Walt Whitman's "Patroling Barnegat"

Updated on November 22, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Walt Whitman

Source

Introduction and Text of "Patroling Barnegat"

Walt Whitman's "Patroling Barnegat" is an American sonnet, also called an Innovative sonnet. Unlike the English and Italian sonnet forms, the American sonnet always features a much looser form. While the English sonnet is sectioned into three quatrains and a couplet and the Italian is sectioned into octave and sestet, the American sonnets can only be subdivided into "movements."

These movements depend solely on the sonnet's total environment. While some American sonnets may move in ways similar to the English and Italian, they never feature the entire body of the early sonnet forms.

Whitman's American sonnet moves on present participles, "running," "muttering," "pealing," etc. The speaker is observing a wildly active situation and in order to convey the activity he keeps his descriptions moving through a piling on of the verbs.

Patroling Barnegat

Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering,
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing,
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing,
Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering,
On beachy slush and sand spirts of snow fierce slanting,
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind breasting,
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing,
(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?)

Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending,
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering,
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting,
That savage trinity warily watching.

Reading of "Patroling Barnegat"

Commentary

This American (also called Innovative) sonnet demonstrates the power of the verb form known as the present participle. The speaker is dramatizing the turbulence of a severe storm on the ocean.

First Movement: Setting the Scene

Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running,
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant undertone muttering,
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing,
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing,

The first movement of Whitman's "Patroling Barnegat" includes the poem's introductory element of depicting the subject: "Wild, wild the storm, and the sea high running." The speaker is dramatizing the event of patroling the stormy waters of Barnegat Bay, off the coast of New Jersey. The speaker emphasizes the severity of the storm by repeating the word "wild." He shows the sea being whipped up in a frenzy which causes a "roar of the gale," while a background noise creates an "incessant undertone" that seems to be "muttering."

The noises bedevil the speaker; thus he calls them "shouts of demoniac laughter." These sounds seem to pierce to speaker's ears. He then invokes a "trinity" of "waves, air, midnight," calling them the "savagest" that lash the sea vessel and the men who are manning it.

Second Movement: Drama of the Waves

Out in the shadows there milk-white combs careering,
On beachy slush and sand spirts of snow fierce slanting,
Where through the murk the easterly death-wind breasting,
Through cutting swirl and spray watchful and firm advancing,

The second movement includes the drama of the waves as they appear "out of the shadows"; he calls them "milk-white combs" as they come "careering." He then observes that over the "beachy slush" there are "sand spirts of snow" that come in "slanting" as they move inland.

The storm creates a murkiness through which "the easterly death-wind" comes "breasting." As the patrol-boat plunges through the storm and snow-filled air, it seems to be "cutting" its way through as the men remain vigilant.

Third Movement: Two Questions

(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?)

The third movement, which consists of a single parenthetical line, dissects the sonnet to pose two questions regarding the sighting of a possible disaster. The speaker wonders if there is something "in the distance." And if so, "is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?" The very purpose of the patrol is to search for people who might be in trouble on the sea during the storm.

Fourth Movement: A Drama of Tension

Slush and sand of the beach tireless till daylight wending,
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge by those milk-white combs careering,
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting,
That savage trinity warily watching.

The final movement consists of the final five lines that dramatize the tension between the beach of "slush and sand" and that savage trinity of "waves, air, and midnight." The patrol has lasted all night and finally at the "midnight edge" still "those milk-white combs" continue "careering." The speaker concludes by invoking the image of "a group of dim, weird forms" that persists in flailing about in the night as the "savage trinity" continues to watch.

Walt Whitman Stamp - USA - 1940

Source

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

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)