This collection of four poems is written in polyphonic prose, "the freest, the most elastic, of all forms, for it follows at will any, and all, of the rules which guide other forms." Taste and a rhythmic ear are the factors determining which rules will guide the usage of metre, rhyme, assonance, alliteration, and return. In this way Lowell sees polyphonic prose as an orchestral form.
The following sample comes from the beginning of "Hedge Island: A Retrospect and Prophecy."
Hedges of England, peppered with sloes; hedges of England, rows and rows of thorn and brier raying out from the fire where London burns with its steaming lights, throwing a glare on the sky o' nights. Hedges of England, road after road, lane after lane, and on again to the sea at the North, to the sea at the East, blackberry hedges, and man and beast plod and trot and gallop between hedges of England, clipped and clean; beech, and laurel, and hornbeam, and yew, wheels whirl under, and circle through, tunnels of green to the sea at the South; wind-blown hedges to mark the mouth of Thames or Humber, the Western rim. Star-point hedges, smooth and trim.