Study Guide

Central Heating Sound Check

By Pierre Reverdy

Sound Check

We're going to have to trust our translator a little bit on this one, because the poem as it is in English surely sounds different than it did in French. For example, the title of the poem in French—"Chauffage Central"—really rolls off the tongue in a way that "Central Heating" just… doesn't.

Yet there's still plenty of sound to savor when you read this poem aloud. How about some assonance for starters? There are so many long I sounds here in the words "light," and "strike," and "wide" and "I." This uplifting, long I carries us through the word "light," which is a hopeful, central metaphor in a poem that's often quite sorrowful.

We've also got lots of examples of alliteration in the poem. Check out lines 23-25, where the P sound is repeated in "perfect purity," the C sound repeated in "copper" and "conducts," and the S sound repeated in "sun" and "same substance." These words, paired by their beginning sounds, seem to reflect the pairing of the speaker and his beloved in the poem. Perhaps, as these sounds subtly suggest, there's hope after all.

Another interesting aspect of the sound of this poem is how the line length shakes things up. Try reading the short lines aloud. They should come out slowly, almost choppily, which makes sense since they all stand out as part of the speaker's break with reality. It's the longer lines, like the second line and the last line, that draw us in to the speaker, providing us with details. But we don't get bogged down by these lines. Their length seems to draw us on and give us a rhythmic, sonic momentum as we get excited to read to the end of them.

All in all, though the speaker's views of the world and his romantic life seem to be shaken, the poem's sounds seem relatively harmonious. In this subtle way, Reverdy seems to suggest that there's still hope in the face of the bleak view that the speaker seems to have adopted.

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