The tone of this sonnet is dark and melancholy. It is filled with imagery which puts an emphasis on the madness of the subject, as well as the sadness of the poet for being trapped in her life and wanting the freedom the madman has. The structure of the sonnet, the descriptive adjectives used as well as other vocabulary, and the figurative language employed in it all provide a backdrop of misery and gloom.
The most prominent musical device which is immediately apparent on first reading the sonnet is the rhyming words. As with sonnets of the time, it has a fixed rhyming scheme. It is composed of a rhyme scheme which follows ABAB ACAC DEDE FF pattern of rhyming. The use of this rhyme scheme brings a grandeur to the poem which puts emphasis on its woeful subject. It also provides a structure for the poem to be able to ask about the identity of the mad man and then answer it in the last part of the poem. The long, drawn out and detailed question uses the melodic nature of the rhyming words employed to paint a picture of remoteness, with words slow, below, lies, eyes, turf, and surf contributing to this remoteness.
At various points in the sonnet, alliteration is used as well to enhance the imagery of melancholy of natural background as well as the madness of the subject. Second line of the second quartrain describes the cold bed of the mad man as being chilled, impressing the coldness of this bed on the reader. Similarly, the next two lines of the sonnet talk about how the mad man speaks to the waves below, and alliteration is again used to enhance this imagery of hoarse, half-uttered lamentations. Also, towards the end of the sonnet when describing how easily the madman walks on the cliffs without paying attention to the dangers which lay below the cliffs, alliteration is used to emphasis this. The madman is wildly wandering this place, not merely walking here. And then in the last line of the sonnet, the feeling of melancholy is stressed upon by alliteration, saying that the mad man is not just unaware of his woe, but also unaware of depth and duration of it as well.
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There is also one instance where consonance is employed in this sonnet, in the first line of the third quartrain. In this line, the poet talks about her moody sadness on giddy brink, which again reflects on the melancholy of her emotions as well as the madness of the subject.
The sonnet employs figurative language at various points to convey the meaning of the imagery or the subject being talked about. In the second quartrain, the poet describes the cold wind chilling the bed of the madman with frequent sighs which is an example of personification. The wind is not a person, it does not sigh, but the use of such words to describe it gives it a personality which adds to the imagery of the cold wind.
Similarly, in the introductory lines of the sonnet, the poet describes the madman as having starting pace and hollow eyes, using this figurative language to draw a picture of animalistic form for this person. She wants to convey a feeling of freedom about him which is not necessarily human, because, as she says towards the end, he is not burdened by nice felicities of human society and responsibility, and she is envious of him for it.
There are instances of hyperbole in the sonnet as well. One particular instance is the horror which aforementioned nice felicities do not shrink from. The poet is envying him for this, and puts emphasis on He which indicates she wishes to be able to enjoy the same freedom he does as well, and implying that she is unable to do it because unlike him, she is acutely aware of the depth and duration of her woes. This giant horror is a hyperbole because unlike the poet, the madman is not necessarily in danger from much, his burdens are simpler and his problems are limited. The poet on the other hand is burdened with an unfulfilled life, married to a terrible person and living in the knowledge that her life could be better if her circumstances were. Therefore, the horror facing the madman is not as giant when measured up to the life of the poet, and what made her envious of his freedom in the first place.