Whilst at first glance this poem, Aboard at a ship’s Helm by Walt Whitman, is displaying the scene of a ship at sea, the closer one looks the more apparent it becomes that this is merely an overall metaphor for someone who is beginning to take control of their life, steering it in the direction that they want by making their own choices. To assist with this the poem consists of many effective aesthetic features and stylistic devices including the use of mood and tone, language devices, and sound devices to convey Whitman’s message effectively.
What makes this metaphor so effective in conveying this underlying message is the way that Whitman utilizes the mood and tone of the poem. For the first six lines, the mood is gloomy and depressing, as the ocean becomes more violent and dangerous. However, there is a mood change in line seven where the words become more descriptive and detailed allowing a more peaceful and happier tone. ' The beautiful and noble ship, with all her precious wealth, speeds away gaily and safe' is a dramatic change in the attitude towards the ship, the voyage, and the objects on board. This change has been used as a clear indication of when the person beings to take control of their life and chose the path that they wish to take. It is also important to acknowledge the positioning of this change within the poem. Structuring it at line 7 - near the end - allows Whitman to build up the stress and tension within the reader allowing not only to keep them hooked but also to allow them to connect and feel for the character in the poem. It is easier for readers to accept the poem if they can relate to certain emotions evoked by the author, such as the relief and satisfaction when the mood changes and all that stress is relieved.
Whitman effectively uses a range of aesthetic features in this poem such as repetition that builds tension and emotion. Repetition is used multiple times throughout, creating a sense of urgency, and helping to build tension and a greater emotional connection between the poem and the reader. An example of this occurs in lines four and five when the word ‘ringing’ is repeated 3 times, almost as if the bells are getting louder and the warning is becoming more urgent as the ship becomes closer to the rocks. This repetition helps to create the build-up of stress within the reader and helps persuade and allow them to understand why the message of taking control is so important.
In addition to this, Imagery has been used continuously within this poem to help the reader to connect with the character and message. The use of imagery allows the reader to connect to the events happening in the poem through a sort of visual representation; allowing them to feel as if there were the character or were there with them experiencing the event. This is evident all throughout the poem but can be clearly seen in the phrase, a bell through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,' It allows them to get a snapshot of the gloomy scene in which Whitman has set, and appeals to the reader not only emotionally but it also appeals to their senses including, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Allowing them to form a greater relation and connection to the poem.