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BALLAD, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"O What Is That Sound Which So Thrills the Ear" is a haunting and enigmatic ballad written by Wystan Hugh Auden. The poem was first published in 1932, and it has since become one of Auden's most famous and widely anthologized works.

The poem is structured as a dialogue between two characters, one of whom hears a mysterious and unsettling sound in the distance while the other seems uninterested or oblivious to it. The poem is notable for its ambiguity, as it is never clear what the sound represents or what is causing it. This ambiguity creates a sense of unease and tension, drawing the reader into the mystery of the poem.

One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of fear and the ways in which it can consume us. The character who hears the sound is clearly frightened by it, and the repeated refrain of "O what is that sound" creates a sense of panic and urgency. The poem suggests that fear can be all-consuming, making us unable to focus on anything else or to think clearly.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of powerlessness. The character who hears the sound is clearly powerless to do anything about it, and the other character seems similarly unable or unwilling to act. The poem suggests that there are forces in the world that are beyond our control and that can overwhelm us with their power.

The poem is also notable for its use of sound and rhythm. The repeated refrain of "O what is that sound" creates a sense of urgency and panic, while the short lines and simple, monosyllabic words give the poem a kind of rhythmic intensity. The poem's use of sound and rhythm creates a sense of tension and unease, drawing the reader into the mystery of the poem.

Overall, "O What Is That Sound Which So Thrills the Ear" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores some of the most fundamental aspects of human experience, including fear, powerlessness, and the mysteries of the world around us. Through its haunting imagery and enigmatic dialogue, the poem invites us to contemplate the nature of fear and the ways in which it can consume us.


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