Examples of Imagery in Poetry

Imagery is one of the literary devices that engage the human senses; sight, hearing, taste, and touch. Imagery is as important as metaphor and simile and can be written without using any figurative language at all. It represents object, action, and idea which appeal our senses. Sometimes it becomes more complex than just a picture. There are five main types of imagery, each related to one of the human senses:

  • Visual imagery (sight)
  • Auditory Imagery (hearing)
  • Olfactory imagery (smell)
  • Gustatory imagery (taste)
  • Tactile imagery ( touch)

A writer can use single or multiple imageries in his writings. Imagery can be literal. They also allow the readers to directly sympathize with the character and narrator. Through imagery, the reader imagines a similar sensory experience. It helps to build compelling poetry, convincing narratives, clear plays, well-designed film sets, and heart touching descriptive songs. It involves imagination. Hence, writing without imagery would be dull and dry, and writing with imagery can be gripping and vibrant. The necessary sensory detail can allow the reader to understand the character and minute details of writing which a writer wants to communicate. Imagery can be symbolic, which deepens the impact of the text. For more explanation refer to this article: //literarydevices.net/figurative-language/. Here are a few examples of imagery in a poetry:

After Apple picking- Robert Frost

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.

These lines have powerful imagery. We can feel the swaying ladder, see the bending boughs and hear the rumbling sound of apples going in the cellar bin. These lines are literal. Every word means what it typically means. The entire poem is imagery that conveys deep feelings of contemplation and subtle remorse for things left undone to the reader.

Romeo and Juliet –W. Shakespeare

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night,
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear

Here Romeo is comparing the beauty of Juliet. He says that she looks more radiant than brightly lit torches in the hall. Further, he says that her face glows like a precious bright jewel against the dark skin of an African in the night. Here he uses the contrasting images of light and dark to portray her beauty. The imagery also involves the use of figurative language; he uses the simile to enhance the imagery.

To AutumnJohn Keats

Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep

To Autumn is rich in imagery, evoking the perception of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The above lines are primarily visual imagery. The tactile imagery (touch) is seen in the warmth of the day, the clammy cells, the soft lifted hair.

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,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

This is a very good example of imagery. We can see the ‘vales and hills’ through which the speaker wanders, and the daffodils cover the whole landscape. The poet uses the sense of sight to create a host of golden daffodils beside the lake. The rich golden color is also appealing to our senses.

Prophyria’s lover – Robert Browning

When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm

In the above lines, uses the sense of touch (tactile imagery). The writer appeals to our sense of touch. For example, the chill of a storm, the sensation when the door is closed to it, and the fire’s blaze coming from the furnace grate to describe the warmth of the cottage.

Rain In summer – H.W.LongFellow

They silently inhale
the clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil

In the above lines, the poet has used olfactory imagery (sense of smell). The phrases ‘clover- scented’ breeze and ‘well-watered and smoking soil’ paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind about the smells after rainfall. For a moment reader finds himself between the prevailing scents of post-rain time.

Kubla Khan – S.T.Coleridge

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where we heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.

Here there is the use of visual as well as auditory imageries. The shadow of the dome which is floating on the waves of the river, describes its beauty. In the next line, the reader can hear the mingled sounds of fountain and caves.

Prelude – T.S.Eliot

The winter evening settles down
With smells of steaks in passageways
Six o’ clock.
The burnt- out ends of smoky days….
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer.

Here the poet uses sharp imagery to help the reader imagine the future of the world. His line ‘the faint stale smells of beer’ clearly brings the sense of smell to our mind. Later the lines there is olfactory imagery in ‘the winter evening settles down/ with the smell of steaks in passageways’.

Summer Night – Alfred Tennyson

And like a ghost, she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me

The words ‘shining, sweetness, slips and glimmer’ appeal to our visual senses as he creates a beautiful picture of the night. The shooting stars (meteors) and its shiny tail is a very sparkling image which he uses for young man and woman. The beautiful atmosphere of twilight and gathering darkness filled with stars.

Sweet Potato Pie – James Taylor

Tender like a night in June,
Sweeter than a honeymoon,
Brighter than a silver spoon,
Just as crazy as a loon.

Softer than a lullaby,
Deeper than the midnight sky,
Soulful as a baby’s cry,
My sweet potato pie.

In the above lines, we can imagine nature, months and seasons with the help of visual imagery. The words ‘tender, sweeter, brighter, softer, deeper and baby’s cry’ can ingenuously appeal our senses.