What poetic techniques are used in Vance Palmer's poem "The Farmer Remembers the Somme"? I all ready have juxtaposition, personification, repetition and imagery. But i am looking for more.

Will they never fade or pass!
The mud, and the misty figures endlessly coming
In file through the foul morass,
And the grey flood-water ripping the reeds and grass,
And the steel wings drumming.

The hills are bright in the sun:
There's nothing changed or marred in the well-known places;
When work for the day is done
There's talk, and quiet laughter, and gleams of fun
On the old folks' faces.

I have returned to these:
The farm, and the kindly Bush, and the young calves lowing;
But all that my mind sees
Is a quaking bog in a mist - stark, snapped trees,
And the dark Somme flowing.

  • 1
    Alliteration - mud, mist & morass Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 9:28

1 Answer 1


Running down a short list of poetic and rhetorical techniques, I find in this poem instances of alliteration (fade, figures, file, foul, flood), enjambment (coming / in file), hypallage (quaking), metaphor (steel wings), rhyme (pass, morass, grass), and rhythm. With a longer list I am sure that you could find more.

Let me take the last of these, rhythm, in a bit more detail. The first step in analyzing rhythm is scansion, the usual approach in English being to mark the stressed (/) and unstressed (x) syllables. Then the lines can be divided into feet. Not everyone agrees that feet are meaningful in English prosody, but it makes it easier to write about the rhythmic variation, since there’s standard terminology for writing about feet.

 x     x   /     x   /     x   /
Will they nev- | er fade | or pass!
  x  /     x     x  /      x  /     x    /       x   x  /     x
The mud, | and the mis- | ty fig- | ures end- | lessly com- | ing
x   /        x      x  /      x /
In file | through the foul | morass,
x     x   /      /    x     x   /      x     x  /      x     /
And the grey | flood-wat- | er rip- | ping the reeds | and grass,
x     x   /      /      /      x
And the steel | wings drum- | ming.

The general rhythm is iambic, but there are frequent substitutions with anapests (through the foul), and occasional substitutions with trochees (flood-wat-) and spondees (wings drum-). The frequent rhythmic substitutions could suggest the soldiers stumbling in the difficult terrain, or limping with injuries.

There is a spondee in the last line of each stanza, resulting in three consecutive stressed syllables. In the first stanza, these slow beats could suggest the explosions of the artillery barrage (the ‘steel wings drumming’). In the second, perhaps they indicate the farmer’s difficulty in articulating his experiences to the ‘old folks’.

The second and fifth lines of each stanza have ‘hypercataletic’ or ‘feminine’ endings (that is, with an extra syllable following the last complete foot). These trailing endings could suggest the figures disappearing into mist in the first stanza, the farmer’s aporia in the second, and the river flowing away in the third.

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