The Role of Assonance in Geographical Poetry


Assonance, or the repetition of vowel sounds, is a powerful literary device that has long been used in poetry to evoke emotion and create vivid imagery. When it comes to geographical poetry, assonance plays a crucial role in capturing the essence of a place and conveying it to the reader.

Geographical poetry is a genre that celebrates the beauty and uniqueness of a particular location. It can range from ancient epics like Homer’s Odyssey to modern haikus about a specific city or landscape. What sets this genre apart from others is its focus on creating a sense of place and immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, and feelings of that location.

In geographical poetry, assonance is often used to paint a sonic landscape, allowing the reader to hear the echoes of the place being described. Just like how a painter uses different shades to create a visual representation, the poet uses assonance to create a melodic representation of a place. By repeating vowel sounds, the poet creates a rhythm and pace that mimics the natural sounds of the location, making it come alive in the reader’s mind.

Consider this excerpt from “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”

The repetition of the short “a” sound throughout the first line mimics the gentle lapping of the river, giving it a serene and dreamy quality. The long “e” sound in “decree” and “Alph” adds a sense of grandeur and royalty, fitting for the ruler of the land. As the poem continues, the use of assonance continues to create a soundscape that transports the reader to the mysterious and enchanting world of Kubla Khan.

Another example is “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W.B. Yeats:

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

The repetition of the long “o” sound in the first and second line gives a sense of longing and sets a calm and meditative tone. As the poem progresses, the use of assonance creates a gentle and soothing rhythm, much like the sound of a lullaby, transporting the reader to the peaceful Lake Isle of Innisfree.

In geographical poetry, assonance also plays a crucial role in highlighting the unique features of a place. For example, the use of repetitive vowel sounds in describing the harsh and rugged terrain of a mountain range can symbolize its power and grandeur. Similarly, the soft and flowing sounds can represent the gentle curves of a river or the tranquility of a beach.

Assonance can also evoke emotions and feelings associated with a particular place. In “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, the use of assonance in describing the desolate and barren land adds to the sense of hopelessness and despair felt by the speaker. On the other hand, in “The Tyger” by William Blake, the use of repetitive “i” sounds in the last stanza creates a sense of tension and fear, befitting the beast’s ferocity.

In conclusion, geographical poetry relies on assonance to create a sensory landscape that captures the essence of a place and conveys it to the reader. It allows the poet to paint a vivid picture using words and transport the reader to a different world. So, the next time you read a geographical poem, pay attention to the repetitive sounds and let yourself be swept away by the melody of the words.