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An understanding of the workings of sound symbolism in poetry is essential to theoretical and practical criticism alike. During the past few decades, we have come to recognize that sound-symbolic effects are solidly based on linguistic facts. Studies of the ways in which sound symbolism is put to use generally in the works of a given poet can fruitfully supplement traditional analyses of particular passages. Though Robert Frost is known for his proficiency in mimetic sound effects, the language of his “speaking voice” is not conspicuously marked by the systems of alliteration and assonance that characterize the verse of Tennyson or Swinburne. Yet such systems, among other features, appear in certain poems in a “chanting voice” associated, overtly or symbolically, with the protagonist's fear of death. Ultimately, this proves to be the poet's fear of obliteration, of succumbing to the power of a now obsolete music and thus vanishing from the poetic scene without a trace.
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