Rhapsody on a Windy Night

Rhapsody on a Windy Night Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

A man walking at night through a city, and a series of personified street lamps.

Form and Meter

Free verse with occasional rhymes.

Metaphors and Similes


"Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum"

"Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium."

"Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin."

The "twisted things" in stanza 3 are metaphors for both the woman and memories.

Alliteration and Assonance

"Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman"


"divisions and precisions"

"A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white."

"That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain.
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums"

"Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."
The last twist of the knife."


The poem overall is an ironic twist on the notion of a "Rhapsody," as it is the opposite of ecstatic.


Modernist poem


A city between midnight and 4 AM.



Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: A solitary walker

Major Conflict

Between nature (the moon) and culture (the city: clock time, street lamps)


Anti-climax of the speaker reaching home


The last stanza foreshadows a monotonous life the next day.



Allusions to French symbolist poetry:

the geranium
the moon
"La lune ne garde aucune rancune"

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Synecdoches: tongue, hand, eyes

"'Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter.'"
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child's eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,"


The street lamps are personified throughout the poem.


"The last twist of the knife." Shocking ending, because so violent.


"The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered"

"Hard and curled and ready to snap."