James Joyce is a writer that almost everyone has heard of. But many people do not know that James Joyce was a prolific poet as well. ‘All Day I Hear Noise of Waters’ is one of many poems penned by him.
‘All Day I Hear Noise of Waters’ is a very powerful poem that uses imagery to create a quiet and sad scene for the readers. The poem is an expression of the loneliness and sadness that comes with it.
While there are not many metaphors used here, the impact of the poem comes from the excellent imagery. Joyce being a writer knows how to create a world to send the readers in.
Let’s look at the poem and then at the analysis to understand the poem better.
All Day I Hear Noise of Waters by James Joyce
All day I hear the noise of waters Making moan, Sad as the sea-bird is when, going Forth alone, He hears the winds cry to the water's Monotone. The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing Where I go. I hear the noise of many waters Far below. All day, all night, I hear them flowing To and fro.
Analysis and Meaning of the Poem
The poem is an expression of the sadness that comes from a monotonous, lonely life. James Joyce puts the readers in the middle of the ocean, all alone.
The scene he creates is of a vast ocean with water moving slowly, to and fro. There is nothing much to see and only a few things to hear.
There are two stanzas in the poem, both serving their purpose in giving the poem its weight and the impact it has on the readers.
All day I hear the noise of waters
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
He hears the winds cry to the water’s
The first stanza creates the world around the readers. We are placed in this ocean where all you can hear (as the speakers are hearing) is the noise of water splashing.
This sound of moving water is just as sad as the sea bird when it is flying alone. There is a sense of emptiness. The bird is all alone in a vast, open sky.
Similarly, when we are in the sea, the vast ocean and nothing creates this sense of emptiness. And with emptiness comes sadness.
Not just the bird, but even we can hear the whistling of the wind ‘cry’ to the monotonous sound of water.
In any place, if you can hear the soft sound of the wind, it means that the place is quite empty and quiet. So the sound of the wind is associated with sadness and loneliness by default.
An interesting thing we heard about the poem is why is it written in this way. Why unnecessary line breaks? Those line breaks are not unnecessary.
If you take the line breaks and read them together, you get the condensed essence of the poem. For example;
These three lines are telling us what the author was feeling. Going alone, in a sad state of mind, in a monotonous journey.
The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.
In the second stanza, the poet tells us more about the journey he has taken. He is going to someplace where cold winds are blowing.
On this journey, all he can hear is the noise of water in a bottomless ocean.
Every day he hears them flowing to and fro. This repetitive motion of the water and the same sound every day and every night has depressed the writer.
Again, if you look at the line breaks and put them together, you get the essence of the stanza.
Where I go
To and Fro
From these lines, we get to know that the poet feels like he is going below, not physically but emotionally.
The ‘to and fro’ refers to going back and forth, perhaps thinking if the poet did the right thing by choosing this journey.
Essence and Theme of the Poem
The poem is about the effects of loneliness and the sadness that comes from it. The poet has used the metaphor of being alone in the sea to express the emotion.
The reason why this poem works so wonderfully is because you get transported to a place where you can hear the sea, and even see a bird flying above.
You hear the sounds of the wave, and there’s nothing else apart from it. This makes you feel lonely, and there is no one you can talk to or share what you feel.
An intense wave of sadness washes over you, not because something bad has happened, but just because you feel the monotony around you, the lack of excitement. And the poem succeeds.
Read more poems: The Sound of Trees by Robert Frost and its meaning