Sand Between the Toes

Alan Alexander Milne

‘Sand Between the Toes’ by A.A. Milne is an upbeat poem. It focuses on a perfect day on the beach and uses characters from Milne’s Winnie the Pooh novels.


Alan Alexander Milne

Nationality: English

Alan Alexander Milne was an incredible children's author known for his playful verse.

Notable works include 'Spring Morningand 'Vespers.' 

It is for these works and the major stories/books based on the characters that Milne is best-remembered. His son was famously the inspiration for the character of Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals, the inspiration for the other characters. This particular poem was published in When We Were Very Young.

Sand Between the Toes by A.A. Milne 


Summary of Sand Between the Toes

‘Sand Between the Toes’ by A.A. Milne is an engaging and image-rich poem that depicts a brief day out to the beach with Christopher Robin. 

In the lines of ‘sand Between the Toes,’ the speaker describes going to the beach on a very windy day. It sends sand everywhere, into their hair, and between their toes. There is a return, multiple times, to the power of the water and the wind and how they were drowning out all other sounds. Milne uses repetition in this poem to describe the scene in a way that truly emphasizes the sandy mess that the two characters got themselves into. 

You can read the full poem here.


Structure of Sand Between the Toes

‘Sand Between the Toes’ by A.A. Milne is a six stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains, and sets of five lines, known as quintains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD and the quintains rhyme AAABA. The first, third, and fifth stanzas contain four lines, and the remaining three-stanza all have five lines. The rhyme scheme in these lines is quite simple, as is often the case in poetry that is meant for young readers. 

There is a sing-song-like rhythm to the lines which is perfect for this kind of poem. It is used to make the lines more pleasing to read as well as listen to. It also should help keep a child’s attention for longer. The poet also achieves this through the humorous and cyclical nature of the content. The events of the poem should be relatable to the child hearing or reading it. 


Literary Devices in Sand Between the Toes

Milne makes use of several literary devices in ‘Sand Between the Toes’. These include but are not limited to repetition (including refrains, anaphora, and epistrophe) and enjambment. Repetition is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. In this case, there are several different kinds of repetition. The second stanza, which is five lines long and describes where all the sand has ended up is repeated in full three times. This means there are also examples of anaphora or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of lines, and its inverse, epistrophe, in these lines as well.

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between lines four and five of all the even-numbered stanzas. 


Analysis of Sand Between the Toes 

Stanzas One and Two 

I went down to the shouting sea,
Taking Christopher down with me,


Whenever a good nor’wester blows,

Christopher is certain of

In the first stanza of ‘Sand Between the Toes,’ the speaker describes going down to the “shouting sea,” (a great example of sibilance) with “Christopher”. This is a clear reference to Christopher Robin the young boy at the heart of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. It was a special occasion as the speaker and young Christopher both had “sixpence” to spend. They went down to the “beach” where the bulk of the poem takes place. 

The second stanza of the poem acts as a refrain. It is repeated two more times before the end. Int here lines the speaker describes through repetitive language how the sand got into their hair and between their toes. The wind blows a certain way and the sand is sure to go everywhere. 


Stanzas Three and Four 

The sea was galloping grey and white;
Christopher clutched his sixpence tight;


Whenever a good nor’wester blows,

Christopher is certain of

There is a good example of personification in the third stanza as the poet describes the sea as if it’s a horse. This is a familiar metaphor, one that speaks to the power of the water and its ability to outrace and exhaust even the strongest swimmer. It was “galloping grey and white” while the two were by the water. This is a slightly dangerous seeming setting but it is offset by the repetition of the refrain and the warm image of the sand “between-the-toes”. 


Stanzas Five and Six

There was a roaring in the sky;
The sea-gulls cried as they blew by;


Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is found with

In the fifth stanza of ‘Sand Between the Toes,’ the speaker describes how the sky was “roaring” with the wind and the “sea-gulls cried” as they were blown by the two. This again adds to the somewhat dangerous seeming environment. The imagery is far from that of a peaceful day at the beach. The two had to “shout” to one another because the wind and sea were so loud. 

There is a slight alteration in the refrain when it appears for the final time in the sixth stanza. This time, the two have arrived home but there is still sand in their hair and between their toes. Despite the fairly unsuccessful trip to the beach, it appears that they are still in good spirits. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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