Critical appreciation of “Look, Stranger!”

Critical appreciation of “Look, Stranger!”

WH Auden is a poet of the age of anxiety. He is primarily a satirist. fundamentally a romantic and successful poet in light verse. His poetry, to quote David Perkins, “puzzles and eludes as much as it astonishes and attracts.” Published in 1936, Auden’s famous poem “Look. Stranger!” is such a poem that justifies the above citation. The poem lyrically expresses the scenic splendor of the sea-shore that appeals to our imagination and please our emotions. In fact, the poem begins with the idea of being didactic and ends in being almost romantic.

Structurally, “Look. Stranger!” consists of three stanzas, each of which is characterized by the poet’s ecstatic flight of fancy. In the opening stanza, Auden talks to a stranger and draws. his attention to the joy he may derive from the scene of the sea-side where he is standing alone. He asks the stranger to stand steadily and remain speechless so that he may see and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the sunlight. leaping with the waves of the sea. He may also listen to the sound of the surging waves, which will bring joy to his mind and imagination.

The second stanza provides a vivid description of the work-a-day conditions of the sea with a hill at its shore. The surging waves strike against the white rock which stands as a wall. When the waves recede, they carry away small pieces of stone with them, as if they have sucked the stones. The presence of a gull, a large sea-bird, on the bare side of the hill adds an added charm to the scintillating beauty of the scene. The description seems realistic since it has been the first-hand experience of the poet. But that realistic touch does not diminish the growing delicacy of the romantic charm.

The concluding stanza portrays some ships floating on the sea. The ships are sailing in different directions, as it were, with some missionary zeal. The harbor is the mirror in which the clouds get reflected The scene is. therefore, proved in the mirror of the memory in times to come. Indeed, we are at a borderline between two worlds in space. those of land and sea. between the seasons of summer and witness and between the physical and the mental We begin with light and end with enlightenment which finds a better expression in the “full view”.

In “Look Stranger” Auden makes use of images to convey the invisible reality accurately and graphically the most amazing part of the poem lies in the way the imagery is carefully chosen for their sound effects. There is a fusion of visual and aural in such expressions as My wander like a river”, “the swaying sound of the sea” etc. The first line of the concluding stanza “Far off like floating seeds the ships” carries with it an authentic image, used to convey the idea that at the distance the ships while floating look as small as seeds.

A charge has been labeled against Auden that his style is often characterized by obscurity. His poetry seems ‘unpoetic’ as it is ‘unemotive’. But there is no doubt that he animates his concepts and gives concreteness to his language. Similarly, Auden is a ceaseless experimenter of metrical patterns and verse forms. One word more, he communicates his meaning through his diction and versification with all the ease of an authentic artist.

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