In his poem “The Lonely Land,” A.J.M. Smith paints a picture of a landscape filled with both beauty and conflict. He effectively uses imagery and language to suggest that beauty can be derived from conflict.
Smith immediately begins his painting with a sense of conflict: He paints a “grey and cloud-piled sky” and fills the soft image with cedar and “jagged fir,” a much more bold and harsh image. Smith then goes on to describe a bay with spume at its edges. The image of water is most often associated with a sense of calm. Here however, the windrift and “this bitter spray,” bring about another sense of conflict and uneasiness. Into his painting, Smith then introduces life trying to survive. The duck calls out to her mate, but her calls go unnoticed as they are lost on the stoned by the waters edge. Here, the speaker’s image arouses the reader’s sense of loneliness. In addition to the visual conflict already present, there is now an emotional conflict that the reader feels. In the third stanza, whilst the reader is at odds with him or herself, the speaker brings in a sense of hope and optimism. He recognizes that perhaps there is a beauty to be seen and heard in the way the wind cases to pines to bend, in the way it “curdles the sky,” in the way the landscape, even through all this conflict, has survived.
The language is also effectively used to convey conflict: smith uses, for the most part, Anglo-Saxon words which contain short, tow syllable words, with hard consonants. For example, “cedar and jagged,” as well as “sharp barbs,” the hard consonants evoke and emotional response in the reader. Similarly, the consonants in “bitter” and “sharp” cause a feeling of conflict. Towards the end of the poem, the speaker break out of the Anglo-Saxon shell using the words “dissonance” and “resonance” thereby softening the image and presenting another sense of change and optimism. Repetition in the