"Sound and Sense" takes on writing as its main subject. The speaker, who is both a poet and a literary critic, proposes that great writing is a cultivated art and that sound must fit the content. The majority of the poem gives examples of these two claims, using the ancient writers to support his cause while also giving an example through his own verse. The poem teaches us how to read poetry: to look for the way the sound helps create the meaning.
Writing is an art, but an art grounded in nature.
This poem argues that individual poems take precedence over general rules about poetry; for example, sound is so important to the meaning of a poem that regular meter must sometimes be broken.