Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Formal Description of "To_____"

            “To ____” by Percy Bysshe Shelley consists of two eight-line stanzas. Both stanzas follow a quatrain rhyming pattern, ABABCDCD. The poem uses mostly true rhyme but also uses slant rhyme with “despair” and “dear.” As far as meter, the poem uses alternating lines of iambic trimeter and iambic dimeter. This means that each pair of lines consists of a three-foot line followed by a two-foot line. While not every line strictly follows this pattern, it is still the basis for the underlying rhythm of the poem.

            This poem can also be characterized by its use of sound. There are lines in the poem that use alliteration, like the “f” sound in “One feeling too falsely disdained” or the “s” sound in the last line, “From the sphere of our sorrow.” The categorizing of consonants into mutes and semivowels, particularly liquids, is important to the distinction between the first and the second stanza. While both stanzas include both types of consonants, the ratio certainly shifts. The first stanza uses many more mutes, consonants that stop the breath. Some examples from the first stanza include the “p” sound in profaned, prudence, and pity and the “d” sound in disdained, despair, and dear. However, the second stanza uses more semivowels and the fluid liquids, creating a stanza that reads softer and slower. Some examples of liquids in this stanza are the “r” sound seen in desire, star, morrow, afar, sphere, and sorrow and the “m” sound in men, moth, something, from, and morrow again. Some other semivowels used more in this second stanza are “s,” “h,” and “w.”

             One feature that characterizes this poem is the use of enjambment. The sentences frequently continue onto the next line, contributing to the flow of the poem. The poem also uses repetition in sentence structure. The first two lines are “One word is often profaned/ For me to profane it.” This structure of “one ____ is too ____ for ____” is repeated for the first six lines of the poem, while the speaker discusses generalities. This pattern is dropped when the poem begins to speak directly to its object, again highlighting a shift between the two stanzas. This shift makes the second stanza seem less orderly and more fluid in comparison.

Continue to an explication of this poem: Explication of "To _____" 
Return to the poem: "To_____" by Percy Bysshe Shelley