An Analysis of the Poem 'Silver' (1913) by Walter De La Mare

Updated on February 8, 2019
Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis studied for a B.A (Hons) in English Literature after taking early retirement. She was awarded her degree at the age of 67.

Photo © Steve Fareham (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Photo © Steve Fareham (cc-by-sa/2.0)

'Silver' (1913) by Walter de la Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees;

One by one the casements catch

Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;

Couched in his kennel, like a log,

With paws of silver sleeps the dog;

From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep

Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;

A harvest mouse goes scampering by,

With silver claws, and silver eye;

A moveless fish in the water gleams

By silver reeds in a silver stream.

"Peacock Pie"—a Book of Children’s Rhymes

Walter de la Mare (1873 to 1956) was an English writer of fiction and poetry for both adult and children. In a poll conducted by The Bookworm programme in 1995 to find the Nation's favourite poem, his poem Silver was voted number 63 out of the top 100 poems. The poem was first published In a book of delightful children’s rhymes titled Peacock Pie, in 1913. This anthology has been republished several times, most recently by Faber and Faber in 2015.

Imagery in the Poem 'Silver'

One of the delights of poetry is finding a particularly powerful image. Many early 20th-century poets prioritised this aspect of their creative writing by finding powerful images to stimulate the senses and imagination of their readers. The poem 'Silver' is notable for the exquisite visual imagery within the lines.

The moon is personified and characterised as female (note the use of the word she). The moon is slowly peering into every nook and cranny almost like a slow-moving searchlight. Nothing escapes her beam—the fruit on the trees, the casement lights of the buildings, the dog in the kennel and the doves in the dovecote.

The poem is subtly located in time and place - the 'harvest mouse' suggests the season and the implied location is rural - there are fruit trees, a dovecote, and a stream with fish. The ambience of the location is quiet and hushed - the dog and doves are sleeping, and the fish are 'moveless'.

Techniques used to create imagery in the poem include -

  • The repeated use of the word 'silver' - nine repetitions plus one 'silvery'. All has been transformed to silver by the moon - the fruit on the trees, the windows, the dogs paws, the doves feathers, the eyes and claws of the field mouse, the fish, the reeds and the water in the stream.
  • The literary stylistics device of the alliterated sibilant letter 's', which makes a hissing sound, encouraging the use of a hushed voice, consistent with the location of the poem at night. The effect that is produced emphasises the mysterious, almost uncanny, nature of the effect of a silver moon on all that falls under her light.
  • The extended metaphors. In lines 1-6; the moon is a female wearing silver shoes (shoon) to walk through the night, inspecting all in her path. In the lines that follow, the features of the animals and the fruit are not like silver - they have been transformed into silver by the moonlight.


Other Poetic Devices in 'Silver'

  • Enjambment - used at the end of lines 1,3,5 and 13. In this poem the technique of enjambment prevents emphasis from being placed on the end rhymes of the lines, because the lack of punctuation means that there is no pause between the end of the line and the start of the line that follows it.Tip - read the poem out loud paying attention the enjambment. You will find that the sound and rhythm are quite different than if you allow the lines to rhyme.
  • Similie - the dog sleeps like a log (lines 7/8). Creates an image in the mind of the reader of both the physical shape and the immobility of the sleeping dog .

The Form of the Poem 'Silver'

  • Fourteen lines, comprised of seven rhyming couplets. This structure is very loosely based on a traditional sonnet form but note that this is where the similarity to the sonnet form ends - the poem does not fulfil the requirements for the line length, rhythm or rhyme of a sonnet.
  • End rhyme pattern:- aabbccddeeffgghh
  • Line lengths in syllables - 8/8/8/8/7/8/8/8/10/9/9/8/9/9

The poem 'Silver' was first published in 1913 in Walter de la Mare's book of children's rhymes 'Peacock Pie'. The collection has been described in The Times as 'surely one of the greatest children's books of the century'.

Romanticism in Poetry

The heyday of the romantic period in literature had drawn to a close by the mid nineteenth century, before Walter de la Mare was born (1873). Nevertheless, he is regarded by many as an exemplar of romanticism in the literary form. Nowadays, there is a tendency to associate 'romanticism' with love but in literary terms it is associated with the imagination and the way in which we perceive the world around us. Within these parameters, I would argue that Silver is a romantic poem. De la Mare has closely observed the transformative phenomenon of a silver moon on the natural world, the creatures that inhabit it, and on inanimate objects. Silver is an example of the extraordinary power, ascribed to him in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to evoke the evanescent moments in life.


His greatest concern was the creation of a dreamlike tone implying a tangible but nonspecific transcendent reality.

— Poetry Foundation
Walter de la Mare (foreground) with W.B.Yeats.
Walter de la Mare (foreground) with W.B.Yeats. | Source

Awards Given to Walter de la Mare OM CH

James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1921)

Carnegie Medal (1947)

Companion of Honour (1948)

Order of Merit (1953)

Questions & Answers

  • Have you ever been accused of plagiarism when writing about a poem?

    No. But I don’t write about poems that are protected by copyright. If you want to include the full text of a poem that is copyrighted you should seek permission via the publisher. Nor do I copy text from articles by other writers. If I draw on the work of other writers I give appropriate credit in a bibliography, using the Harvard format.

© 2019 GlenR

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    6 months ago from The Caribbean

    I share your love of poetry from the Romantic era. The image of the silver moon transferring its silvery quality onto a variety of objects is adorable. Beautiful poem, and your appreciation of its poetic attributes is done with excellence. Takes me back to the good old days of English Literature classes. Thanks!

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 

    6 months ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

    A wonderful poem and a very well written analysis.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    6 months ago from UK

    You have given a thorough analysis of Silver. It takes me back to my English Literature student days.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)