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The Wind by James Reeves

“The Wind” is a poem about the power of the wind. It is a children’s poem, often taught in school curriculum. John Morris Reeves, popularly known as James Reeves, was a British writer best known for his poetry and works for children. His popular books of poetry for children were compiled into one as The Wandering Moon and Other Poems (1973). In this poem, Reeves shows the superhuman nature of the wind through vivid imagery.

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The Wind
by James Reeves

I can get through a doorway without any key,
And strip the leaves from the great oak tree.
I can drive storm-clouds and shake tall towers,
Or steal through a garden and not wake the flowers.
Seas I can move and ships I can sink;
I can carry a house-top or the scent of a pink.
When I am angry I can rave and riot;
And when I am spent, I lie quiet as quiet.
Analysis of The Wind by James Reeves


Summary

“The Wind” explores the duality of the wind. Reeves uses descriptive words to explain the power of the wind. In this piece, the personified “wind” describes how it can go anywhere without anyone’s formal permission. It can strip an oak tree of its leaves and create storms that can topple tall towers. Furthermore, Reeves paints a picture of how the wind can carry the rooftops or the scent of a flower. This contrast shows the dual nature of the wind. Lastly, the wind ends its mighty note in a diametrically opposing tone by saying that it raves in anger at times, and when it is spent, it lies quietly in peace.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Form

“The Wind” has a total of eight lines, divided into four verses of two lines each. This two-line stanza is called a couplet. Each couplet ends with a similar sound or rhyme. Besides, the speaker of the poem is the “wind” itself. Reeves personifies it and speaks through its voice in first-person. The presence of a first-person speaker makes this piece an example of a lyric poem.

Rhyme Scheme

The rhyme scheme of the poem is AA BB CC  DD. It means the text consists of four rhyming couplets. Let’s have a look at the rhyming pair of words from each couplet.

  • Stanza One: “key” & “tree.”
  • Stanza Two: “towers” & “flowers.”
  • Stanza Three: “sink” & “pink.”
  • Stanza Four: “riot” (pronunciation: rai-et) & “quiet.”

Meter

The poem is composed in anapestic tetrameter with a few iambic variations. As the majority of the feet are anapestic, it gives sustained stress on the last syllable of each foot. Besides, there are acephalous beginnings in two instances; lines 5 and 7. Let’s have a look at the scansion of the poem. It would help while reading the text aloud.

I can get/ through a door/-way with-out/ a-ny key,

And strip/ the leaves/ from the great/ oak tree.

I can drive/ storm-clouds/ and shake/ tall tow(e)rs,

Or steal/ through a gar/-den and not/ wake the flow(e)rs.

Seas/ I can move/ and ships/ I can sink;

I can carry/ a house-top/ or the scent/ of a pink.

When/ I am ang/-ry I can/ rave and riot;

And when/ I am spent,/ I lie quiet/ as quiet.


Poetic Devices

Reeves makes use of the following poetic devices in this poem.

  • Personification: The poet personifies the “wind” in these lines, “I can drive storm-clouds and shake tall towers,/ Or steal through a garden and not wake the flowers,” “Seas I can move and ships I can sink;/ I can carry a house-top or the scent of a pink,” etc.
  • Repetition: At the beginning of lines 1, 2, and 6, Reeves uses “I can” to emphasize the authority of the wind.
  • Alliteration: The poet uses similar sounds to create internal rhyming. For example, “tall towers,” “can carry,” “rave and riot,” etc.
  • Antithesis: Reeves paints contrasting images like “I can carry a house-top or the scent of a pink,” and “When I am angry I can rave and Riot:/ And when I am spent, I lie quiet as quiet.”
  • Inversion: The conventional structure of sentences is altered (inverted) in “Seas I can move and ships I can sink” for the sake of emphasis.
  • Palilogy: There is a repetition of the same word in “I lie quiet as quiet,” which is also meant for emphasis.


Themes

The main ideas or themes of the poem include the wind’s enormous strength and its dual nature. Throughout this piece, Reeves vividly exemplifies the wind’s strength. He writes the poem from the wind’s perspective and follows the narrative of its dual nature. The speaker (personifies “wind”) describes how it can go anywhere without the hassle and steer ships towards the shore or sink them. The poet manages to establish this theme with ease and excellence.

“I can carry a house-top or the scent of a pink” – it is a direct comment on the duality of the wind. In the last two lines, Reeves explains that the wind has a mind of its own – it can sink or steer ships; it can rave when it’s angry or be still at times. In this poem, Reeves implies how nature only follows its own rules. The course of nature is beyond human control.

Line-by-Line Analysis & Explanation

Lines 1-2

I can get through a doorway without any key,

And strip the leaves from the great oak tree.

In the first couplet, the speaker, which is the wind, explains how it can go anywhere without any permission or problem. It further explains its enormous power by saying that it can even strip the leaves from the “great oak tree.”

The way the wind enters into anyone’s room without a key shows its lack of civility. It does not care about human privacy. Like God, it can eavesdrop on human affairs without a formal invitation. Besides, it can even strip the “great oak” of its leaves. The image not only shows the wind’s might but also portrays its wildness. Even the great old oak feels helpless in its presence.

In this way, the first couplet taps on the destructive side of nature as well as its unconcerned attitude. This frightening version of nature incites respect in readers’ minds for it.

Lines 3-4

I can drive storm-clouds and shake tall towers,

Or steal through a garden and not wake the flowers.

The poet makes us aware that the wind can even bring the storm, which is powerful enough to make tall towers fall. He also illustrates how the wind blows through a garden, carrying pollen and dust silently.

In the first line, Reeves particularly shows the destructive side of the wind. The gust can drive “storm-clouds” and create tension at sea and land. When the power of a storm increases, it can even topple tall towers. Here, the “tall towers” symbolize human’s fragile achievements and accumulated power. The wind can destroy both of them in a snap.

The second line shows the mischievous side of the wind. It says that it can move so slowly that none can notice its presence. These lines are used to create a contrast between the wind’s mightiness and meekness.

Lines 5-6

Seas I can move and ships I can sink; 

I can carry a house-top or the scent of a pink.

At sea, the wind’s power is immense. Everything feels vulnerable for its presence. The poet points at sea, where the wind can steer the ships to the shore or sink it halfway through. The wind alone has the power to carry a roof away or the scent of a pink flower. In this section, Reeves does an exemplary job at explaining the duality of the wind; how it can be completely calm or destructive.

He shows how the wind makes the sea restless in the first line. Humans think they have conquered the sea, devised sea routes for trade and commerce, and expanded the borderlines of their sovereign land into the sea. But, they do not take notice of the fact that the ultimate power is in the hands of nature (or the wind). The wind is the one that propels their trade, and it can topple their ships at the same time. So, humans and their achievements are insignificant with respect to the wind’s eternal control.

The next line similarly depicts its furious side. Reeves interestingly in the second part of the line, “the scent of a pink.” Here, the “pink” stands for flowers. It is a use of metonymy. This antithetical statement shows that the wind is not only responsible for destruction but also a force of creation. By driving the sweet fragrance of flowers, it welcomes bees, butterflies, and other creatures that help in pollination (a symbol of creation and birth).

Lines 7-8

When I am angry I can rave and riot:

And when I am spent, I lie quiet as quiet.

Reeves explains how the wind follows its discretion in the last two lines. The theme of the poem – the dual nature of the wind, is captured by the last two lines.

In the first line of this couplet, the wind directly states that it has some emotions like human beings. When it becomes angry, it blows angrily and riots across lands. The statement shows the revolutionary side of nature. It can bring change by destroying the old, rusting order.

The second line depicts the mild side of nature. According to it, when it is spent, it lies quietly. It shows the calm after a great revolution. After the change is brought, the wind paves the way for new life. By quietly lying, it indirectly helps the helpless to build the fragments of a new, better world.

Historical Context

This poem appears in James Reeves’ collection of poetry, The Wandering Moon and Other Poems. It was published in 1973. Reeves’ poems combine the intensity of mood and emotions that create haunting lyricism. This feature is present in this poem too. The wind’s statements create helplessness and a feeling of insignificance in readers’ minds. They are prone to feel powerless in its mighty presence. Besides, Reeves’ implicit way of praising the destructive side of nature and highlighting its mild side evoke a sense of awe in their minds sprinkled with fear and admiration.

Questions and Answers

What is the poem “The Wind” about?

The poem is about the immense power of the wind. Reeves shows its mightiness by displaying how it can strip the leaves from the great oak and create a storm that topples everything literally. At the same time, he shows how it helps in pollination and regeneration.

How does the wind show the duality of nature?

The wind shows the duality of nature because it can be violent, causing ships to sink and towers to fall, or it can be gentle, carrying the pollen from the gardens to just becoming a morning breeze. Thus, the wind truly embodies the duality of nature.

What is the tone of “The Wind”?

The tone of the poem is direct, mighty, and authoritative. By using this tone, the poet shows the wind’s power and authority over the lives of humans.

What is the theme of “The Wind”?

The theme of the poem is the dual nature and the extensive power of the wind. This poem shows how wind can be destructive at times. In contrast, it can also be mild that, in turn, helps in regeneration.

What poetic devices are used in “The Wind”?

The poetic devices used in this poem are personification, anaphora, alliteration, antithesis, etc.


Similar Poems about the Wind & Nature

  • “The Wind” by Amy Lowell — This poem solely describes its positive features and how it influences the poet’s mind.
  • “The Wind” by Robert Louis Stevenson — This piece is about the mighty and omnipresent nature of the wind.
  • “Sea Fever” by John Masefield — This poem is about the sea, an inspiration to the poet.
  • “Windy Nights” by Robert Louis Stevenson — This poem depicts an impending storm by comparing it to a horseman.


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