W William Cole

On My Boat on Lake Cayuga by William Cole

William Cole’s ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ is a light verse poem that presents a contrast between the sounds of a traditional boat and modern four-wheelers.

On My Boat on Lake Cayuga by William Cole Visual Representation

‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ is written by the American author William Cole, famous for his light poetry. This poem is about a man and his boat. He prefers to sail across Cayuga Lake more than riding a car and honking across the streets. In just four short lines, the speaker establishes the difference between traditional and modern vehicles and draws upon the sense of sound to elevate the humorous effect.

On My Boat on Lake Cayuga by William Cole


Summary

‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ by William Cole is a short poem about a man and his boat.

The speaker of this piece imagines himself on his boat sailing across the scenic Cayuga Lake. He prefers sailing on the lake rather than driving on the road. His attitude towards cars seems dismissive as he calls the people who use them “modern creep[s].” They are always in a hurry and keep honking. It annoys the speaker the most, and it gets reflected in the poem’s tone. Besides, the speaker is free-spirited and prefers the openness of the lake rather than the hustle and bustle of the roads. In totality, this poem speaks about the speaker’s preferences in life.

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-2

On my boat on Lake Cayuga

(…)

In the first line of the poem, the speaker simply imagines himself riding his boat on Cayuga Lake, the longest glacial Finger Lakes of central New York. This lake is named after the indigenous Cayuga people. It is very popular among recreational boaters. The lake’s image sets a soothing background for the poem. Besides, it evokes a sense of calmness in the readers’ minds.

In the second line, the speaker says that he has a horn that sounds “Ay-oogah!” rather than the sound of a sophisticated car. This word not only hints at the sound of the boat’s horn but also refers to an expression of indigenous people. This term can be used while expressing joy and pleasure.

Through these lines, Cole refers to the wild and raw nature of the speaker. He likes to be in the open air, free and unhinged, and sail on his boat.

Lines 3-4

(…)

Who has a horn that goes “beep-beep.”

In the third line, the speaker differentiates himself from the people who drive modern cars. He refers to them as “modern creep[s].” The term “creep” is used to refer to a number of ideas. Cole’s speaker might be referring to modern men as detestable beings, having no moral values at all. They behave oddly in the hope of advancement. This term can also be used to refer to an automatic car that can run without the accelerator being pushed by the driver. The speaker’s tone is judgemental in this line and suggests that he looks down upon those people.

In the last line, the speaker talks about the sound their car horns make. They go, “beep-beep.” Here, Cole uses a repetition of the “beep” sound to evoke the scene of a busy road. Besides, he uses the word twice to maintain the overall meter of the poem that is in iambic tetrameter.

Structure

The light verse poem ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ is written from the perspective of a first-person speaker. Its rhyme scheme is AABB. In the first two lines, the word “Cayuga” interestingly rhymes with “Ay-oogah!”. In the following lines, “creep,” and “beep” rhyme together. Hence, the text contains two rhyming couplets. The tone of the poem is simple on the surface, but it speaks for the speaker’s annoyance with the modern lifestyle. Cole sets a fresh, calm, and open mood by the first two lines. In contrast, the mood of the following lines reflects the chaos of modern city life.

Literary Devices

Readers can find the use of the following literary devices in Cole’s poem ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’.

  • Alliteration: It occurs in “have a horn,” “has a horn,” and “beep-beep.”
  • Onomatopoeia: The poet uses words like “Ay-oogah” and “beep-beep” to convey the sounds of his boat’s horn and that of cars.
  • Enjambment: It occurs in the lines, “I’m not the sort of modern creep/ Who has a horn that goes “beep-beep.”
  • Imagery: The poet conjures up an image of a boat sailing on Lake Cayuga in New York. This image sets a calming mood in the first two lines. He also uses auditory imagery to refer to the sounds of a boat’s horn and a car’s horn.


Historical Context

William Cole was an American writer, columnist, author, and light verse poet. His light poetry often appeared in Light Quarterly and was published in The Oxford Book of American Light Verse. After his service in World War II, Cole took jobs in the publishing industry. He was a prolific writer and editor; he authored over 75 books. The American Library Association honored his several books. His poem ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ is about a man and his boat. He prefers the sound of his boat horn to a car’s disturbing honking. Through this simple, humorous verse, Cole contrasts the modern lifestyle with the traditional way of living.

FAQs

What is the poem ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ about?

This poem is about how a speaker likes the openness of Cayuga Lake. He prefers riding his boat on the lake more than driving modern cars—this attitude of the speaker hints at his free spirit and love for nature.

What is the meaning of ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’?

This poem is all about the freedom one can find in open nature. The speaker of this poem likes openness rather than the packed roads and traffic. Through this poem, the poet describes how people tend to like the freshness of lakes (nature) more than busy streets because it keeps them grounded and settled.

What type of poem is ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’?

It is a light verse poem with the AABB rhyme scheme. Each line consists of eight syllables. The stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. Hence, the poem is written in iambic tetrameter. Besides, the poem is told from the perspective of a first-person speaker.

What is the theme of ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’?

The main themes of the poem are nature, free will, preferences, modernity, and traditions. This poem is about a man who prefers the sound of his boat’s horn more than the car’s annoying honking.

What is the tone of ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’?

The tone of the first two lines is calm, simple, and honest. In contrast, the tone of the following lines is ironic, annoying, and criticizing.


Similar Poems

Readers who liked reading William Cole’s light verse poem ‘On My Boat on Lake Cayuga’ may consider reading the following poems.

You can also explore these short humorous poems.

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On My Boat on Lake Cayuga by William Cole Visual Representation
About
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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