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Poem Analysis: “A Thunderstorm”, by Archibald Lampman

Posted by: | November 4, 2008 | 2 Comments |

A Thunderstorm

By Archibald Lampman

A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge,
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven’s height,

With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.

In the poem “A Thunderstorm”, by Archibald Lampman we can see a detailed description of a thunderstorm since its beginning with all its movements in the sky and its final consequences in the Canadian landscape.

Let’s see how the poet does this analysing the sonnet:

The first verses present the sky being prepared to receive a storm:

“A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.”

In this point, we are also prepared to imagine and to feel the storm. We are led to see the sky in our imagination, to fell the wind in our face, and to hear the mutterings made by the wind and the birds in the sky. This is a characteristic of the Lampman’s poems: he describes a moment of the nature with all its details that it seems a photography made with words. Because of this, he is considered an Impressionist poet. He uses a lot of images and the five senses to lead us in his poetry. The wind is showed by the movement of the birds, which are called in a metaphorical way as “withered leaves”. This image implies some sounds, which at this moment are mutterings of the sky. They are not loud sounds yet. The word “serenely” implies that the situation of the sky is until calm in spite of the “gust-caught leaves”. Sight, hearing and touch are used to make us fell the situation at that moment in the sky.

These next three verses continue showing the growth of the storm. Now, we have a stronger scene with the “hurrying centres” of the storm in the sky:

“The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,”

The storm has already begun and the sky is suffering the turbulence of the clouds getting together.

The colours that appear in this part of the poem are referred to the twilight, which is “weird” according to the poet. We can imagine an unusual twilight, a darker one because of the storm. There is a little bit of light yet, but the clouds are blocking almost totally this light. So, the sunset becomes dark.

P.s.: I became anxious in this part of the poem; I realized that I was waiting the storm! And it seemed to be so strong that I became nervous and anguished…So readers, let’s take our umbrellas and watch the rest of the thunderstorm:

“Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge,
Tower darkening on.”

The words “rolling” (in the previous verse), “wheeled” and “hinge” help us to create the format of the storm in the sky. I imagined a lot of clouds in format of wheels and all of them making many spirals connected to the sky. (If I draw it would be easier to explain to you…)

“Tower darkening on” is a verse that represents the sky, which is now a dark tower of storm. There is a great movement in this part of the poem, which is the storm taking all the sky and becoming stronger and stronger.

“…And now from heaven’s height,

With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed”

Now, we discover the point of view of the poetic voice. It is a view from up to down. He sees from heaven’s height all the damages caused by the storm in the landscape. These verses show that the storm is very strong in the sky as well its damages in the landscape. We can see it when the poetic voice says that the “elm-trees swept and swayed”. Again, the poet leads our sight to imagine his view of the landscape.

“And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast.”

Here we have a perfect description of the thunder. The poet used words with the occlusive consonants p and b (pelted, plain, plunges, blast), which causes in an aloud reading the same explosion we have in the thunder. This is called alliteration.

We are able to see and to hear the thunder at this moment:

“Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,”

After the explosion, the poet describes the lights of the “thunder-crash” as a “wild white flash”. It shows that the lights were so strong than the noise of the thunder.

“Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.”

These last two verses describe the consequences of the thunderstorm in the landscape and they show the damage caused by the violence of the thunderstorm. The thunderstorm left messy gardens and everything wet.

Analysing the formal aspects of the poem, we have a sonnet, which is a poetic form that comprises 14 rhyming lines of equal length. “A Thunderstorm” was build with iambic pentameters. The iambic pentameter consists of verses with five feet. Each iambic foot has an unstressed and a stressed syllable. The iambic pentameter establishes the rhythm in each line. Here we have the scansion of the iambic pentameter in the Archibald Lampman’s poem:

-     /    -     /     -       /       -   /    -   /

A moment the wild swallows like a flight

–    /        -    /       -         /        -    /  -    /

Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high

-     /   –       /     -     /   -       /      -   /

Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky

And the rhymes in this sonnet follow the scheme:

A moment the wild swallows like a flight A
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high, B
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky. B
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight, A
The hurrying centres of the storm unite A
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe, C
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge, C
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven’s height, A

With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed, D
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain E
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash F
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash, F
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed, D
Column on column comes the drenching rain. E

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2 Comments

  1. By: dilysrees on November 5, 2008 at 3:24 am      

    Like you point out, there is a metaphor between the birds and the leaves – actually it is a simile – ‘like a flight of…leaves’. So the birds are serenely high.
    I think you got the idea of the storm being described first in the sky, the clouds rolling around, the birds flying up the wind, then from line 8 onward, the effects of the storm hitting the ground.
    The rhyme scheme is a bit different – abba and then ‘a’ is repeated in line 5 ‘unite’ and ‘height’ – line 8.

  2. By: claudine1 on November 6, 2008 at 9:25 am      

    I have just corrected the rhyme scheme. Thanks for your comment!
    And about the simile, I’m gonna study its characteristics before to post a comment here or to change my post.
    =)

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