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Line 1, “A song, a poem of itself – the word itself a dirge”: I would classify this as a chiasmus. Chiasmus literally means “criss-cross”, and is a variation of parallelism where words or phrases are repeated in inverse word order. I’m taking this to a more conceptual level, as I see “song” and “dirge” mirroring one another as musical concepts, while “poem” and “word” mirror one another textually. The repetition of “itself” chains it together nicely.


Line 1, “dirge”: 1 : a song or hymn of grief or lamentation; especially : one intended to accompany funeral or memorial rites
2 : a slow, solemn, and mournful piece of music
3 : something (as a poem) that has the qualities of a dirge



Line 3, “tableaux”: 1 : a graphic description or representation : picture
2 : a striking or artistic grouping : arrangement, scene
3 [short for tableau vivant (from French, literally, living picture)] : a depiction of a scene usually presented on a stage by silent and motionless costumed participants


Line 5, “I see swarms of stalwart chieftains”: This is an example of alliteration, the repetition of an initial consonant sound, in this case the letter “s”.


Line 6, “AS flitting by like clouds of ghosts”: A rare instance where Walt uses simile, to compare one thing to another, disimilar thing using “like” or “as”, in this comparing the “swarms of stalwart chieftains, medicine-men, and warriors” to “clouds of ghosts”


Line 12, “Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost”: An example of polysndeton, the repetition of conjunctions. In this case, it is the repetition of “and”.


Additional examples of asyndeton (ommission of conjunctions”) and alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sound):

Asyndeton: Line 8: “No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the future”

Alliteration and asyndeton: Line 10: “the cities, farms, factories fade”

1 0

[The sense of the word is lament for the aborigines. It is an Iroquois term; and has been used for a personal name.]

2 7

A song, a poem of itself the word itself a dirge,
Amid the wilds, the rocks, the storm and wintry night,
To me such misty, strange tableaux the syllables calling up;
Yonnondio I see, far in the west or north, a limitless ravine,
with plains and mountains dark,
I see swarms of stalwart chieftains, medicine-men, and warriors,
As flitting by like clouds of ghosts, they pass and are gone in the
(Race of the woods, the landscapes free, and the falls!
No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the future:)
Yonnondio! Yonnondio! unlimnd they disappear;
To-day gives place, and fades the cities, farms, factories fade;
A muffled sonorous sound, a wailing word is borne through the
air for a moment,
Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost.