Stylistics Analysis of E. E. Cumming’s Poem: ‘Love is More Thicker than Forget’, Faizan Haider

Faizan Haider


Ms. Amna Shahid


Stylistics Analysis of E. E. Cumming’s Poem: ‘Love is More Thicker than Forget’


This paper tends to carry out a stylistics analysis of E. E. Cumming’s poem, ‘Love is more thicker than forget’; through a study of the following: lexical categories (general and specific), figures of speech, morphological patterns, syntactical structures, tropes, similes, and phonological sound patterns, etcetera. An extensive deconstruction of the above grammatical and stylistic devices used in the poem shall be carried out, to allow one to not only understand the literary implications and linguistic requisites of the text under analysis; but also to develop a background about the scientific study of language, and its role in the structural development of any literary text.


The term ‘stylistics’ is derived from the word ‘style’ which is finely defined by R. A. Lawal as “an aspect of language that deals with choices of diction, phrases, sentences and linguistic materials that are consistent and harmonious with the subject matter” (Batool: 52). He further added that, “it (style) may be reckoned in terms of the socio linguistic contexts and it may also be reckoned or analyzed on linguistic, semantic and even semiotic terms” (Batool: 52). Hence, in the light of Lawal’s description of ‘stylistics’, one might deduce that such an analysis of any literary text is pertinent to a clearer understanding of the respective piece of writing; as evident from the following analysis of Cumming’s poem, which exploits the given text at various literary and grammatical levels during its quest to unveil the poet’s representation of ‘love’.


The title of any poetic or prosaic narrative not only marks the formal beginning of that text, but also conveys the main theme or idea behind that particular narration. In this case, the title of Cumming’s poem, ‘Love is Thicker Than Forget, exemplifies the poet’s point of view about mortal love and about the human experience of falling in love—that is, falling in love being an intense experience which can neither be ignored nor forgotten like other human experiences. Hence, such description of love as ‘thicker than forget’ through the title, then conveys the uncontrolled or burdensome nature of love which makes it beyond human control to (or not to) fall in love and to overcome the tragedy of such experience.


Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Massachusetts on 0ctober, 14,1894. He started writing poetry as early as 1904 and had mastery at the Greek, Latin and English languages. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1915, and his master’s degree from the same institution a year later, he published his earlier poems in 1917 in an anthology entitled ‘Eight Harved Poets’. Shortly after that, Cummings left the United States for France where he voluntarily served as an ambulance driver to the World War I victims for five good months. Interestingly, amidst his rescue services Cummings was prisoned by the French authorities for making anti-war remarks.

After the war ended, Cummings subjected himself to a summerhouse living in New Hampshire, during which he severally visited Paris and Europe to meet other poets and artists as Pablo Picasso, whose work he greatly admired. Cummings was renowned as second widely read poet of the United States (the first being Robert Frost), at the time of his death in Sep, 03, 1962; owing to his considerable experimentation with the form and styles of writing, as well as for his incorporation of various appealing subjects as love, sex, violence, and World War within his poems.


The primary theme underlying Cumming’s ‘Love is Thicker Than Forget’ is of love or of human experience of falling in love. The poet here not only exposes the true nature of love (as an emotion)—which remains beyond human faculties to overcome or ignore it—but also presents a biological assumption that despite its uncontrolled and unavoidable nature, love is as pertinent to human survival as the ‘sea’ or the ‘sky’ would be. Hence, the poemmainly talks about the paradoxical nature of love, which is at one time “most mad and moonly” (Cummings: 05) and at another “most sane and sunly” (Cummings: 13); while several other sub-themes also come to surface over time, including:

  • Passion
  • Suffering
  • Sanity and Insanity
  • Memory
  • Depth
  • Failure

 The above mentioned poem by Cummings runs through a fine lyrical structure—for its employment of various linguistic and literary devices—which implies a similarly rhythmic or varied nature of mortal love.


After a brief preview of the poet and his poem through the preceding discussion, this section aims to deconstruct ‘Love is more thickerthan forget’ through various levels of stylistic analysis—including lexical level, grammatical level, morphological level, phonological level and semantic level. All these levels shall be further divided into categories and sub-categories according to their linguistic and grammatical implications, in order to sort out the various purposes that they serve in the poem. The main outline for the following analysis is as follows:

  • Lexical Categories General: Vocabulary, Language, Language Variations, Semantic Field
  • Morphological Categories: Morphemes (Free, Bound, Lexical, Grammatical, Prefixes, Suffixes)
  • Lexical Categories Specific: Nouns. Verbs, Adverbs, Adjectives
  • Grammatical Categories: Sentences (According to Function, According to Structure), Phrases (Noun, Verb, Prepositional)
  • Figures of Speech: Metaphor, Personification, Overstatement, Understatement, Euphemism, Repetition
  • Schemes and Phonological Sound Patterns: Anaphora, Antithesis, Climax, Anti-climax, Alliteration, Consonance, Rhyme
  • Tropes: Deviation (Lexical, Grammatical, Graphological, Semantic), Cohesion
  • Lexical Categories: General
  1. Vocabulary:

Cummings uses general as well as simple vocabulary in his verse, while at times; he even makes use of complex vocabulary. The general vocabulary used in the poem includes—love, more, less, than, win, cannot, all—terms which might be easily understood by any common reader. Similarly, examples of simple vocabulary used in the same text include—forest, fail, mad, never, begin, die—words which are regularly used amidst literary and real world conversations. Such use of a regular vocabulary not only allows the poet to convey his stance on love without any complexity, but also facilitates the reader to understand it clearly. Cunnings’ also uses complex vocabulary including words as—seldom, lest, sunly, moonly—words which represent Cunnings’ ability to coin new words, as well as to communicate complex and sensitive notions (as love) in a plausible manner.

  1. Language:

The language used in the poem is at times colloquial while at others informal and/or descriptive. Instances of colloquial language include words as ‘unbe’ (instead of not be), ‘moonly’ (instead of lunar), and ‘sunly’ (in place of pleasant). Such employment of colloquial and coined language not only brings newness and rhythm to the respective verses, but also enables the writer to describe ‘love’ in an unconventional manner.

  1. Language Variations:

Anyvariations of language and structurefound in the poem are both deliberate and effective to portray the versatility of ‘love’. For instance, the use of terms ‘to fail’ (instead of falling) and ‘moonly’ (instead of lunar) points both to Cunnings’ non-adherence to contemporary grammatical and structural patterns of poetic narration; and to his inclination to employ such newly crafted words for rhythm and lyricism.  Moreover, the inaccurate vocabulary and diction suggest an informal register, which further points to the use of slang terms—as ‘sunly’ and ‘moonly’—within the poetic verses in question.

  1. Semantic Field:

Though the poem addresses a very serious subject—that is, the human experience of falling in love—which, according to the poet is at times pleasant while at others almost insane, but never avoidable: yet, the tone here is unstressed (and at times even humorous), probably due to the use of such slang and coined expressions, which communicate the complexity of love in a lighter and unfelt manner.

Words as ‘love’, ‘moonly’, ‘wave’, ‘sea’, ‘sky’ show that the semantic field is most likely to be Love or Permanence of Love.

  • Morphological Categories

Morphology refers to the use of words in such a manner that they may either stand alone to represent their inferred meanings (free morphemes), or might connect with other words to offer a meaningful representation of their main theme (bound morphemes). There is an extensive employment of free morphemes in the poem, including terms as love, wave, wet, sane, die, sky, etcetera; While, the lexical morphemes used here may be further divided into sub-categories as Nouns (love, wave, sea, sky), Verbs (fail, win, begin, die), Adjectives (mad, sane), and Adverbs (least, most). Likewise, the functional or grammatical morphemes incorporated here may be further divided into Prepositions (to, it), Conjunctions (than, and), Articles (a, the), Demonstratives (than), Auxilary Verbs (is), and Pronouns (which, it). These morphemes not only allow grammatical order to the verses but also interconnect the various clauses and phrases together.

Further, the bound or dependent morphemes imply such terms which are only meaningful whenadded to another word or phrase. These may be divided into prefixes (words which are added at the start of another word) and suffixes (words which are added at the end of another word). The prefixes used in the poem include ‘re’ (which is added to ‘call’ to become ‘recall’), and ‘un’ (which is added to ‘be’ to become ‘unbe’); while, the suffixes used here include ‘er’ (which is added to ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ to become ‘thicker’ and ‘thinner’, respectively), and ‘ly’ (which is added to ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ to become ‘sunly’ and ‘moonly’, respectively). These prefixes and suffixes when added to other words, not only bring a change in the overall meaning of the original word, but also allow their employer to define love with a greater clarity and emphasis.

Examining the derivation that takes place in the poem after the addition of such affixes and suffixes to existing morphemes—where words as thick, thin, call, moon, sun, little, high are transformed into words as thicker, thinner, recall, moonly, sunly, littler, highly—one realizes that these prefixes and suffixes allow Cunnings’ to offer an enhanced portrayal of love (which is not simply thin but thinner as it is not just thick but thicker.

  • Lexical Categories: Specific

The lexical category may be further divided into nouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, and adjectives. The nouns used hereby include concrete nouns (wave, sea, sky), abstract nouns (love, recall, or memory), and pronouns (it, which). The adjectives used include ‘thicker’ (love ismore thicker…) and ‘wet’ (…than a wave is wet). All these nouns, pronouns, and adjectives allow Cunnings to portray love (which is originally an abstract notion), as a concrete object which is deeper than the sea, higher than the sky and thicker than memory.

Likewise, verbs as –to fail, to win—point to the literal experience of falling in love and to consequent success or failure in the attempt. The adverbs used in the poem—always, never, seldom, most, less, more—further enhance the mortal love experience by suggesting various degrees to which one might succeed or fail in love. Similarly,theconjunctions used by Cunnings’ (and, than) portray the diversity of love by practically associating it with several extremes as: ‘love is less always than to win’ and ‘less never than alive’ (Cunnings’: 9-10).

  • Grammatical Categories

Observing the grammatical structuring of the poem, one might deduce that apparently there are no formal sentence constructions in the text—due to no use of commas (,), full stops (.)—and yet each verse stands independently as a complete unit. For instance, despite its brevity and a non-adherence to punctuation marks, the opening verse of the concerned poem finely reports the ‘permanence of love’; as it says: “love is more thicker than forget/ more thinner than recall/ more seldom than a wave is wet/ more frequent than to fail” (Cunnings: 1-4). Here, each of the verses in the first stanza starts without a capital letter, just as it ends without any punctuation mark.

Likewise, the remaining verses of the following stanzas also offer a meaningful representation (of love), though without any formal syntactical structure. Hence, the sentences in the poem are then assertive, as they do imply the intended theme (of love), thereby fulfilling their functional responsibility. However, these sentences are not structurally profound, since they do not follow the traditional sentence-formation patterns. The phrases used in poem include noun phrases (which mostly modify love) like: “love is more thicker, it is most mad, love is less always, it is most sane”. (Cunnings: 1,5,9,13)

  • Figures of Speech

The various figures of speech used in ‘Love is more thicker then forget’include personification, repetition, anti-thesis, over-statement, understatement, and euphemism. Personification or the attribution of humanly qualities to non-living things, allows the poet to present love as ‘mad’ and ‘sane’, and/or as a tangible object than a mere abstraction. The anti-thesis and understatement as well as overstatement, go hand in hand to portray the ironical and paradoxical nature of love, which is ‘more seldom than a wave is wet’, and ‘less bigger than the least begin’; just as ‘less it shall unbe than all the sea’ and ‘more it cannot die than all the sky’ (Cunnings: 1, 11, 6, 7, 14, 15). Here, ‘more seldom’ represents rareness while a comparison to ‘a wave is wet’ represents the frequency of love—hence, both scarcity and abundance in love brought to attention through contrasting metaphors.

Similarly, the phrase ‘and less it shall unbe/ than all the sea’ (Cunnings: 6-7) shows the overstatement of love by the poet, who values an otherwise vague emotion as equally deep as a sea. Instances of understatement of love might be found in verses as ‘love is less always than to win’ (Cummings: 9), where the poet undermines love as complete failure or as a struggle which is never fully successful. The use of metaphorshereis also worth mentioning, as it considerably helps the poet to paint for his readers an imaginary picture of love. For instance, the comparison of love to the sun, moon, sea and sky provides a vivid representation of the multi-dimensionality of love. Likewise, the use of repetition or the recurrent usage of certain words and phrases—as ‘more thinner than, more thicker than, more seldom than, less bigger than, and less littler than’enables the poet to both create a rhythm (between verses) as well as to stress upon the complex nature of love:

  • Schemes and Phonological Sound Patterns

While analyzing the scheme and phonology of Cunning’s poem, one finds a number of instances where through the use ofanaphora, uniform expressionsare recurrently placed at the beginnings, middle and endings of various verses—in order to generate rhythm as well as to stress the relative quality of ‘love’; terms as ‘love, less, and more’ are fine examples in this regard. Apart from anaphora, the poet also makes use of anti-thesis, to convey the opposing tendencies of a love experience. For instance, the use of completely opposite expressions as ‘most sane and sunly’ and ‘most mad and moonly’ shows the poet’s inclination to offer completely opposite description of love through the narrow alleys of his text. The climaxes and anti-climaxes used by Cunnings also indicate the uncertain or paradoxical nature of love (as an emotion), which can be ‘more…than all the sky’ and ‘less than… the sea’ at the same time.

Moving on, the phonological sound patterns in the text highlight the use of devices as alliteration, consonance, and rhyming scheme which add to the musicality and lyricism of the poem. For instance, the production of vowel soundo’ in ‘only’ and ‘sunly’, and ‘th’ sound in ‘thicker’ and ‘thinner’ enhances the auditory quality of the poem, as well as its rhyming scheme.

7.7. Trope:

There are several kinds of deviations working in Cunnings’ poem, including lexical deviation (for instance) whereby slang or coined words (as unbe, littler, and moonly) are used instead of grammatically correct alternate expressions (as not be, very little and lunatic). Similarly, the grammatical deviation is also evident in the poem, which allows the use of phrases as ‘love is less always’ (instead of ‘love is always less’), and ‘less never than’ (instead of ‘never less than’)—phrases which might be incorrect with respect to their form and structure, but nevertheless effective to convey their implied meanings. Likewise,graphological deviation—or deviation in the sentence structure—is also functional throughout the poem, allowing Cunnings to construct his verses in a free flowing manner and without any breaks or gaps (otherwise resulting from the use of punctuations or capital letters).

Similarly, the use of semantic deviation allows the poet to convey multiple meanings and interpretations for each of the metaphors he uses, rather than literally sticking to the literal and denotative interpretations of these symbols (and of the whole text at large). For instance, verses as ‘it (love) is most sane and sunly/ and more it cannot die’ (Cunnings: 13-14), present multiple interpretations to the targeted audience: as ‘sane and sunly’ might symbolize the liveliness of love (as an emotion), and/or even death of impulsive emotion due to too much rationality or sanity.

With respect to its cohesive nature, Cunnings’ ‘love is more thicker than forget’ offers a balanced structure, where all the verses gel together to offer a vivid picture of mortal love; without minding the fact that each stanza here reports an unprecedented exemplification of love; which might have otherwise lead to a complicated scenario (owing to the paradoxical presentation of love by Cunnings)– had not the poet been wise enough to immerse these diversities within the ominous rhythmic structures of his narrative.



  1. Vocabulary

General vocabulary: Love, less, more, than, win, cannot, all

Simple vocabulary: Forest, fail, mad, less, never, begin, die

Complex vocabulary: Seldom, frequent, sane, lest, sunly, moonly

  1. Language
  2. Colloquial language:

Words: Unbe (not be)

Phrases: most mad and moonly, most sane and sunly, less littler than forgive

  1. Informal Language: Love is more thicker than forget/ More thinner than recall
  2. Descriptive Language: It is most sane and sunly. It is most mad and moonly
  1. Language Variations
  2. Register: Register is formal.
  3. Slang: Newly crafted words used to create rhyming slang—Mad and moonly rhymes with sane and sunly
  1. Semantic Field:

Love or the Permanence of Love


  1. Free Morphemes: Love, wave, wet, sane, die, sky
  1. Lexical Morphemes:

Nouns: love, wave, sea, sky

Verbs: fail, win, begin, die

Adjectives: mad, sane

Adverbs: least, most

  1. Functional or Grammatical Morphemes:

Prepositions: to, it

Conjunctions: than, and

Articles: a, the

Demonstratives: than

Auxiliary Verbs: is

Pronouns: which

  1. Bound or Dependent Morphemes: Thicker, thinner, recall, moonly, deeper, alive, bigger, littler, sunly, higher
  2. Affixes (according to their position in the word)

Prefixes: recall, unbe, alive, always

Suffixes: thicker, thinner, moonly, deeper, bigger, littler, sunly, higher

  1. Affixes (according to their function in phrase or sentence)

Derivational Affixes (changing words): call → recall, thick → thicker, thin → thinner,

Derivational Affixes (changing parts of speech): Call (N) → recall (V), live (V) → alive (Adj.)

Inflexional Affixes: (comparative marker ‘er’): Thick → thicker, Thin → thinner

  1. Derivation: Forming new word out of an existing morpheme by changing its lexical category: Thicker (er), Thinner (er), Recall (re), Moonly (ly), Sunly (ly), Littler(r), Higher (er)


  1. Nouns:

Concrete Nouns:  wave, sea, sky

Abstract Nouns: love, recall

  1. Pronoun (personal): it

Pronoun (relative): which

  1. Adjectives: Love is more thicker than forgot, More seldom than a wave is wet
  2. Verbs: More frequent than to fail/ Love is less always than to win
  3. Adverbs: Always, never, seldom, most, less, more
  4. Conjunctions: And, than


  1. Kinds of Sentences:

According to Function—Assertive Sentences (asserting love)

“it is most mad and moonly”

“it is most sane and sunly”

According to Structure—(Subject, Verb, Object)

“it is most mad and moonly”

“it is most sane and sunly”

  1. Noun phrases: love is more thicker, it is most mad, love is less always


  1. Personification:

‘it is most mad and moonly”

“it is most sane and sunly”

  1. Antithesis:

“more seldom than a wave is wet”

“less bigger than the lest begin”

  1. Overstatement:

“and less it shall unbe/ than all the sea”

‘and more it cannot die/ than all the sky”

  1. Understatement:

“it is most mad and moonly”

  1. Euphemism:

“it is most sane and sunly/ and more it cannot die”

  1. Repetition:

“more thinner than, more seldom than, more frequent than” (more)

“less never than, less bigger then, less littler than” (less)


  1. Anaphora:

Love is less, less always than, less never than, less bigger than, less littler than

  1. Anti-thesis:

It is most sane and sunly/ it is most mad and moonly

  1. Climax/ Anti-climax

And more it cannot die/ than all the sky

  1. Alliteration:

thicker, thinner

  1. Consonance:

Moonly, only, sunly

  1. Rhyme:

Win/begin, die/sky


  1. Deviation:

Moonly, sunly, unbe, littler

  1. Grammatical Deviation:

Less never than alive, less littler than forgive

  1. Graphological Deviation:

No capital letters, no use of punctuations, jumbled up expressions

  1. Semantic Deviation:

It (love) is most sane and sunly/ and more it cannot die

  1. Cohesion:

Lexical cohesion achieved through repetition.

  1. 9. SCOPE

The above analysis of Cummings’ poem in question is conducted through an analysis of following stylistic devices: vocabulary, morphology, semantics, lexicon, figures of speech, sentence structures, repetition, phonology, deviation, alliteration, rhyme, cohesion, and etcetera. Such an extensive analysis of the various stylistic devices used in the poem, is likely to probe a further deconstruction of the text-in-question and to serve as a sample for other researchers.


The existing analysis has tried its best to signify the various stylistic devices used in Cummings’ poem ‘Love is more thicker than forget’, and through these devices has tried to offer the closest possible interpretation of the concerned text. Still, owing to the inherently open-ended nature of poetry there might be certain other meanings (of the poem under observation); which the existing analysis might have overlooked, and which might be identified and addressed by later researchers in their respective stylistic analyses of the same poem.


 Simpson, Paul. “Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students”. Taylor and Francis Group, Rotledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London. EC4P4EE. 2004. ISBN: 0-203-49658-2

  1. Batool, Sumera. “Stylistics Analysis of Robert Frost’s Poem: The Road Not Taken”. Department of English, University of Lahore, Sargodha Campus, Pakistan. Journal of ELT and Applied Linguistics (JELTAL). Vol. 2, Issue 2-4. Dec. 2014. ISSN: 2347-6575
  1. Cummings, E. E. “Love is More Thicker than Forget”. Poetry Foundation. Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute. 05/01/017


 Love is more thicker than forget

By E. E. Cummings


love is more thicker than forget

more thinner than recall

more seldom than a wave is wet

more frequent than to fail


it is most mad and moonly

and less it shall unbe

than all the sea which only

is deeper than the sea


love is less always than to win

less never than alive

less bigger than the least begin

less littler than forgive


it is most sane and sunly

and more it cannot die

than all the sky which only

is higher than the sky

(Cummings: Poetry Foundation)


Stylistic Analysis of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, Farazeh Nayyar


There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half-renewed, for the whole hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole, awful creature were simply gorged with blood; he lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.

(Stoker 1998 [1897]: 51)


Count Dracula is the main antagonist of Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror gothic novel Dracula. He is considered to be both the archetypal and prototypical vampire in the works of fiction. In the novel, he is depicted to be originated from the werewolf legends. Some qualities of the character were inspired by the 15th century, Prince Vlad III the Impaler, who was also known as Dracula. Stoker’s novel takes the form of an epistolary tale, in which the characteristics, abilities, weakness and powers of the Count Dracula are narrated by multiple narrators from different perspectives. The count is an undead vampire and a Transylvanian nobleman who is believed to be a Szekely descended from Attila the Hun. He lives in a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass. In Eastern European folklore, the vampires were depicted as corpse like repulsive creatures; Dracula exudes a veneer of aristocracy.


The extract can be explored phonologically because it is has lot of examples in it. In the first line, the word “Count” has a plosive sound, where two articulators are released with forceful explosion. The first sentence is long with a lot of other plosive sounds other than the word “Count”, such as “dark, cheeks, skin, trickled, corners and neck”. The count is the subject with a capital ‘C’ which puts an emphasis. The “ou and oa” are diphthongs. “His youth”, his is a pronoun; “ou” is again a repeated diphthong along with the words “mouth, gout, pouches and bloated”. “Half-renewed”, “iron-grey” and “ruby-red” are compound words. The word “cheeks” has a long vowel which can be found in the word “seemed” and “underneath”. Words like “lay, lips and fuller” are lateral approximants as well as consonance, where there is a complete block of air between the tongue and the alveolar. Fricatives are also found in this paragraph in words such as “fuller and fresh”. Also there is a constant repetition of ‘r’, post alveolar sound in words such as “redder, corners, renewed and ruby-red”. The ‘b’ sound in the words “burning and bloated” are bilabial plosives. The third line has elongated vowels in words such as “awful, lay, exhausted etc.” Words such as “cheeks, change, pouches and chin” are affricate sounds. Lateral approximants can be found in the words “simply and repletion”. Two onomatopoeia are used in the extract “trickled”, the sound of drops falling which has been used for blood and “bloated” used for the pouches under the eyes. Furthermore, ruby-red is an alliteration found in the extract.

The language is very formal yet descriptive in the nature. It is full of grammatical examples as well. The tone of the speaker is exclamatory. It is full of clauses, discourse markers, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, prepositions and compound markers etc. The paragraph as complex-compound structure with only three sentences. Discourse markers such as “which” and “seemed” are obvious. A lot of adjectives are used to describe the character which include filthy leeches, fuller, half-renewed, ruby-red, deep etc. The ‘er’ is the words “redder and fuller” represent suffixes. “Lay, burning, bloated, exhausted and repletion” are verbs. Prepositions such as “underneath, than, from, like and amongst etc.” are used. “But, if and are” are conjunctions. Both “ruby-red and iron-grey” are compound words.

A figurative interpretation can also be made of this extract. A simile has been used which shows the Count’s identity; “he lay like a filthy leech”. Metaphors are also used in the passage e.g. “moustache were changes to dark iron-grey”, “white skin seemed ruby-red”. To personify the negative and brutal image of the count, words and sentences such as “filthy leech, gorged with blood, lids and pouches were bloated, swollen flesh, burning eyes, blood trickled from the gouts” have been employed. This is also a reflective discourse as it gives a very negative impression of the subject. Interpreting the passage on semantic level adds more to the analysis. The physiognomy of the count depicts pursuing of fathomless evil. Physiognomy is the pseudo-science that sought to describe features of head and face, “hair, moustache, cheeks were fuller, white skin, mouth was red, lips were gouts of fresh blood, corners of mouth, chin and neck, eyes and lids”.


To conclude, this analysis proves that the author has made use of a number of diverse stylistic devices to make his text richer and adorned with much metaphorical value. Moreover, it also establishes that stylistic analysis generally helps to better a reader’s understanding and decoding of language in literary text, making its thematic concerns clearer.

Stylistic Analysis of “All In A Lifetime’’ by Zulfiqar Ghose, Zahra


Roll No: 13

Stylistic Analysis

MPhil Part-1


“All In A Lifetime’’ by Zulfiqar Ghose


During my lifetime there has been a World War

And several other wars killing millions;

I was a boy when Hitler blitzed London

And the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor,

I came of age when France and Britain

Attacked Suez. A little later, India invaded

Pakistan; then Israel and Egypt

shared a murderous week. Then there

Have been Kashmir, Korea, Biafra and, of course,

Viet Nam and Viet Nam and Viet Nam.

A lot else by way of killings:

The Congo, Cyprus, Sharpeville, the Mau Mau,

Cuba, Ulster, Hungary, Czechoslovakia,

the names tumble into one’s mind at random,

Algeria, Angola, the Spanish Civil War,

East Bengal, Iraq.


I remember all these wars

for the remarkable fact that I escaped them all.

It’s like having been constantly under

a cloud but always out of the rain.

Then there have been riots. Hindus and Muslims

in India, Negroes and Whites in America,

general butchery on the whole bloody planet

from dictators. There have been riots at football

stadiums where the innocent have been trampled

to death, demonstrations that have turned

into riots, thoughtless killing by mobs

and the police. And some unfortunate who’d not meant

to be there happened to be there and got shot.


During my lifetime too, there have been earthquakes,

hurricanes, tidal waves, floods, droughts,

all of which  have been barbarous killers.

In California, Japan, Peru, Bengal, Malaysia

there have been great natural catastrophes.


Or there have been accidents. Plain Crashes,

train derailments, buses falling down ravines,

mines collapsing, bridges falling, dams bursting.

And road accidents, of course, the good old highway

of life on which you can vanish in a moment.


Again I’ve always been in the position of one

who reluctantly cancels a flight and then

hears on the news that the plane has crashed,

killing all. I don’t know how I manage this.



This poem is not available online; it is only available in the book 50 Poems by Zulfiqar Ghose that has been published by Oxford in 2010.

This poem is written in first person narrative, ‘I’ has been used several times and it is quite clear that the poet himself is the narrator.

Lexical Analysis:

Vocabulary is simple, it is related to events that are related to our daily life and for this reason it is not difficult to understand the words and phrases used by the poet. The tone of the poem is serious; the language of the poem is declarative and conversational because it is a conversation between the poet and the reader.

Idiomatic Phrases:

It’s like having been constantly under

A cloud but always out of the rain.

Under a cloud is an idiom that has been used by the poet here within a sentence, it signifies that although the poet has always been under the shadow of troubles but he has somehow managed to stay safe.

Semantic field:

War, death, destruction, bloodshed, existentialism, daily life.

Morphological Categories:

Free and bound morphemes have been used in this poem, some of these have been mentioned below:

  • Free: way, mind, all, remember, fact, during, random, tumble, police, mobs, shot, earthquake, hurricanes, life, vanish, flight, plane, know, this, mines, road, etc.
  • Bound: Killing, Blitzed, bombed, attacked, invaded, murderous, remarkable, escaped, constantly, butchery, trampled, happened, falling, etc.
  • Root: Kill, Blitz, Bomb, Attack, Invade, Murder, Remark, Escape, Constant, Butcher, Trample, Happen, Fall, etc.


Ed, s, ing, d, un.

Derivational affixes:

Un-fortunate= unfortunate

Thought-less= thoughtless

Remark-able= remarkable

The three above mentioned derivational affixes show that when the root morphemes ‘fortunate’, ‘thought’, and ‘remark’ are joined with other morphemes ‘less’, ‘un’, and ‘able’ their meanings are changed.

  • Nouns:

(Names of Places and historical leaders)

  • Hitler, London, Japanese, Pearl Harbor, France, Britain, Suez, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Kashmir, Korea, Biafra, Viet Nam, Congo, Cyprus, Sharpeville, Mau Mau, Cuba, Ulster, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Algeria, Angola, Spanish, Civil War, East, Bengal, Iraq, America, football stadium
  • Other Nouns:

Wars, cloud, rain. Hindus, Muslims Negroes, Whites, planet, dictators, mobs, police, earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves. Floods, droughts, killers plane, buses, bridges, mines, dams, road, highway.

  • Verbs:

Bombed, attacked, killing, invaded, shared, tumble, remember, escaped, tramples, falling, bursting, collapsing, was, can, know, crashed.

The poet has used nouns and verbs to relate to prominent political leaders and events of the past, he has mentioned countries and places that have fallen victim to war and other calamities during 20th and 21st centuries.

  • Prepositions:

On, for, of, at

  • Pronouns:

I, there, one

  • Articles:

The, a

  • Conjunctions:

And, when, then, but, where

Grammatical Categories:

Sentence structure is not complex because he talks about one event or thing and ends it within a sentence. The period ‘.’ has been used several times by Ghose in the poem, each sentence except one ends with a period to show the effect of different thoughts that are meant to be digested one at a time. Commas, colon and semi-colon have been used to give certain necessary pauses in the poem; it is done by the poet due to the fact that the reader is not meant to directly continue on to the other following line. In essence, the comma or semi-colon provide a very brief pause so that the reader will check their speed and not proceed too quickly.

Noun Phrases:

During my lifetime,

I was a boy,

I remember all these wars, etc

Verb Phrases:

It’s like having constantly been under a cloud,

Killing all, etc

Prepositional Phrases:

For the remarkable fact.


Figurative Features:

  • Imagery:

Visual: war imagery, images of destruction, images of events related to our daily life.

  • Simile: “It’s like having constantly been under a cloud (Idiom) but always out of the rain’’
  • Personification: Highway has been personified as “the good old highway of life’’

This personification is ironical because the good old highway where life can vanish in a moment cannot be called ‘good’ because if this highway is responsible for taking away life from people, it can never be anything ‘good’.

  • Reflections of death, war, destruction, accidents, existentialism.


Phonological Sound Patterns:


‘Then’ has been used twice in the beginning of the sentences in the poem

  1. Then there have been Kashmir… (08)
  2. Then there have been riots… (21)

Journey from Climax to Anti Climax:

The poem is a journey from climax (beginning) to anti-climax (end) where suspicion of the reader is brought to an end because the poet declares that he has managed to survive in this existentialist world, the reader and the poet both are survivors.


  • Repetition of ‘I’ that reflects the poet’s own presence in the poem
  • The last line of the poem raises several questions in the mind of the reader, ‘’I don’t know how I manage this’’
  • Repetition:

Buses falling (line 26)

bridges falling (line 27).

  • Repetition:

During my lifetime, twice (line 1 and 30)

There there, falling falling, and and

  • The poem has been written in free verse
  • Irregular rhyme scheme
  • 6 paragraphs that differ in length
  • Alliteration

World War, Was When, Age Attacked, India Invaded, Kashmir Korea, Algeria Angola, Remember Remarkable, Then There, Death Demonstration, Spanish Civil.

  • Assonance:

Hitler Harbor Later, Riots Negroes,


  • Semantic coherence: link between the sentences has been developed

hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes, floods, droughts (weather)

Plain crashes, train derailments, buses falling down ravines, mines collapsing, bridges falling, dams bursting, road accidents (Death and destruction)


*Trauma of existentialism, uncertainty, survival.

“All In A Lifetime’’ is a remarkable poem written in free verse, it has six loosely knit paragraphs that vary in length. The poem is rich with the images of destruction, existentialism, uncertainty and war. The poet has not told a partial story in this poem, he has mentioned the miseries of almost every country and community that has had been once on the verge of complete destruction.  He has talked about the event of 1947 Partition also, he comments on our daily life insecurities, plane crashes, road accidents, uncertainty, lack of security and protection. Living in this existentialist world where life is like ‘having been under a cloud of troubles’ but always out of the rain means that the poet like all of us has managed to survive here.

The last line of the poem, “I don’t know how I manage this’’ is a question “how I manage this, for the poet as well as the reader. This question gives rise to many other questions in the minds of the readers, how do we escape all this? What has God kept us alive for? What is the purpose of this life? These questions have no answer, hence these questions give rise to anxiety, uncertainty, and we find our minds affected by the trauma of existentialism.

Analysis of “A Very Private Life”- Opening Paragraph by Sabiha Anum




Once upon a time, there will be a little girl called Uncumber. Uncumber will have a younger brother called Sulpice, and they will live with their parents in a house in the middle of the woods. There will be no windows in the house, because there will be nothing to see outside except the forest. While inside, there will be all kinds of interesting things-strange animals, processions, jewels, battles, mazes, convolutions of pure shapes and colours- which materialize in the air at will, solid and brilliant and almost touchable. For, this will be in good new days a long, long while ahead, and it will be like that in people’s houses then. So the sight of the mud and grimy leaves outside would scarcely be of much interest.

Then again, windows might let the air in, and no one would want the congenial atmosphere of the house contaminated by the stale, untempered air of the forest, laden with dust and disease. From one year’s end to the next, they won’t go outside, and the outside world won’t come in. There will be no need; all their food and medicine and jewellery and toys will be on tap from mains; everything they could possibly require will come to the house through network of pipes and tubes and wires and electromagnetic beams which tangle the forest. Out along the wires and beams their wishes will go. Back, by return, will come the fulfillment of them.


Born on 8th September, 1933, Michael Frayn studied Russian Language at Joint Services School for Linguists and he studies Moral Philosophy at Emmanuel College Cambridge afterwards. He worked as reporter and columnist for many reputable magazines and newspapers. He is author of several award winning books including Noises off, Spies, Copenhagen and Headlong etc. This paper is going to analyze the opening paragraphs of A Very Private Life by Michael Frayn at Phonological, Semantic, Morphological and Syntactic level.


The passage has shown a dystopia world which is materialistic as well. It describes a world in which material needs are important and human needs are matter of less importance. The enumeration of material things reflects the dehumanized nature of life. In that imaginary world, wishes and wills are important and not the social relations. The destructive imagery of the outside world, denunciation of society formation and lack of social life suggest that the fear of outside world would not allow the humans of that time to go for communal life. The passage revolves around the themes of fantasy, imagination, hyper-reality and life in a controlled, artificial and dehumanized world.

Phonological cohesion

Once upon a time, there will be a little girl called Uncumber.

In this sentence the technique of assonance can be spotted. The same vowel sound ɪ is repeated in the words will and little.

While inside there will be all kinds of interesting things- strange animals, processions, jewels, battles, mazes, convolutions of pure shapes and pure colours– which materialize in the air at will, solid and brilliant and almost touchable. In this sentence the technique of consonance has been used. The sound z is used at the end of many words in the same sentence.

So the sight of the mud and grimy leaves outside scarcely be of much interest.

In the sentence the technique of alliteration is used. The sound of s is repeated as highlighted above.

So the sight of the mud and grimy leaves outside scarcely be of much interest.

Assonance is used in this sentence. The sound is repeated in the words sight and outside and the sound Ʌ is used in the words mud and much. The sound (i) is used in the words scarcely and be.


Then again, windows might let the air in, and no one would want the congenial atmosphere of the house contaminated by the stale, untempered, air of the forest, laden with dust and disease.

In this sentence again the alliteration is used two times. Firstly in would and want, and secondly in dust and disease. Then consonance is used in words might, let, stale, want, atmosphere, untempered, forest (the sound t is repeated).

From one year’s end to the next they won’t go outside, and the outside world won’t come in.

In this sentence assonance is used in the words won’t and go, world and won’t. Another technique used is alliteration, in the words world and won’t.

There will be no need; all their food and medicine and jewelry and toys will be on tap from the mains- everything they could possibly require will come to the house through the network of pipes and tubes and wires and electromagnetic beams which tangle the forest. Out along the wires and beams their wishes will go back.

In this sentence alliteration is used at two places; in the words no and need, and secondly in the words through and the.

Back, by return, will come the fulfillment of them.

In this sentence again the alliteration is used in the words back and by.

The phonological features used in this text are not quite evident. This lack of phonological features creates the lack of rhythm and coherence. This lack of coherence and rhythm is significant because there is no coherence in the outside and inside world as well.

Semantic cohesion

The synonyms used in this passage are wish/will, stale/untempered/ contaminated/ disease/ dust laden/ mud/ grimy, brilliant/good, woods/ forest. The words used in this passage are mostly synonymous in nature. The synonymous nature suggests that the writer wants to reinforce the same idea. The writer has deliberately avoided the use of similar words to make his writing less redundant. This variety of the words used in the form of synonyms suggests that he wants to engage the readers and at the same time he does not want to be redundant. So, he has run and explained the same idea by deliberately avoiding the use of same words. Seven synonyms used to describe the outside world emphasize the fact that the outside world is something to detest. The other pair of synonyms is wish and will which suggests the only important thing in the lives of the people living at that time. Next pair of synonyms is woods and forest. This pair is actually used to describe the outside world. This pair suggests that the outside world is uncivilized, wild and uncultured. Another pair of synonyms used is brilliant and good. This pair is used to describe the world inside. This pair suggests that everything present in the inside world is perfect and far away from any flaw.

The writer has used only two pairs of antonyms. These pairs are inside/ outside and congenial/ contaminated. The first pair shows the extremes that the writer has drawn. He has described the world in terms of extremes. He has drawn the drastic comparison. These drastic comparisons and description in terms of extremes is further elaborated in the form of another antonym pair i.e. congenial/ contaminated. The inside world is congenial and far away from the flaws, while the outside world is contaminated. The first pair categorizes the world in the form of two extremes while the second pair describes the nature of those extremes.

The only example of the tautology used in the text is “long, long while ahead”. This repetition of the word long and the usage of word ahead suggest that the description is about the time in far future. This reference to the far future also puts question mark on the credibility of the information given in the text. We don’t know whether that time would come or not. In addition, it provides the justification for the hyper-reality portrayed in the text. We cannot question the hyper-reality because it is story of the far future that nobody has seen.

 Normally the stories are told in past tense. This story, however, is narrated in future tense. The deviation from the normal (anomaly) story telling style predicts the unusual that is coming in the story.

The choice of the words shows that the writer has used positive words to describe the inside world like good, brilliant and interesting. Again it reflects the writer’s intention to portray the inside world as something flawless and perfect. On the other hand, the outside world is described through the words with negative meanings like mud, grimy leaves, contaminated, stale, untempered air, laden with dust and disease etc, which reflects that the outside world is unessential and detestable.  Another set of words that reflects on the choice of words, the writer has made is wishes and wills. This set indicates that the only important thing for the people of that time is their wishes and wills. All they cared about was the fulfillment of their wishes, desires and wills. As long as they are being fulfilled their life would be perfect and happy. Their wishes and wills were not abstract, intellectual or based on emotions. They were based on material things. Hence the choice of words indicates that the world at that time would be materialistic world. The words like wires and electronic beams suggest the dependence of the people on mechanical and scientific inventions. This also shows that the world would be highly advanced scientifically.

A careful study of the text has shown that even the role relation in the passage complement the theme of the passage. In first sentence of the passage “a little girl” is the theme. In second sentence, “Uncumber” is possessor (of the little brother). We may also categorize her as recipient. In the same line “Sulpice” is the theme. In the second line “they” is agent, “house” is goal, “middle of the woods” is location, “parents” is the theme. In the first sentence of the second paragraph “windows” is source, “untempered air of the forest” is stimulus, “congenial atmosphere of the house” is patient. In the second sentence “outside” is goal. In third sentence “tap” is the instrument, “the mains” is source, and “network of pipes”, “tubes”, “wires” and “beams” are instruments. These role relations complement the theme of the passage in many ways i.e.  There is only one agent in the whole passage and the rest of the nouns are patients, stimulus, goal, themes or instruments etc, which shows that human beings of that world would be dependent on the instruments and scientific inventions. The sentence that contains the only agent shows the only normality present in that world i.e. family life, otherwise that future world denounce and rejects the communal and social life. The rest of the role relations suggest scientific dependence, fear and material nature of that life.

From the analysis of the passage given, one may safely establish that the futuristic world would be a dehumanized world, where communal life would be of no importance. The people of that time would be afraid of outside world as well. The writer has promoted the idea of the private life. His perspective is that the world in future would be contained, private, scientifically advanced and far from the social and communal relations.

Morphological cohesion

In the given passage, both types of morphemes have been used i.e. derivational and inflectional. The derivational morphemes used in this passage are touchable, grimy, materialize, processions, fulfillment, electromagnetic, possibly, scarcely. The analysis of this list shows that it contains almost all kinds of derivational morphemes including adverbs, adjectives, nouns verbs etc. This complements the theme in a way that the contained life in the world of future would contain all the things inside. It complements the theme that they would have all the variety of things in their life.

The inflectional morphemes used are parents, windows, animals, processions, jewels, battles, mazes, convolutions, shapes, colors, leaves, days, toys, pipes, tubes, wires, beams, wishes, mains, year’s. all the inflectional morphemes used are plural markers and almost all of them are used with the material things (except for the parents). The use of inflectional morphemes here complements the theme by telling that everything they wished and desired was there in abundance. They could ask for nothing else. These morphemes suggest the completeness in their lives.

Only three compounds are used in the whole passage; network, outside, inside. These three words are basically the key words and they assist the theme directly, since the whole passage is about the outside and the inside world, and their lives would be facilitated with the help of certain networks like the network of electromagnetic beams, the network of pipes and tubes etc. These three compounds actually reflect the main things in the passage.

There are three lexical groups that are used in this passage. Inside and outside show positioning. Pipes, wires, beams and tubes can be included in the group of tools or equipment. Forest and woods can be placed in nature. These three groups sum up the whole idea presented in the passage i.e. the drastic extremes present in positions of the two worlds, their life’s dependence on the tools and equipment and the denunciation of the world of nature.

Uncumber- the name of the protagonist- is a lexically foregrounded word. It is coined by using prefix “un” with the word “cumber”. Cumber means trouble and Uncumber means the opposite of trouble. The name of the protagonist comply with the theme in a manner that it indicates the life away from the troubles i.e. an easygoing life.

The language used is simple, plain and is spoken idiom. It reflects the generalization in the tone which shows that all the people of that age would have the similar life. The diction has a futuristic touch as well at some places in order to comply with the futuristic theme of the text. For instance the two proper nouns i.e. Uncumber and Sulpice are the words from future. So the diction has futuristic tone.

Syntactic cohesion

Except for the second sentence, all the sentences are written in surface structures. The second sentence is a deep structure. This analysis complement the theme in a way that only one trait of that life belong to the natural world i.e. family life, and that trait is described in deep structure. The rest of the traits reflect the life that is away from the nature and is extremely civilized; artificial. So, the description of all those traits is given in the form of surface structures.

The important phrases used in this passage are “ once upon a time”, “in a house”, “the middle of the woods”, “except the forest”, “while inside”, “then again”, “untempered air of the forest”, “laden with the dust”, “from one year’s end to the next”, “out along the wires and beams” etc.

Most of the clauses used are adverbial clauses. The purpose of the adverbial clause is to show the cause and effect relations.

The first sentence starts with a phrase and then continues with an independent clause. The second sentence comprises of two independent clauses joined by coordinating conjunction “and”, and the second clause is followed by a prepositional phrase “in the middle of the wood”. The third sentence also contains two independent clauses joined by coordinating conjunction “because”, followed by a phrase. The fourth sentence contains an independent clause followed by numerous phrases that enumerate the things important in their lives. The last sentence of the first paragraph contains a phrase sandwiched between the two clauses. The first sentence of the second paragraph starts with a phrase followed by two independent clauses joined by the coordinating conjunction “and”, and ends with a phrase again “laden with the dust”. The second sentence starts with the prepositional phrase followed by two independent clauses joined by the coordinating conjunction “and”. The last three sentences are complex sentences with so many embedded clause and phrases.

Most of the sentences used are compound and complex sentences. The reason for the compound and complex sentences is to show the complexity present there in the world of future.

Most of the sentences used are either declarative or negative. No imperative or interrogative sentences are used. The use of only the declarative and negative sentences comply with the theme since the whole passage is about explaining the merits of inside world and negating the importance of the world outside.

The excessive use of passive voices suggests the passivity of the life of that age.



The violinist’s shadow vanishes.


The husk of a grasshopper

Sucks a remote cyclone and rises.


The full bared throat of a woman walking water

The loaded estuary of the dead.


And I am the cargo

Of a coffin attended by swallows.


And I am the water

Bearing the coffin that will not be silent.


The clouds are full of surgery and collisions

But the coffin escapes – as a black diamond.


A ruby brimming blood,

An emerald beating its shores,


The sea lifts swallow wings and flings

A summer lake open,


Sips and bewilders its reflection,

Till the whole sky dives shut like a burned land back to its spark –


A bat with a ghost in its mouth

Struck at by lightnings of silence –


Blue with sweat, the violinist

Crashes into the orchestra, which explodes.



Immediate and visceral, Ted Hughes’ poetry attempts to make sense of a human world forged by primitive and animal forces. A charismatic presence, Hughes was also famed for the mesmerizing force of his reading voice.

Hughes was born in 1930 into a working class family in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire. He studied English at Cambridge, but transferred to Anthropology, where he immersed himself in the study of myth and pre-history. And it was at Cambridge that Hughes met the American poet Sylvia Plath. In 1956, after a four-month romance, they married. The darkness of Hughes’ poetry was matched by the drama of his personal life – the strained marriage to Plath, ended in her suicide in 1963, followed by the death of his lover Assia Wevill, who killed herself and her daughter in 1969. His Tales from Ovid reworked the Metamorphoses, to show what happens when mortal passions are lifted to a mythic plane. In many ways, this is the same theme explored in his final volume, Birthday Letters, the book of poems about Plath that brought Hughes to a wider audience.

Cadenza in a literal sense is a difficult part of a piece of classical music performed by only one person near the end of the piece. Judging from the title, the reader can establish that this piece of poetry, akin to music, will be an abstract read. The poem also takes on a violent, confusing tone at the end, making it more tactile than understandable. Its structure, like many of Hughes’ poems, is linked with the central theme of the poem. It follows two line stanzas, except the first line, which stands unaccompanied, purposely dedicated to the artist and to the musician, reconciling all differences between them. The rest of the poem is a series of stanzas paired by two sentences, both long and short, similar to the high and low notes of a cadenza. This ornamental piece of music as well as poetry consists of a series of images, of death-terror, lost love, and mourning. They make for a dazzling surrealist elegy, for the poet’s wife Sylvia Plath and the rhythmic idiom inevitably recalls, because it echoes and summons up their very tone and pitch, the voice and tone of her poetry.

I will attempt to stylistically analyse the poem “Cadenza” through its Lexical syntactic patterns and choices, its figurative language and its phonological sound patterns.

A. Lexical syntactic patterns and choices

The poem is dominated by concrete nouns and complex vocabulary. The nature of this complexity is less to do with difficult words and more to do with the confluence of complex and simple as well as descriptive vocabulary that render the poem hard to understand at its first reading.

Concrete nouns Adjectives Complex Vocabulary
Violinist Remote Cyclone
Grasshopper Full bared Estuary
Swallows Loaded Surgery
Coffin   Collisions
Black Diamond   Brimming
Ruby   Bewilders


The poet’s use of diction in the poem is formal, as per the requirement of Cadenza as a musical performance. It should not be forgotten that cadenza is different from a regular performance of music. It is played for dramatic performances, and follows a strict code of rules to bring about a harsh, pregnant atmosphere. This is further evidenced by the various semantic fields employed in the poem as well as can be judged by the use of inflectional morphemes by the poet. With the use of words such as “swallow”, “mouth”, and “suck”, the poet creates an image of hunger. The use of thunderstorm imagery with words such as “lightnings”, “sky”, “clouds”, and “cyclone”, and the vocabulary associated with them, the poem describes the ominous climate of his heart. The verses of the poem add yet another semantic field to the poem, that of death and suffering; “coffin”, “dead”, “surgery”. A further ominous tone of an on-going storm has also been developed by the use of dark as well as fluid water imagery; “sea”, “swallow”, “water”, “blood”, “sips”, “estuary”. An advanced research into the sound of the poem reveals the use of word inflections in which grammatical category of a word changes within syntactic category of the word and details about smallest unit morpheme. These words, in this case the morpheme ‘s’ and ‘es’, perform the function of giving the poem the tense of the present, as well as of plurality, which is then indicative of the poet’s ability to pull himself out of the past and make his space in the present. Examples of these words can be found throughout the poem; sucks, rises, escapes, lifts, flings, sips, bewilders, dives, crashes, explodes.


Judging from the title of the poem, the reader would expect the poem to belong to musical origins, but since Ted Hughes’ poetry is representative of his times the poem deviates from its musical connotations and makes use of figures of speech to get the essentials of the modern era across.


“As a black diamond”

“Like a burned land”


“A ruby brimming blood”

“An emerald beating its shores”

“The sea lifts swallow wings and flings”

“The coffin that will not be silent”


“Blue with sweat”

“The husk of a grasshopper sucks a remote cyclone and rises”

“Till the whole sky dives shut like a burned land back to its spark”

“A bat with a ghost in its mouth”


“The clouds are full of surgery and collisions”

“A ruby brimming blood”

“An emerald beating its shores”



Violinist’s shadow Vanishes

Woman Walking Water

RuBy Brimming Blood


womAn wAlking wAter

LIfts swallow wIngs and flIngs


The sea liftS swallow wingS and flingS

SipS and bewilderS its reflection

Till the whole Sky diveS Shut

CrasheS into the orcheStra


The sound of S that dominates the entire poem


Blue with sweat, the violinist

Crashes into the orchestra, which explodes


The poem Cadenza characterizes the psychotic states of personality and total withdrawal from the society. The writer makes use of assertive, declarative sentences.

For example

And I am the cargo

And I am the water

The sea lifts swallow wings and flings

Blue with sweat, the violinist

Crashes into the orchestra, which explodes

The word “shadow” in the first line ,used as a noun, represents darkness and desire, and as it “vanishes”, so does the poet’s persona. The idea of the grasshopper “suck[ing]” the “cyclone” and then “rising” suggests that destruction is not always an end but it can also be a positive change. The next couplet is filled with heavy words such as “loaded”, “full”, “estuary”. This suggests that the poet is heavy with the burden of expressing himself through music. The use of “I” is a clear indication of symbolism to the cargo, as if Hughes is the transporter carrying the coffin. The coffin is “attended by swallows”. This is yet another indication towards the fact that death is not an end but a kind of freedom, for the bird swallow represents the idea of freedom. In the next couplet the poet takes on the persona of “water”, which is another means of transportation. The next couplet presents a metaphor as in the first couplet, “the clouds are full of surgery”. This metaphor is used to describe the changing shape of the clouds to accommodate the dead. In the following lines two kinds of stones are mentioned, “black diamond” is used for the dead and “ruby” is used for the living. The single line stanza at the beginning shows the loneliness and the isolation of the violinist and of the poet mourning the death of his wife. The choice of formal language suggests some level of respect on the poet’s part for the audience as well his deceased wife. The poet suggests the depth/intensity of his feelings for his wife through the use of descriptive words. The use of animal imagery is crucial to the poem as both the grasshopper and the swallows can fly, and that’s suggestive of the poet’s positive hopes for the future of his times and nation, as well as of his personal state of mind where he is grieving the death of his wife.