Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Formal Description of "Ask Me No More"

“Ask Me No More” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a quintain, with five lines in each of its three stanzas. The whole poem consists of true rhymes, and the rhyme scheme is abbac, deedc, fggfc; as the rhyme scheme notes with the use of “c” in each stanza, repetition is used frequently in the poem - the phrase “Ask me no more” is used as a refrain at the immediate beginning and end of each stanza. Tennyson uses syllabic verse in this poem, for the first four lines are 10 syllables, with the last line being four syllables. This pattern repeats with the other stanzas.
In terms of meter, the second, third, and fourth lines in each stanza can be defined as iambic pentameter. That is, there are 5-foot lines with first light stress and then heavy stress. However, the meter changes within the first and last lines of each stanza. In the first line, there is a caesura, with the phrase “Ask me no more.” “Ask me,” the first half of that phrase, can be defined as trochaic monometer, and “no more” as iambic monometer. The same goes for the last line in each stanza, which is also “Ask me no more.” After the caesura in the first line, the meter for the rest of the line is iambic trimeter.
Each line in every stanza ends with some sort of punctuation. In fact, despite the poem being fairly short, Tennyson uses almost every form of punctuation that there is to use: semi-colon, colon, comma, question mark, exclamation point, and period, all within 15 lines. Consequently, all of the lines are self-enclosed. With that being said, there are ideas that the speaker addresses in some lines that continue into the next lines despite the punctuation at the end. This comes with the introduction of natural imagery in the first and third stanzas. In the first stanza, the speaker suggests that nature is willing to mold, and this idea continues from the first to the third line. In the third stanza, the speaker introduces the river that he or she strove against. The connection between these lines continues over the punctuation found in between them.
The sounds within the poem seem to vary from stanza to stanza. In the first stanza, there is alliteration in the first line (“Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;”) with the “m’s,” which makes the line flow more smoothly. “Draw” in this line is a vocal semivowel. Later in the stanza, we see consonance with “fold to fold” and “stoop” with “shape.” “Fold” is another example of an aspirate semivowel in this stanza. In the second stanza, the second line features most of the work with sound. “Cheek” found in the second line is a mute word. In that same line, “hollowed” and “faded” are two aspirate semivowels, and at the end of the line, “eye” works to draw out the length of the line. In the final stanza, we again see more consonance, now with the “s” sound (“…seal’d: I strove against the stream…”). “Touch” found in the fourth line sounds drawn out when spoken aloud, which can add emphasis to the word itself.