The Great Storm

The Great Storm

By Jo Shapcott

We rode it all night. We were not ourselves then.

Through the window everything was horizontal.
In cars and ships and woods, folk died.
Small trees scattered like matchsticks
and a whole shed flew by. The world roared.
A branch broke into the kitchen,
strewed twigs into the banging cupboard,
filled broken crocks with leaves. I heard
a tricycle roll up and down the attic as
the firmament streamed through smashed tiles.

I loved you but I loved the wind more,
wanted to be as horizontal as the tree tops,
to cling to the planet by my last fingernail,
singing into the rush, into the dark.
I didn’t know then I would watch
my beloveds peel off the earth

each side of me, flying among tiles, bins,
caravans, car doors and chimney pots,
watch them turn themselves into flotsam
and disappear as wholly as the pier
the next morning, a Friday, mid-
October. Gone, split, vamoosed
like the fifteen million trees.

Summary of The Great Storm

  • Popularity of “The Great Storm”: “The Great Storm” by Jo Shapcott, a great English poet and writer, is a reflective poem. The first appeared in 1987. It explores the damaging outcome of a natural calamity that how it changes the existing worldview. It also highlights the negative impacts of this tragic situation on the speaker’s life. Although the writer is set to discuss a common phenomenon in this simple poem, its relevance with life and universality is what makes this poem worth reading.
  • “The Great Storm”, As a Representative of Violent Nature: The poem revolves around the horrific storm that left a permanent mark on the speaker’s memory. It begins when the speaker explains the power of that great storm. Then, she explains the dreadful damages that it brought to the earth. The forceful winds make everything look horizontal from the window. People traveling by cars or ships die at the hands of wild nature. Tall and strong trees get scattered like matchsticks. It also hits the speaker’s house; her shed, attic, and kitchen window face severe damages. However, ironically, the sad tone of the poem becomes exciting when she tries to connect her desires with the violent storm. She wishes to float horizontally in the air; she shows love for the rush and darkness of the storm. Unlike a strong gust of wind, she desires to fly over different objects and wants to disappear as the storm does.
  • Major Themes in “The Great Storm”: Natural disasters and their impacts, troubling life, and strange desires are the significant themes crafted in the poem. Apparently, the poem underpins the grave damages caused by a violent storm. However, on a deeper level, the storm metaphorically represents the speaker’s inner desires. It reflects how she wants violence toward the world for some time. It seems that she is desperate to show her aggression, craziness, and wildness to the unruly world before she reaches her ultimate end.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Great Storm”

literary devices create unique poetic pieces. With the help of these devices, the writers express themselves. The analysis of the devices used in the poem is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ and /o/ in “I loved you but I loved the wind more” and again the sound of /e/ in “October. Gone, split, vamoosed.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /b/ in “A branch broke.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “watch them turn themselves into flotsam” and the sound of /r/ in “the firmament streamed through smashed tiles.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example:

I didn’t know then I would watch
my beloveds peel off the earth
each side of me, flying among tiles, bins,
caravans, car doors and chimney pots.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Jo Shapcott has used imagery in this poem such as “my beloveds peel off the earth”, “A branch broke into the kitchen,” and “In cars and ships and woods, folk died.”
  2. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. The speaker has used situational irony in the third stanza of the poem where it is stated as;

I loved you but I loved the wind more,
wanted to be as horizontal as the tree tops.”

  1. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet has used storm as an extended metaphor just to show it brings ruination to the flat surface of the earth.
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified the world saying that it roars. This shows the poet has blessed the world with emotions and a life of its own.
  3. Simile: It is a device used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Jo has used this device in the second stanza of the poem such as “Small trees scattered like matchsticks.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The storm symbolizes troubles, sufferings, and pain we as, humans, face in life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Great Storm”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The poem shows descriptive diction having rhetoric devices, symbolism, and impressive images.
  2. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Although this is an end rhyme poem, yet it contains rhyming words such as; “sod/God” and “bestow/show.”
  3. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem with each having different lines.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from poem, “The Great Storm” are used to recall any natural calamity one has witnessed in the past.

“Through the window everything was horizontal.
In cars and ships and woods, folk died.
Small trees scattered like matchsticks
and a whole shed flew by. The world roared.”