poem The Moon is distant from the Sea, I do agree that direction is envisioned as coming from an external force. She depicts the moon as being an external force, God in a sense, guiding the everyday behavior of the moon, which would be representative of God's followers. In the lines, "The Moon is distant from the Sea -- / And yet, with Amber Hands -- / She leads Him -- docile as a Boy -- " (lines 1, 2, & 3), she depicts how external forces are followed blindly as a way of knowing what direction in life to go.

3) Read LETTER TO NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, JUNE [1?] 1851.

Melville makes several comments about his writing in this letter. For each of his comments below, explain what conclusions you can draw about his attitude toward his work. Remember to look back at the context of the comment as you consider the implications of the quote.

Here are the comments:

a) So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches.

The conclusion that can be drawn from the line, "So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches," is that Melville sees his writing as being pointless and worthless since what he feels like writing, can never be published because it is against the law and banned, and therefore he cannot make money from it. He sees his writing as something he enjoys doing, but unfortunately he needs money in order to survive, and in order to put food on the table, so in the end, his writing is in a sense a waste of time, since he needs to keep working hard manual labor in order to be financially viable.

b) "I'm going to take him by his jaw, however, before long, and finish him up in some fashion or other.

The conclusion that I can draw from the quote, "I'm going to take him by his jaw, however, before long, and finish him up in some fashion or other," as he refers to the whale, is that Melville seems tired of having to write in a way that he is not comfortable with. The real implications of his writing are really advanced for his time, and although he wants to write in an unrestricted manner, free from the constrictions placed upon him by society, he cannot. But in this quote, he expresses his desire to eventually do that. To eventually be able to get rid of that "whale" that stands in his way so that he may be able to freely express himself without the fear of consequences.

c) Though I wrote the Gospels in this century, I should die in the gutter.

In the quote, "Though I wrote the Gospels in this century, I should die in the gutter," I draw the conclusion that he believes that his writing is great, so great indeed that it could be better appreciated at a later date when the times have changed. He knows that in the future, under different societal implications and a different moral view on everything, that his writing will be seen for the revolutionary work that it was. But he recognizes that for now, that will never be the case. He will die knowing that for the present time, his writing is seen as something outlandish that violated too many social and moral norms for its true value to be appreciated.

4) Since you read an actual letter from Melville to Hawthorne, you got a glimpse of their friendship. Write an essay explaining why you agree or disagree with the following… [END OF PREVIEW]

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