Last Updated 02 Aug 2020

The Tides: a Poetry Analysis

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During the Romantic Period of literature, William Cullen Bryant created the brilliant poem, “The Tides. ” This specific poem is the story of watching the tides change. Most of Bryant’s works are nature-oriented and take advantage of multiple literary terms. “The Tides” has a significant meaning, several romantic elements, and uses many literary devices. The general interpretation of “The Tides” is about what occurs when the tides change. Bryant uses great description in characterizing the violent seas at high tide. Norbert Krapf analyzed this poem and described the water becoming mysterious, not still and pond-like. Krapf 6) The poet gives the water violent characteristics. “His imagination transforms the scene into an image of limitation and imprisonment” (Krapf 7). The poem begins as a calm, serene ocean. Increasingly throughout the story, waters become more violent marking as the change of the tides from low to high. The meaning of “The Tides” can also be very deep. As the change to high tide strikes, the sea relieves its stress and releases. Humans go through the exact same thing by relieving stress. Norbert Krapf also writes that “The Tides” is powerful and the sea yearns for release. (Krapf 7)

William Cullen Bryant wrote “The Tides” during the Romantic Era. Bryant gave this poem many Romantic qualities. Describing the sea before and during high tide sees the attitude of “longing for the past” While the sea is becoming violent, there is a sense of the waters wanting to become as serene as they were during low tide. The “love for the natural landscape” is described throughout the entire duration of the poem. The narrator depicts a violent scene of the tides as they change into a beautiful scene of nature. Bryant depicts the beauty of the sea and his appreciation for the ocean.

The “concern for individual freedom” is also a romantic attitude seen in “The Tides. ” The ocean waters are described as imprisoned and wanting to relieve their stress. When the tides officially change, the sea becomes free and releases all of its stress. Many literary terms and devices are observed while reading “The Tides. ” William Cullen Bryant writes this poem starting with iambic pentameter and changes to iambic tetrameter. This poem is also written in ten quatrains. The rhyme scheme ABAB is present in “The Tides. ” Personification is seen many times in this poem such as in stanza eight.

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Bryant describes the ocean’s water as a prisoner yearning for release. Run-on lines are used throughout the poem. “And, with a sullen moan, abashed, they creep/ Back into his inner caves” (Lines 23-24) is an example of a run-on line. “The Tides convey through impressionistic imagery a desire to escape the pull of cosmic forces. ” (Muller 254) Imagery is used heavily in this poem. William Cullen Bryant’s use of imagery creates a vivid picture of the tides changing. The tones of this poem are beauty, strength, violence, and serenity.

The tides wish for peace and serenity, and therefore yearn for the low tide to come again. This is the theme of “The Tides. ” William Cullen Bryant’s diction is seen by his very descriptive words, his rhyme scheme, and his love for nature’s beauty. The literary devices and themes, romantic elements, and general meaning of William Cullen Bryant’s poem “The Tides” characterize this time period’s writing style. Bryant creates a beautiful piece of literature that causes the reader to think about the different “thoughts” of a wave when the tides are changing.

The love of nature is a romantic element that is depicted many times in this poem. This gives the poem a very Romantic feeling. The imagery Bryant uses does a brilliant job of giving the reader a depiction of the tides at its break. “The Tides” is a beautiful work by Bryant and a perfect example of a Romantic poem. Works Cited Krapf, Norbert. “William Cullen Bryant’s Roslyn Poems. ” Under an Open Sky, Poets on William Cullen Bryant. New York: The Stone House Press, 1986. Muller, Gilbert H. William Cullen Bryant: Author of America. Albany: State University of New York, 2008.

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