7 Figures of Speech Examples in Poetry

In Poetry, the figures of speech are often employed to breathe life into the written word. These stylistic tools serve as the brushstrokes in the artwork of the poet. They allow them to paint with emotions and conjure vivid images in the mind’s eye. There are different figures of speech like metaphor, alliteration, personification, imagery, etc, that give poetry its flavor and resonance. The poet by applying these devices appreciates the intricate dance between language and meaning. He explores that how words sometimes transcend their literal boundaries to touch something deeper within us.

Figures of Speech Examples in Poetry

Example#1

“Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:

The whole stanza uses personification, hyperbole and allusion vividly to create an image that carries richer meanings. The writer personifies the nightingale when he addresses it as ‘Thou wast not born from death and immortal Bird’. This suggests that both Keats’s poem As nu is eternal, timeless; like an immortal creature whose life spans beyond human years of age. This personification of nature emphasizes the need to preserve its beauty and peace, which soothes our souls.

Using hyperbole, in the line “No famishing generations crush thee down” Keats is suggesting that nightingales have always sung. This exaggeration shows that the nightingale’s song has resisted history and always won. All of this refers to generations past with their greedy bellies. Keats alludes to the Greek Emperor Nero and the lower classes of people (“emperor and clown”) in this line: Through this allusion, Keats emphasizes the universality and agelessness of the nightingale’s song.

Example#2

“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe

And so, all the night-tide,
I lie down by the side Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

In this passage from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, the poet uses metaphor and personification to create an evocative image. Poe uses metaphor to compare Annabel Lee with a welcome resting-place. Annabel Lee, buried by the side of a sea / In her tomb on the sounding shore. He says so to indicate that death has provided an eternal home for just one person–Annabel Lee-by making it into something like a sepulchre and tomb. Giving human traits to non-human things is personification. Poe says, All the night-tide–personifying the tide. He likens it to a living thing that accompanies itself always by man’s side even in times of sorrow and grief.

Example#3

 “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In the well-known lines, the poet uses metaphor and personification to express a deeper meaning. He compares the amount traffic on two roads. One road has seen many people pass along it; whereas, the other one less travelled upon. This metaphor implies that the choice between these two roads represents a big decision, one which can change utterly the speaker’s life.

Frost uses personification to describe the less travelled by road, with his famous line that has made all the difference. By so doing he implies not only that this key choice or decision transformed your life as a whole but also–even more importantly–that it was something about the road itself which caused you to change direction and make such an important decision in your life’s history.

Example#4

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.”

In these memorable lines from Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, the poet uses metaphor and personification to make a deeper statement. Thomas’s use of a rich array of literary devices makes this passage from his poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” one to be remembered. The poet uses personification as an assignment of human qualities to non-human things. This is how death appears here to Thomas, who refers to it as “that good night.” Tempting and comforting as he makes that grim foe seem, there’s a haunting contrast with the desperate anguish of this speaker urging anyone advanced in years not yet ready for their maker.

The writer has also used metaphor to evoke similarities between two things without using either the word like or as. Thomas uses a metaphor to compare old age with close of day, calling up an image in which growing older is seen as a kind of late afternoon fading upon that particular individual. This comparison stresses the transience of time and imminence of death that accompany old age.

While using hyperbole, it has been shown that the speaker wants her to keep fighting until death. Thomas employs hyperbole in these lines: ” At close of day old age should burn and rave; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The exaggeration here shows that the speaker sees death as a forceful opponent. Meaning thereby that one who cannot be defeated without colossal effort and sheer emotion.

Example#5

“Wake Up” by Allen Ginsberg

“The world is a mirror, and I am a wardrobe,
And this sun, a fire in my blood;
And my mirror image, smile to smile,
And my words, a sweet harmony.”

In the aforesaid stanza, the poets has used the metaphor to compare the world to a mirror. He also compares himself with a wardrobe. This metaphorical comparison creates a sense of connection between the speaker and the natural world, and highlights the idea that the world is a reflection of oneself. The ‘sun’ has been described as a fire within the speaker. It conveys a sense of vitality and energy. The idea of a mirror image and a smile to smile underscores the theme of reflection. Lastly, the words are likened to a sweet harmony. It points out the idea that the expression and language of the speaker resonate in a pleasing and harmonious way.

Example#6

“The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

This excerpt is intended to express the extent of this clouding and obscuring, that in essence the world has become too much with us (with late nineteenth-century Japan being no exception). In the lines, “getting and spending we laid waste our powers,” Wordsworth assigns human actions to wanton destructive forces that drink up all of our vital energies. In addition, he anthropomorphizes nature in the sentence that says little of what we see there belongs to us. Our selfish concerns have kept us from noticing its true worth. The humanization serves to reflect the speaker’s desire for a deeper affinity and closeness with nature.

A sordid boon It is this last line that most clearly illustrates the use of metaphor. With reference to varying aspects, everything we possess has replaced our relationship with nature and personal convictions. This metaphor points out the influence of widespread materialism that has piled up in these speakers ‘minds, damaging our sense of life and holding power.

Example#7

 “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

These lines from the poem are excellent examples of figurative language, specifically metaphor and repetition. In this case, Thomas uses a metaphor to describe old age as “that good night”, implying that old age is like the end of a day, bringing calmness and peace. However, the metaphor takes a dramatic shift in the second line. Here, Thomas personifies old age as “should burn and rave at close of day”. This vivid and potent imagery underscores the urgency and intensity that the speaker feels about aging. He intends to communicate that the aging process should not be accepted passively but should instead be met with fierce resistance and passion.

Furthermore, the repeated use of the phrase “rage, rage against the dying of the light” is an instance of repetition, a literary device that creates an impactful and emotionally powerful effect. By repeating this phrase, Thomas amplifies the emotional intensity, emphasizing the speaker’s impassioned plea to the aging person to fight back against the inevitability of death.

Figures of Speech Examples in Poetry
Figures of Speech Examples in Poetry

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