Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier use an abundance of figurative language in “The Ropewalk” and “Hampton Beach” to strike out against the increasingly mechanized times in which they lived. Using the tools of imagination and escape, the authors hope to show you how they view the world they live in. In “Hampton Beach” and “The Ropewalk” the Romantic aspects are mechanization escape as a tool, and imagination.
Despite it’s flowery language, given careful time the poem “Hampton Beach” still shows the authors feelings toward society. Whittier saw the rise of modern manufacturing and its grip on seacoast life. In this visit to the beach, he discovers that the sea has the power, by its sheer vastness, beauty, and hypnotic waves, to counteract the hammering forces of work and progress. He comes away from his short visit restored and energized, just as visitors do today. On the other hand “The Ropewalk” is based in a factory, which produces rope, and the speaker is watching the spinners spin hemp into the rope. As the speaker watches the spinners he too is taken away from the factory and it’s “mechanical animals”. Both speakers are starting to see changes in society, which are being brought about by industrialization.
In “Hampton Beach” the speaker uses his imagination to free himself from modern day society and drifts off to the seacoast. In “The Ropewalk” he uses the rope being manufactured to help him get away from the factory and he begins to think of all the things the rope could be used for. Both speakers use mental escape to help them cope with society, but one uses physical and spiritual escape as well. When one visits Hampton Beach he/she is taken back by its vastness and beauty. To go to any place and feel freedom of mind and body is almost a healing process.
In “The Ropewalk” the person watching the spinners begins to imagine all kinds of uses for the rope. As he journeys through his imagination he “escapes” from the factory into a world beyond the city. In the speakers “pretend” world, the ropes’ uses are tools for him to ulitimately see into the future or his make-believe future. Each vision in the poem is a symbol for something in the greater scheme of things. The girl in the spangles dress on the cord is a circus performer using the rope in her act while the farming woman stands for hard work and perseverance. The man in the tower is using the rope to ring the bells, but while he’s ringing the bells the rope is coiling around his feet about to lift him off the ground. The prison yard is a symbol for the bad things that the rope could be used for, because a man is getting hanged. As the poem continues he sees a young boy flying a kite, this could represent joy and a carefree feeling. The second to last stanza shows the rope being used a tether for a ships anchor. As the ship tries to drop anchor the sand, current, and weight of the anchor make it impossible to catch the ocean floor, this could symbolize hopelessness. His mind still wanders to other places imagining other uses for the rope, still drifting along in his own little world.
Both poems are brought together by escape, imagination, and mechanization. “Hampton Beach” and “The Ropewalk” allow us to escape with the speaker, to leave our modernized world for a “simpler” more natural one.