Examples Of Figurative Language In Poetry

Figurative Languages are words and expressions used in poems and texts to convey various meanings and interpretations from the literal meaning. Figurative devices play major while writing poems, sonnets, or ballads. They are the best tool for a writer to appeal to the senses of the reader. These devices give the reader detailed, vivid, and expressive insights. It also gives dimension to poetry and allows the writer to say things with additional flair and color. The most common techniques of figurative languages you can find in poetry are Simile, Metaphor, Symbolism, Alliteration, Hyperbole, and many more. For a detailed list refer to this article: https://literarydevices.net/figurative-language/. Here are a few examples of figurative languages in a poetry

Ode to a NightingaleJohn Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,..
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,….
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow…
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;…
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Ode to a Nightingale is an extraordinary poem that relates life’s suffering to the briefness of bird’s song. Here simile is used to compare abandonment or loneliness to a bell. In the line, “for a beaker full of the warm south”. The poet has used a metaphor to compare liquid with south country weather. In the verse, “where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes” beauty is personified. The poet has used the apostrophe in “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird”. Here, he is directly addressing the bird.

Tartary- Walter De La Mare

And in the evening lamps would shine,
Yellow as honey, red as wine,

Her bird-delighting, citron trees
In every purple vale!

In the above lines, the poet uses the simile explicitly way. Yellow is compared to honey and red is to wine. The poet uses hyperbole for exaggeration, and for glorifying his dream. “The evening lamp would shine, yellow as honey red as wine.” Here, the poet exaggerates the colors of light. The implicit comparison draws through metaphor as ‘In every purple vale’.

Daffodils – W. W. Worth

 I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,…
And dances with the daffodils.

In the first line, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ The poet compares himself to a cloud by using a simile. Alliteration is used in ‘Beside the lake, beneath the trees, And dances with the daffodils’. The sounds of ‘b’ and ‘d’ are in repetition. The poet has personified the daffodils as if the flowers can dance.

Because I could not stop for death – Emily Dickinson

He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves…
We passed the Setting Sun –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –

In this poem, death is personified as a male suitor throughout the poem, driving the cart slowly. The carriage is a metaphor for the final journey. The house is a metaphor for grave. Sunset is the symbol for the foreshadowing of death or old age.

All the world’s a stage – William Shakespeare     

   All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;…
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

The idea behind this poem is fortune and fate. Shakespeare has beautifully used metaphors for seven stages of life. The visual imagery of lover, infant, and child display their character traits. The simile of ‘creeping like a snail’, ’sighing like a furnace’, and ‘beard like the pard’ are remarkable.

Little Boy Blue – Mother Goose

Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow,
The cow’s in the corn.
But where is the boy
Who looks after the sheep?
He’s under a haystack,
Fast asleep.

‘The sheep’s in the meadow’, ‘cow’s in the corn’, and ‘he‘s under haystack’ are the imageries. Alliteration is used in ‘little boy blue’ as the consonant sound /b/ is repeated. The rhyme is an extended metaphor for the innocence of a child. The rhyme also has enjambment when she transfers the thought to the next line.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy EveningRobert Frost

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

The following verse, ‘And miles to go before I sleep’ is an extended metaphor for the journey of life where sleep is for death. Poet has personified the thinking of horse mildly in the second stanza and further when he signs to the rider with’ bell’. The lake, snow, bell, and woods are imageries that appeal to our senses. Assonance is used in ‘He gives his harness bells a shake’. The sound of /i/ come in quick succession in ‘gives’ and ‘his’.

Patriot into traitor – Robert Browning

It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flames, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day…
There’s nobody on the house-tops now
Just a palsied few at the windows set

In this poem, the poet presents how people change their mindsets using irony. For example, the fame and downfall of a leader. Political upheavals go parallel to ironic situations in the poem. In verse, “The house roofs seemed to heave and sway” the houses are personified and referred to the mob. The poem also begins with the image of the past, where a patriot is being welcomed warmly. The use of roses shows love, heaving, and swaying of rooftops is juxtaposed with the image of empty roofs.

Sailing to Byzantium – W. B. Yeats

In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal

Imagery is used in ‘In one another’s arms, birds in the trees’, ‘O sages standing in God’s holy fire’ and ‘Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing’, which appeals our senses. Here ‘Soul’ is personified. In the line, ‘A tattered coat upon a stick, unless” the poet has used the metaphor. Here, he compares himself to a scarecrow.  “Consume my heart away; sick with desire”, the Oxymoron is clear here sickness presents desire and desire is for passion.

Kubla Khan – S. T. Coleridge

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

In verse, “huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail”, the poet has used a simile to compare the fragments to hailstorm to show their impact. In the line, ‘as if this earth in fast thick pant was breathing’ earth is personified as if it can breathe like a human being. Alliteration is used in ‘woman wailing for her demon-lover’; the sound of /w/ is repeated.