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The Castaway by William Cowper
Transcript of The Castaway by William Cowper
Meagan London-Boche "The Castaway"
William Cowper William Cowper The Castaway Cowper's Early Life Imagery
Imagery is used throughout the poem, but especially in lines 1-2 where the speaker describes the stormy sea in order to create a feeling of being vulnerable:
Obscurest night involved the sky, / The Atlantic billows roared”
Climax is used in line 5 to emphasize everything that the speaker and the sailor have lost:
“Of friends, of hope, of all bereft”
Cacophony is used in lines 21-20 to emphasize the intensity of the storm both physically and metaphorically:
“But so the furious blast prevailed, / That, pitiless perforce” The Poem Based off of a passage in George Anson’s book Voyage, “The Castaway” is a metaphor for depression- comparing depression to a drowning sailor. Cowper's Later Life After recovering in St. Albans, Cowper moved to Huntingdon where he befriended Morely and Mary Unwin. Shortly after this, Morely was killed after falling off of his horse.
In 1773, Cowper relapsed into a period of insanity. However, he was still good friends with Mary Unwin who nursed Cowper back to health.
In 1796, Mary passed away hitting Cowper with another devastating blow.
Cowper would write his final poem, “The Castaway,” in 1799, and would die a year later. by
William Cowper Cowper’s struggles began at the age of 6 when his mother died.
Hoping to satisfy his father, he later tried to pursue a career in law. However, upon facing an examination with the House of Lords, he attempted suicide several times.
Following this, Cowper was sent to St. Alban’s asylum where he grew in his faith. Depressed for the majority of his life, William Cowper suffered a life of tragedy and depression.
Cowper’s struggle with depression is depicted in many of his poems especially in his last composition, “The Castaway.” Obscurest night involved the sky,
The Atlantic billows roared,
When such a destined wretch as I,
Washed headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast,
With warmer wishes sent.
He loved them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away;
But waged with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.
He shouted: nor his friends had failed
To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevailed,
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford;
And, such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
Delayed not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
Whate'er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seemed, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent power,
His destiny repelled;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried - Adieu!
At length, his transient respite past,
His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in every blast,
Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page
Of narrative sincere,
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.
No voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he. Stanzas 1-3 Stanzas 1-3 set up the scene of a stormy night and a sailor being washed overboard.
The speaker of the poem is also introduced in stanza 1 where he claims that he and the sailor are “destined wretch[es]” (line 1).
These stanzas support the idea that being depressed is miserable and feels like one is in a storm. Stanzas 4-6 Stanzas 4-6 describe how the sailor calls out for help to his friends aboard the ship but they are unable to rescue him due to the storm.
This portrays the idea that one may call out for help when suffering from severe sadness but help may never come. Stanzas 7-8 Stanzas 7-8 depict the sailor fighting against the waves but eventually his strength escapes him and the sailor drowns.
This idea represents that without help, depression is strong enough to make someone to give up their life. Stanzas 9-11 In Stanzas 9-11, the speaker relates his misery to that of the sailor.
It is here that the reader finally learns the true purpose for poem and understands the poet’s desire to link depression and drowning. Poetic Devices Poetic Devices (Cont.) Allusion
Allusion is used in line 52 to pay tribute to the tragic story off which Cowper based this poem:
“[The page] is wet with Anson’s tear”
While the entire poem is a metaphor for depression, the greatest instance of this can be seen in lines 65-66 which accentuates the speaker’s misery:
“But I beneath a rougher sea, / And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.” Conclusion Through the analysis of William Cowper’s life, readers can understand Cowper’s desire to let out his last bit of sorrow in his last work, “The Castaway.”
“The Castaway” proves to be a metaphor for depression where the speaker expresses his sorrow through the scene of a drowning sailor. Works Cited Cowper, William. "The Castaway." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th. Julia Reidhead.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2012. 3077-3078. Print.