The poem opens with a metaphor: "This house has been far out at sea all night."
This metaphor implies that the house feels isolated, unsteady, and surrounded by danger, like a ship at sea. Only in the second line does the reader begin to learn why the house feels so insecure. The speaker describes "woods crashing through darkness" and "booming hills"; in other words, the house is bombarded by storm winds, thunder, and rain.
It's the wind in particular that captivates the speaker, who describes it as "stampeding," like a herd of panicked animals. This imagery suggests that the speaker perceives it as loud, threatening, and overwhelming. The image and grammar then become a bit jumbled, as if to match the confusion of the storm. Either the "Winds," the wind-besieged "fields under the window," or the window itself are described as "Floundering black astride and blinding wet." This could mean a few things:
- The winds, like riders "astride" stampeding animals, are "Floundering" (thrashing) as they rush the house. They're so wet as to be "blinding"—that is, they carry pelting rain that prevents anyone outside from seeing clearly.
- The fields on either side (astride) of the window are rain-soaked and appear "black" in the storm.
- The window itself, seeming to sit "astride" the wind-blast, is "Floundering" (rattling), "black" with nighttime, and too rain-soaked to see through.
The alliteration in "fields"/"floundering" and "black"/"blinding" add intensity, musicality, and rhythmic emphasis to the stanza, as do consonance (e.g., the repetition of /l/ sounds in "Floundering," "black," and "blinding") and assonance (e.g., the /ow/ sounds in "house" and "out").
The first stanza ends with an enjambed line, giving it a sense of incompleteness: the reader has to continue past the stanza break in order to reach the end of the thought. This effect mirrors the longevity of the storm, which doesn't pass during the night but continues to rage all the way into morning.