Comparison of Whitman and Dickenson Poems

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America experienced profound changes during the mid 1800's. New technologies and ideas helped the nation grow, while the Civil War ripped the nation apart. During this tumultuous period, two great American writers captured their ideas in poetry. Their poems give us insight into the time period, as well as universal insight about life. Although polar opposites in personality, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman created similar poetry. Dickinson's "Hope is a Thing with Feathers" and Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" share many qualities.

"Hope is a Thing with Feathers" and "O Captain! My Captain!" contain a similar scansion. Both have a predominantly iambic meter. The unaccented beat followed by the accented beat creates a rising meter. Each poem also contains notable exceptions to the iambic meter. In "Hope is a Thing with Feathers," the first line ‘Hope is the thing' contains a trochee followed by an iamb. "O Captain! My Captain!" contains even more exceptions to the iambic meter. Line 5, ‘But O heart! heart! heart!' consists of an imperfect root followed by two spondees, or feet with two equally accented syllables. Both Line 6 ‘O the bleeding drops of red' and line 8 ‘Fallen cold and dead' have trochaic meters with an imperfect root at the end. The remainder of the poem has an iambic meter until the last two lines: ‘Walk the deck my Captain lies, /Fallen cold and dead.' The iambic meter makes the poem rise until the end where the switch to trochaic meter helps emphasize the conclusion of the poem.

Along with the irregularities in meter, neither poem has a regular line length or rhyming pattern. Dickinson's poem contains alternating tetrameters and trimeters, with the exception of the first line, which contains 7 syllables. The poem contains some irregular rhyme; ‘heard' in line 5 rhymes with ‘bird' in line 7, and ‘Sea' in line 10 rhymes with ‘Me' in line 12. Whitman's poem contains even more irregular line lengths. The first 4 lines of each...
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