The situations described by these two poems have much in common; both present a severe storm on the Atlantic coastline, which causes a struggle between man and nature. But the key idea, in these poems, is the different responses by the two poets to their situation. Both are in the first person, and the sensuous information and the thoughts of the poets about the situation. Storm on the Island shows the sheer terror felt by those in the storm, whilst Patrolling Barnegat is a tribute to the coastguards whom Whitman very much admires. They are similar in some features of language; they use military imagery to describe the wind’s actions, and techniques such as alliteration and. They differ massively in their structure; Storm on the Island uses a distinct sentence structure, whilst Whitman writes his poem without using a single finite verb.
To engross the reader in the situation, Whitman uses alliteration in Patrolling Barnegat that in reminiscent of the sounds of a rough sea (“spirts of snow fierce slanting”). He also compares the storm to a wild animal; indeed, he repeats the word “wild, wild”, and uses the word “roar”; this emotive language perhaps suggests a dangerous lion, or another such animal; a natural danger. This runs parallel with something even more sinister; the noise of the storm is described as “shouts of demoniac laughter”, an extremely emotive term that suggests something evil about the storm; in 1856, demons and evil spirits were still thought of, by most, as a real threat.
A similar idea is suggested in the phrase “savagest trinity”; the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a key idea in Christian tradition, is paired with this idea of savageness; this presents an image, to the reader, of a malevolent deity, or perhaps even Satan himself. Whitman would want to create this effect, as it further increases the apparent braveness of the coastguard, whom he admires.
Storm on the Island also wishes to depict the danger of the storm, but for different reasons. Like Patrolling Barnegat, it also uses a metaphor compares the storm to an animal; the spray “spits like a tame cat turned savage”. This is a similar idea to the “roar” in Whitman’s poem, but further developed; usually, the sea is calm, and a provider of food in the form of fish, but today, the storm has turned against its master and become “savage”. Heaney also, towards the end of the poem, uses military imagery; amongst many examples, he tells us that the wind “dives and strafes”, like a fighter plane, and that “we are bombarded by the empty air”. This idea brings a further element of danger; with war generally comes mass death, and Heaney is likely to want to include this perilous threat to emphasize the fear that the islanders feel.
The attitude of the people, in Storm on the Island, becomes gradually more frightened of the storm throughout the poem. At the very beginning of the poem, we are presented with a short, crisp sentence, which makes it seem definitive, and its importance is stressed by its positioning. But, this sense of preparedness does not continue through the poem; the confidence deteriorates gradually, with every plural first person used, the rest of the phrase becomes less and less hopeful; near the end of the poem, “we just sit tight” is followed by “we are bombarded”, followed by the last two words of the poem – “we fear”. Despite the personas’ preparations for the storm, they still end up living in fear of the fearsome tempest.
In Patrolling Barnegat, the poem is made up of one very long phrase, without a single finite verb (apart from those in the brackets). This could stress how the storm is seemingly never-ending, and thus furthers the impressive nature of those confronting the night’s weather. The people are not, at first, apparent in the poem; certainly in the first six lines, they are not mentioned whatsoever; their actions are described from line seven, but, in fact, they themselves are not described until the penultimate line; this lack of clarity emphasizes the lack of clarity that one experiences during a storm, due to the heaviness of the rain. It also develops a sort of suspense; the reader wonders what is “breasting” and “advancing” through this storm, before realising that this is some sort of coastguard. This is effective, and adds to the feeling of admiration that Whitman feels towards these three noble men.