‘To a Locomotive in Winter,’ is a poem by Walt Whitman. It is a poem about a powerful and strong locomotive. The speaker supports technological advancement of America as it is represented by the given locomotive.
There is an attempt by the poet to connect science and poetry. The poet tries to bridge the Romanticism movements which preceded him and modernism which was to follow. He romanticizes nature by bringing out its beauty, for instance he says, “O magnetic south.” The poem shuns classical emphasis on the order as well as the balance hence creating a unique style.
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Imagery has been used in the poem vividly to develop the theme, for aesthetics, movement and power. The poem describes the beauty and strength of the train. The port uses words like, “Thy ponderous side-bars” (Kennedy and Gioia 426).
The poet uses words like “delicate” and “great” to bring out the beauty and strength of the train. All these come together creating the train’s motion. Onomatopoeia as well as the Doppler Effect has been used in the poem so as to create melodic effect. The poet has used poetic form and diction to bring out the tone and theme of the poem. The lyrical ‘I’ has been used to refer to the locomotive. Anaphors have also been used.
Almost each line starts with “thy” or “thee.” The speaker is explicit as evident in the use of the lyrical ‘I’ which makes the poem seem like a prayer. The poet has used a formal structure.
The poem is has free verses and it follows no regular pattern, a further symbolism for the locomotive that does not appear to move in a normal pattern. There is foreshadowing of the poem’s theme in the headline. It is clear from the start that the poet is going to talk about a locomotive. Description has been used to bring out the sound, motion, and appearance of the train (Kennedy and Gioia 427). In the second poem with the title, “I like to see it lap the miles.” As much as the subject is not explicitly named, the poem is about a train just like the first one. The poet seems to enjoy watching the train as it travels through the country as evident in the title.
Imagery has been used at different levels in the poem. The imagination of the poet about the train is that of giant horse figure moving far and fast, in the process appearing to ‘lick up’ the countryside. The train is imagined as feeding at the tanks, either loading passengers or refueling. The size and might of the train are so enormous to the point that it is able to take a giant step around a mountain pile. Due to its pride in enormous power and speed, the train looks arrogantly while passing sharks. This is a clear indication that the poet has used personification to give the train which is inanimate humanly characteristics. The poem has been framed as a riddle.
This gives emphasis to the disconnection that exists between it as a mysterious creature as well as the natural environment inhabited by it. A strong juxtaposition has been used between the train and the natural world. In contrast to the first poem, the poet does not seemingly have a positive tone towards the poem. She does not have a liking for it. She describes it as superfluous and explicitly brings out the negative portrayal of the train. She doesn’t like the way in which it carves space out so as to fit its own ribs and in the long run transform the natural world to meet its own self centered needs. The poet carefully chooses the diction in bringing out the negative aspects of the train like, “…horrid,” “hooting,” and even “complaining.” While on its downhill movement, he describes it as “chasing itself.
” Its great power irritates and disturbs them. The poet is almost pedantic in vocabulary use. A poem which in the real sense is something ordinary has been turned into something that is extraordinary through the description used. The poet has used natural images in describing this thing that has almost been named in the pun. It is first described as a cat which laps and licks. The overriding metaphor in the poem though seems to be comparing the horse. Much of the analogy use is in comparison to the horse (Kennedy and Gioia 427). The two poems therefore exhibit much imagery and personification in particular.
Rhyme has also been used in the poem to bring out the musicality in the poem just as it is in the first poem. The heading in itself is a metaphor as well as it has been used symbolically.
Kennedy, John and Gioia, Dana. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, 6th Compact Edition. New York: Pearson, Longman, 2010.