Episode 211 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Sound first, meaning second:
  • In the second stanza, while the basic rhythmic pattern doesn’t change from the first stanza, so that it maintains the regularity of meter, though some multisyllables are treated as single feet.
  • By keeping the words mostly monosyllabic, it allows the meter to stay very regular and fixed.
  • Note: The English language has a naturally iambic pattern, so monosyllabic English words tend to lend themselves to iambic meter in both prose and poetry, and especially if spoken aloud.
  • The multisyllable construction of the first stanza’s third line and the second stanza’s second line parallel one another, including the rhyme between “meadow” and “yellow” internally.
  • Note: The near rhyme of “were” and “hair” would be closer in Tolkien’s English than in the typical American pronunciation, though it is still not a perfect rhyme in modern British dialects.
  • The fact that the terminal rhyme in the second stanza is a weak rhyme must be deliberate. The internal rhymes of “gossamer” and “autumn” is stronger than the terminal rhymes.
  • The double alliteration in line three of stanza two are more noticeable than any in the first stanza, because the words are paired together, unlike the more subtle ones earlier.
  • The first and second stanzas work together as a pair as if they were all a rhyming quatrain, which is indicated by the internal relationship between their respective third and first lines.
  • The multiple liquid sounds in “yellow leaves” force the speaker to slow down the pace.
  • When added together, the period at the end of the second stanza shows the end of that pair.
The changing of the seasons:
  • A similar relationship is shown in the parallel construction of line four of stanza one and line two of stanza two, and the parallel of summers and autumns show the passage of time.
  • Summers are in present perfect tense, while autumns are in past tense, and though both look backwards in time, this places the autumns more firmly and distantly in the past.
  • As this is right after the winter solstice, summer and autumn are now in the past for that year.
  • The distance placed on the autumns make them less personal and present to Bilbo.
  • The paralleled summer and autumn objects are different in that the summer things are alive, while the autumn things are dead or inanimate, therefore a parallel between life and death.
  • The “gossamer” must refer to spiderwebs, which fits the pattern of plant/insect in summer.
  • This not only invokes the images that hobbits saw as they left Buckland in early autumn, but also is a reminder of the spiders and butterflies in The Hobbit, though now in a positive light.
  • The silver sun would only be a phenomenon that happens in cold, cloudy weather of autumn.
  • The last two lines of stanza two places himself within the images of autumn, not in the present.
  • However, Bilbo does not describe anything that he did during those times, only as an observer.
  • There is a move from mere visual imagery to incorporating the other senses in his memories.
  • Note: This use of rhyming couplets to create a sense of closure is often a feature of Shakespeare and came into general usage through his influence over English literature more broadly.
  • This allows the final two lines of the second stanza to act as a coda for all the first two stanzas.
  • Note: Tolkien’s love of alliteration followed directly from his study of Anglo-Saxon poetry and literature but is now uncommon for it to be used in modern literature outside children’s books.