Sudden Death in Poetry


Sudden death and the fact of dieing is something everyone must face. Some of us however, may not know death is coming, or some may be faced directly with death. Two poems, “Sir Patrick Spence” by an Anonymous author, and “Out, Out” by Robert Frost, have both similarities and differences when reviewing the literary elements of theme, tone, and style. These literary elements help tie in the topic of sudden death throughout these intriguing poems.

Certain elements throughout a story help a reader better understand a poem, and help comprehend the message that the poet is trying to give. The theme of “Sir Patrick Spence” is similar to “Out, Out” in the way that they both express the ideas of death and dieing. In “Sir Patrick Spence”, the sailor becomes aware of his death by reading a letter from the king. The Anonymous poet writes, “The next line that Sir Patrick red/ The teir blinded his ee” (15-16). This line in the poem expresses that Sir Patrick knows of his upcoming death, and knows he is destined to die. Although Sir Patrick Spence knows of his death, he does not take the time to grieve over it, and continues to set sail on his ship. Likewise, in “Out, Out” Robert Frost writes, “The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh” (19), which shows that the boy is aware of his death but laughs because he is overwhelmed by what has happened to him. In the same way as “Sir Patrick Spence”, the little boy’s death is not grieved over, and the boy’s family continues their lives as nothing ever happened. The theme of both stories is that death, although sometimes not grieved over, is something we all must face in our lives. These two poems have similarities when discussing their theme and topic of sudden death and dieing.


When reading and analyzing a poem, the authors’ point of view can change the way a reader views the authors’ message. When comparing the two poems, “Sir Patrick Spence” and “Out, Out”, the authors’ tone and feelings toward each poem is quite different. As a result of being narrative poems, “Sir Patrick Spence” and “Out, Out”, both reveal a similar type of story to the reader. However, when reading “Sir Patrick Spence”, sympathy is not expressed toward the sailors after being shipwrecked. On the contrary, sympathy is shown throughout the poem of “Out, Out”. For example, the Anonymous author lacks detail when revealing the shipwreck to the reader. From this the reader feels no compassion for the men who have lost their lives. In comparison, throughout the poem of “Out, Out”, the reader gets the sense from Frost that he is very concerned for the young boy. Frost ventured to say, “Call it a day, I wish they might have said” (10), which shows his compassion for the boy’s death. From this quote the reader considers Frost’s sympathetic tone for the boy throughout the rest of the poem. When reviewing the literary element of tone, the two poems “Sir Patrick Spence” and “Out, Out” contrast in the authors’ point of view.

The diction and words that an author uses when writing a narrative poem usually set the mood for the type of poem they are writing. Throughout “Sir Patrick Spence” and “Out, Out”, the poets use similar type of word repetition and diction to stress the same type of idea for the reader. The authors use certain word repetition and diction to stress an eerie feeling for the reader throughout both poems. The phrases, “Mak haste, Mak haste” (21), “O lang, lang” (33), and “Haf owre, Haf owre” (41), are used to stress importance in


“Sir Patrick Spence”, while Frost uses the phrase, “The saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled” (7), to set a mood for the saw and its character. The use of word repetition is similar during both poems, and is a helpful element in identifying the authors tone.

The two poems, “Sir Patrick Spence” and “Out, Out”, share many similarities and differences when reviewing their literary elements of theme, tone, and style. The theme of the poems, as well as their tone and style, helps reveal the