To Althea, from Prison
Careful, you might slip on all the liquid in this poem! There's the "flowing cups" of wine, which aren't diluted with any water (symbolized by the Thames), the "deep" (which contains fish that "tipple"), and the "flood" of the third stanza. Sometimes liquids illustrate the speaker's lively imagination, as in the second stanza's little party, at other times they are used as points of comparison (the speaker's voice is stronger than a wind that ruffles water, his liberty greater than what fish enjoy in the "deep"). In every case, though, liquid imagery helps to get across the freedom that our speaker enjoys while in jail.
- Lines 9-10: The speaker and his friends enjoy "flowing cups" with "no allaying Thames." The Thames here is a metaphor for water in general, which was often used to dilute wine.
- Line 13: "Thirsty grief" is steeped "in wine." Grief can't really be "thirsty," so this is an example of personification, the attribution of a human quality to a non-human thing.
- Line 14: "Healths and draughts" are words used when drinking alcohol. They make us think of liquid. They also "go free," which makes us think of the speaker's unchained imagination.
- Lines 15-16: Not even the fish that "tipple" (drink) in the "deep" (the ocean) enjoy the same liberty as the speaker and his friends. The fish here are a symbol of wild animals everywhere, that tend to enjoy a whole lot of freedom.
- Line 23: The speaker describes "enlargèd winds, that curl the flood." The winds symbolize a phenomenon that is really free and really, really powerful, powerful enough to affect a body of water ("the flood"), which is powerful in its own right.