Stylistic Analysis of Walter De La Mare’s poem, “Tartary”, Saba Sharif

Saba Sharif

Miss. Amna Shahid

28th January,  2017


Stylistic Analysis of Walter De La Mare’s poem, “Tartary”


This paper is based on the stylistic analysis of the poem Tartary by Walter De La Mare. The stylistic analysis of this poem works on different level such as lexical, grammatical, figure of speech, and phonological. The stylistic analysis assists to unfold the hidden meaning of the poet’s thoughts. The stylistic devices used in this poem are the settings of the poem along with the figures of speech. Through this analysis the researcher explores different techniques and devices that help to create meaning in literary text and how they form meaning in harmonious way. The literal and non-literal meanings of the poem, of experiencing imaginative journey and as an escape from harsh realities decoded through stylistic analysis.


Stylistics is a branch of applied linguistics that studies and interprets text intensively in regard to their linguistic and tonal style. According to D. Crystal “stylistics studies certain aspects of language variation”. Stylistics analysis of any text is different from literary analysis of any text because its based on facts and objective in nature.

This paper based on stylistics analysis of the poem “Tartary” by Walter De La Mare. The stylistic analysis includes lexical general and specific level, grammatical categories, figures of speech and phonological sound patterns.  Stylistic analysis would help to deduce the hidden or under lying meanings of the poem.

Biography of the poet

Walter John De La Mare was born in 1873 and died in 1956. He was an English poet, short story writer and novelist. Walter lives between the cults of two movements that is end of Romantic period and beginning of Modern period. Therefore he has been reckoned as a modern poet with romantic imagination.  His works deal with romantic themes such as dreams, fantasy, death, rare states of mind and emotions. His first major poetry collection was named as Songs of Childhood which was a significant example of children’s literature for its creative imagery and variety of meters. According to Collins, “the poetry of De La Mare is unique, for it even more than that he spoke of the intimate self-communing of the poet with himself”.

Introduction of the poem

The poem Tartary deals with the poet’s earnest desire to visit a place that entirely belongs to him. He would be the king of that place and rule over everything. The poet divides this poem into four stanzas and each stanza depicts a different picture to its readers.  In first stanza the poet describes a scene of court where he would rule and every desirable item will available. In second stanza he describes that he will not get bored in his palace because it would enchant with different music instruments like flute, harp and mandolin. The night that brings darkness with it will bring different colors of life in his palace and would bring everything back to life. In third stanza the poet describes royal robes that are embellished with gold and precious stones and would add to enhance his personality and put him on higher stature.  In fourth stanza the poet mentions that his territory is full of natural gifts such as mountains, hills, lakes, valleys and forests. All such description portrays a perfect picture of his palace or his dream land.

The above mention is the apparent meaning of the poem; the underlying meaning could be that the poet escapes his real surroundings. Through his imaginations the poet finds solace in dream world from real life’s sufferings, sorrows and uneasiness. The lack of peace, calm, pleasure and tranquility helps him to image a place that has every pursuit of happiness and filled with natural beauty. Imagination instills new life and takes away the poet from harsh and stark realities of life. The pessimism that charged through predicaments of life overcomes only through creative ornamental thoughts.

Lexical Features:

The first step for lexical analysis is “vocabulary”. If we look at this poem the poet has used general vocabulary that includes words about colors (yellow, green, red, and purple), music (flute, harp and mandolin), animals (tigers, fishes and peacock) and natural imagery to vividly present the picture.

The poet has employs “simple vocabulary” in this poem as well. The simple vocabulary means it included words that are root word. Simple vocabulary helps to form complex meaning from poem. The poem includes simple vocabulary words such as gold, ivory, sun and dark. These simple words further connects with “complex words” such as foamless and courtyard. These two words stand alone as root words and also as complex words when attach with suffix. Moreover, complex words are not only combination of root words and suffix or prefix but complex words include sophisticated vocabulary as well. In poem Walter uses words that are more descriptive but as well intricate to comprehend the meaning. These words are such as madoline, scimitar, citron trees and dale. It shows that the poet illustrated flowery language in order to present a more fanciful picture of his dream. Adding to previous point the poet employs ornamental use of language for poem but the phrase “red as wine” can be taken as colloquial use of language. Because it’s not only refers to an object within a poem but it also portrays poet’s familiarity with his readers. The poet knows his target audience and therefore uses a phrase that is easily comprehensible and presents a clear picture in mind.

The lines “my bed should be ivory, of beaten gold my throne, and in my court should peacocks flaunt, and in my forests tiger haunt”. Here the poem deals primarily with “descriptive language” that enables its readers to paint a mental picture or to image the scene as poet himself is imagining. The readers first imagine the scene within the palace that the king lives happily in his most comfortable room and he is wearing throne. In his court and forest different animals are present that helps to enhance the natural beauty and environment.  Then the poet takes us next step ahead and paint a picture of a court room where the king is enjoying while listening to music. We imagine these scenes as we are seeing with our naked eyes. As its mention in the poem “in my courtyard bray, harp and flute, and mandolin made music sweet and gay”.  Then he gives description of his personal appearance “I’d wear a robe of beads” and the natural scenery around him “flashing stars, scented breeze, trembling lakes, like foamless seas”. All the vocabulary that used to describe different scenes taken as belongs to their respective register and the use of the words depending on situations enhance ability to connect words to form an image.

Now, moving on to the use of open class words in this poem. Open class words carry the majority of meaning in poem. The table below shows the open class words that are used throughout the poem. Open class words include all noun, adjective, verb and adverb.

Distribution of open class words

Noun Pronoun Adjective Verbs Adverbs
Lord I Beaten Summon Alone
Tartary My Great Haunt Athwart
Throne Their Sweet Slant  
Peacock Me Gay Bray  
Fishes Myself Small Wear  
Sun   Thick Flaunt  
Wine   Dark Draw  
Lamp   Scented Should  
Forest   Delighted Were  
Flute   Shine    


This table shows that the poem largely consists of noun, adjectives and verbs. Great numbers of nouns show that this poem mostly refers to physical objects that construct a picture in our mind with the help of adjectives that beautify the whole scene.

Morphological level:

Morphological level concerned with the formation of admissible words in a language. Morphological level has two basic types of word building, first is “derivation” in which lexical category change and other is “inflection” in which lexical category does not change but add additional features in existing words. Various morphemes used in the given poem are listed below:

Free Bound Root Prefix Suffix
I Beaten Beaten Myself Foamless
If Beads Beads   Scented
Were Clustered Clustered   Delighted
Their Seeds Seeds   Flashing
Her Glades Glades   Beads
In Fruits Fruits   Stars
Of Rivers Rivers    
To Lakes Lakes    
Me Trumpeters Trumpeters    
As Fishes Fishes    
Music Flashing Flashing    
Should Delighted Delighted    
Wear Trembling Trembling    
Seven Scented Scented    
Every Tigers Tigers    
Bird Foamless Foamless    
  Fins Fins    
  Tarary’s Tarary’s    
  Fruits Fruits    
  Stars Stars    


This table shows the morphemes and in this poem we can notice that the poet hardly uses any derivational word but primarily presents inflectional words. It means that the poet does not change the time or follow of the poem but talks in a linear manner about his dream.

Semantic Field:

The words related to color imagery such as yellow, white and red then music such as harp, flute and mandolin and then natural imagery creates a dream world as a semantic field for this poem. The literal meaning of the poem that deals with journey into realm of imaginations is described above stanza by stanza. The poem set a pleasant tone for the poem through visual and audible imagery. The non-literal meanings of the poem demonstrate the idea of escape into another world.

Grammatical Features:

In this poem the poet handles two types of sentences. The first is imperative sentence that shows desire and wish and here the poet represents his desire and wish as “if I were Lord of Tartary”. Secondly the poet delineates the exclamatory sentence that shows his feelings and ends with exclamation mark, in poem towards the end that expresses his strong feelings to become a lord of everything. For example: Lord of the fruits of Tartary, her rivers silver-pale! Further, the poet renders long complex-compound sentences to present his thought process without any hindrance into one go. For example if we take first stanza it has four independent clauses and two dependent clauses.

This poem consists on different phrases such as:

Noun phrase:  “zebras seven should draw my car”.

Prepositional phrase: “trumpeters everyday to every meal would summon me”  .

Adjective phrase: “harp, flute and mandolin, made music sweet and gay” .

Verb phrase: “and ere should wane the morning-star”

Gerund phrase: “her bird-delighting citron trees”

All these phrases are selected from different stanzas that marks every stanza draws different phrases to mark different priorities.

This poem starts with a clause that can be categorized as a main or independent clause such as “if I were Lord of Tartary”. This clause helps to paint the whole picturesque imagery quiet conveniently.  It’s a conditional clause because it starts with “if”.

Figure of Speech:

In order to ornamentally beautify the poem, the poet chooses to employ similes. Simile is a direct or explicit way of comparison that eradicates all the chances of ambiguities. In this poem the poet draws comparison both with “as” and “like”. For example:

Yellow as honey, red as wine

Her trembling lakes, like foamless seas

Moreover the implicit comparison draws through metaphor such as “in every purple vale”. The poet does use of hyperbole for exaggerating effect and to glorify his dream with his possible creative expression such as “the evening lamps would shine, yellow as honey, red as wine”. Here the poet exaggerates the colors of light and represents how it should look.

Furthermore to assert his point the poet repeats (repetition) the first line before beginning new stanza. The purpose of reiteration of the same line depicts the desire and ardent wish for possession and even the word “my” “my” is uses every time. The poet follows “climax” sequence for this poem. First he starts to exert his power on less powerful creatures such as fishes, tigers and peacocks. Then he talks about his worldly pleasures having heavy meals, listening to music and wearing expensive robes. After exerting his power on human beings he thinks to overpower hills, mountains and lakes as well.

 Phonological Sound Patterns:

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in language. Here the phonological sounds create a rhythm in poem. The poet use anaphora to emphasize the main theme of the poem “if I were Lord of Tartary”. It is created to accentuates poet’s longing for an entirely world i.e. world of power and authority. The repetition of the same line also creates the rhythmic effect and even easy to remember. Another example is “and in my court should peacocks flaunt, and in my forests tigers haunt, and in my pools great fishes slant”

Alliteration is the occurrence of the same consonant letter or sound at the beginning of the words. The example of alliteration is quite apparent here as “Through Tartary’s dark”.

Consonance refers to repetitive sounds produced by consonants. Here the example of consonance is “flaunt, haunt, slant”.

Syntactic Parallelism that refers to parallel syntactic structure such as “her flashing stars, her trembling lakes”. The purpose of such structure is to create harmony.

Phonological deviation can be noticed in this poem. For phonological deviation the poet use syncope which means he omits medial part of the word in order to create a proper pattern for line for example “they’ be” and “I’d wear a robe of beads”.

Apocope is also present in the poem. Apocope is the omission of a final part such as “I’d don”.

All these phonological patterns help the poet to create some kind of musical rhythm in his poem that can be noticed by close reading the text.

Graphology deals with the systematic formation, structure and punctuations in poem. In this poem the poem follow a systematic formation as the poem consists of four stanzas and each stanza has eight lines. The poet follows the rhyming scheme of iambic tri-metre throughout the poem.

The poet creates cohesion in poem by anaphora and cataphoric references. The words like “their” and “through” explicitly refer to present images.  The coherence achieved through following the process of imagination in order, at first it begins in room then describes court, then moves into a natural world.


Thus on the whole the stylistic analysis of this poem helps us to understand the poem in better way. The poet doesn’t experience the journey into the realm of imaginations alone but the choice of words and order of thought make readers to experience the journey as well. The essence of the poem resembles to romantic poets way of portraying nature and finding an ultimate solace in nature in order to escape the harsh realities of life. In the beginning lines we notice the poet wants to immerse himself with worldly possessions but towards the end he wants to transcend for higher power that is beyond a man reach. In a way it’s a journey from simple desire to extreme power. The poet conveys the intended message through vivid imagery and descriptive use of language. This poem gives a complete sensuous appeal. The poet uses figurative language and follows rhyming scheme of iambic tri-metre in poem that creates musical pattern. Further the words or vocabulary related to adjectives, noun and pronoun aids to construct meaning. Hence, all these devices facilitate to make a simple poem an extraordinary poem.