Study Guide

The Seafarer Winter Weather

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Winter Weather

Our speaker is definitely under the weather. In fact, he makes the winter weather that troubles him during his sea journey seem like a violent and powerful force. The poem pulls out all the stops to help us feel, hear, and see the same things the seafarer does: relentless cold and violent, howling storms. But is this winter weather just the weather? Or is it something else – something more powerful? When we think about the sea in the poem as being metaphorical, we can't help but apply that same thinking to the winter weather. So what do you think it might represent?

  • Line 8: The speaker says that he has known the "terrible tossing of the waves." The alliteration, or repeated "t" sounds, links back to the "troublesome times" in line 3. These phrases also share the same verb, "known," which further links them. These connections emphasize how the speaker's troubles are related to (or maybe even represented by) the rough ocean conditions.
  • Lines 8-10: In a metaphor, the speaker describes his feet as "fettered by cold" and "bound by frost in cold clasps." The frost and cold become handcuffs or ropes around the speaker's feet. Clearly this icy weather has got our guy feeling trapped.
  • Lines 13-15: The speaker says that he dwelt on the ice-cold sea "for a winter." Winter is a slight pun here, or at the very least uses two meanings of the word, since it is not only the length of time the speaker was at sea, but also the weather conditions.
  • Line 16: When the speaker describes himself as "hung about with icicles," he compares himself to a building in a subtle metaphor. Plus, you just can't help but imagine a burly dude with icicles for a beard. What a great image.
  • Line 17: Saying that "hail flew in showers" makes the hail seem even more intense and ominous, since it doesn't just fall, it flies.
  • Lines 17-18: Using vivid sound imagery, the speaker describes hearing nothing but the "roaring sea" and the "ice-cold wave." This sea is so frigid that you can actually hear the cold. Yikes.
  • Line 22: Saying the storms "beat" the cliff might be a personification, since we usually think of a physical fight when we use this word. The great thing about this line is that it also makes use of sound imagery; we might think of the word "beat" as a drumbeat, in which case the storm is making an awful racket.
  • Line 32: The speaker tells how "frost bound the ground" in a metaphor similar to the one in lines 8-10. This time, though, it's the ground, not the speaker, who's being constrained by the handcuffs of winter weather.
  • Line 33: The speaker calls hail the "coldest of grains," which is an odd connection to make. It seems a bit ironic to Shmoop, because bread nourishes, while this hail does nothing but make our speaker totally miserable.

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