How the Elements of Poetry Indicate Tone

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Tone can be defined as the attitude that a poem's speaker takes toward the poem's subject (Marchbank). Interpreting the tone of a poem can be very difficult, because one must weigh all the elements of poetry to read its tone. The tone of a poem shapes the ideas the poem is communicating, so misreading the tone is misreading the entire poem. In the poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night," by Dylan Thomas, diction and form serve to create the tone of the poem. In William Wordsworth's poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," imagery aids in determining the tone of the poem. Rhyme scheme and rhythm are used to shape the tone in John Donne's poem, "The Flea." The influence of diction and form on the overall tone of a poem is illustrated in Thomas's poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night." Diction refers to the particular choices of words. The use of specific words in a poem serves to create a tone. Thomas wrote this poem to his dying father to persuade his father to fight death. In the poem, Thomas uses strong, powerful words, such as "burn" and "rage." These words suggest an urgency in his plea. He begins the four middle stanzas with a description of a certain type of person. He uses "wise men," "good men," "wild men," and "grave men" (Thomas 927), to explain to his father different reasons for fighting for his life. Each of the four stanzas are used to make a different point, which shows that Thomas is trying to take many different approaches to inspiring his father. In the last stanza of the poem, the tone changes dramatically. Thomas begins to beg his father, saying "Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray" (Thomas 927). The way he adds, "I pray," reveals that his tone is becoming more desperate. He is now begging his father to shout at him and take his anger out on him, rather than give in to death. This poem also follows the strict form of a villanelle. A villanelle consists of six rhymed stanzas in which two lines are repeated in a...
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