A Dirge

Rough wind, that moanest loud
Grief too sad for song;
Wild wind, when sullen cloud
Knells all the night long;
Sad storm whose tears are vain,
Bare woods, whose branches strain,
Deep caves and dreary main,--
Wail, for the world’s wrong!

Found this Shelley poem, and I was wondering what "moanest loud" meant. Why is loud used as a noun? Is this a figure a speech?

2 Answers 2


A Dirge was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley some time before his death in 1822. "Moanest" is an example of an archaic Early Modern English verb form, the second person singular of the verb 'moan'. Whereas modern English would say "you moan", in Early Modern English this was "thou moanest". Since Shelley is addressing the (personified) wind, this is the appropriate form of the verb. These verb forms are found in older material of the modern period, such as Shakespeare and the King James Bible, but by Shelley's time they were archaic and mostly used only in poetry. "Loud" is used as an adverb modifying "moanest".

English verbs

  • 1
    Shelley may be addressing the poem to the wind, but he wrote, "that moanest" which is definitely not in the second person. Or else, what is that "that" if not the subject of moan? This seems like a mistake on Shelley's part.
    – Juhasz
    Jan 23, 2019 at 18:53
  • 3
    @Juhasz: that is not impossible with direct address. Our Father that art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ... And Wail there's an imperative.
    – TimR
    Jan 23, 2019 at 18:54

In the English of several centuries ago, there was a distinction between you and thou. The -est ending of the verb was for the second person thou.

thou moanest loud would mean you moan loudly and that moanest loud would mean who moan loudly.

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