A Comparison of Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney and Patrolling Barnegat by Walt Whitman

A Comparison of Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney and Patrolling Barnegat by Walt Whitman

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A Comparison of Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney and Patrolling Barnegat by Walt Whitman

‘Storm on the Island’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Patrolling Barnegat’ by
Walt Whitman are similar in a number of ways however, there are also
strong contrasts. Possibly the most apparent comparison is the subject
matter. Both poems are written from a personal viewpoint about a
storm. Heaney describes the storm from inside a building for which he
is prepared for, “We build our houses squat” The impression is given
that the storm according to Heaney is not a rare occurrence and that
he is writing about many similar storms. The title uses no article and
writes in the present tense. Whitman however, speaks as if he is in
fact within the storm, almost participating. The reader becomes aware
of this as Whitman poses questions “is that a wreck?” readers can then
understand that the poet is experiencing the incident he is
describing.

Heaney and Whitman both associate the storm with military terms. The
title ‘Patrolling Barnegat’ is self-explanatory; leading the reader to
believe the poem is about a military exercise. This could be
considered as a strange choice of title for a poem about such a wild,
frantic experience – quite unlike a military operation. ‘Storm on the
Island’ unconsciously links the storm to a war by using words
indirectly related like “bombarded.”

‘Patrolling Barnegat’ is a sonnet – a poem of 14 lines, usually
associated with love. It is therefore strange that Whitman uses this
form of poem when depicting an experience so intense and wild, perhaps
this is his perception of love. The lack of rhyming couplets and use
of half rhymes at the end of each line “running/muttering/pealing”
encourages the reader to feel blown along – much like a storm itself.
Dissimilarly, ‘Storm on the Island’ is free verse and has no rhyme or
rhythm. It uses enjambment “spits like a tame cat/Turned savage” and
reads continuously somewhat like a story or a conversation. The idea
that Seamus Heaney is actually speaking to his audience is reinforced

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by his friendly manner of speech. He uses common conversational tags
“you know what I mean” the reader is then effectively drawn in and
feels involved with the poem.

The language used within the poems is fairly analogous. Both use harsh
sounds to create an impact. In ‘Storm on the Island’ Heaney includes
the onomatopoeic word “blast” to produce an impact. It is the
defining moment within the poem as it signifies the point where the
storm begins. The section before illustrates the preparations for a
storm with the piece after “blast” describing the storm itself.
Onomatopoeic words also suggest lots of noise is occurring during the
storm. ‘Patrolling Barnegat’ also utilizes harsher sounds but they are
used as verbs to describe “piercing…lashing” movement, these verbs
used in the present tense show the storm is terrifying as it happens.

Both poets use comparable techniques with their language. ‘Patrolling
Barnegat’ uses alliteration and assonance primarily to represent the
sounds of the storm. “Piercing and pealing,” and ”savagest trinity
lashing.” Heaney also uses these techniques to invisibly mimic the
sounds of the storm as well as emphasizing strength with the
alliterative phrase “rock and roof.” ‘Patrolling Barnegat’ features a
lot of repetition. Both single words, “wild, wild” and short-phrases
“milk-white combs careering” are repeated to stress and emphasise
important points or descriptions. Many images within the poems are
personified, in ‘Patrolling Barnegat’ “demoniac laughter” is
“muttered.” The eeriness of comparing storm noises to ‘demoniac
laughter’ makes the storm seem even more alive and hostile. The
“wizened earth” in ‘Storm on the Island’ is personified “it has never
troubled us (with crops).” This statement is ironic as “wizened” at
first seems to be a complaint but as the reader continues to study the
poem they become aware that it is in fact a blessing.

Initially, the poems look alike as their subject matters are the same
however, both poets have expressed the feelings behind a storm in
different ways. They use similar techniques but convey them to have
different effects and meanings.
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