Poetry in olden times was mostly allegorical due to political suppression and social constraints. This norm of poetic allegories continues despite the intervention of new conditions as themes in modern and postmodern poetry vary due to emerging social conditions. Some of the best allegorical poems or extracts from those poems have been analyzed as follows. Learn more about allegory – here.
I had a gig-horse, and I called him Pleasure
Because on Sundays for a little jaunt
He was so fast and showy, quite a treasure;
Although he sometimes kicked and shied aslant.
I had a chaise, and christened it Enjoyment,
With yellow body and the wheels of red,
Because it was only used for one employment,
Namely, to go wherever Pleasure led.
I had a wife, her nickname was Delight:
A son called Frolic, who was never still:
Alas! how often dark succeeds to bright!
Delight was thrown, and Frolic had a spill,
Enjoyment was upset and shattered quite,
And Pleasure fell a splitter on Paine’s Hill.
Taken from “Allegory,” as the poem has been titled by Thomas Hood, this part of the poem presents Pleasure, Enjoyment, and Delight used in allegorical senses. The poet shows the gig horse as Pleasure or Pleasure as the gig horse. All three are abstract ideas that Thomas Hood has personified and used for the happiness and enjoyment of a person, showing their actions and their results. This is a beautiful use of allegories in a poem.
The Castle of Indolence by James Thomson
Mortal Man, who livest here by Toil,
Do not complain of this thy hard Estate;
That like an Emmet thou must ever moil,
Is a sad Sentence of an ancient Date;
And, certes, there is for it Reason great;
For, though sometimes it makes thee weep and wail,
And curse thy Stars, and early drudge and late,
Withouten That would come an heavier Bale,
Loose Life, unruly Passions, and Diseases pale.
Although Thomson has given initials of the abstract ideas of Sentence, Bale, Life, Passions, and Diseases, they point to the allegorical nature of the poem. This canto just presents an idea of how this entire poem about the wizard, Archimage, is an allegory to show how Archimage entices the invitees into laziness.
The Pastime of Pleasure by Stephen Hawes
The good Dame Mercy with Dame Charyte
My body buryed full ryght humbly
In a fayre temple of olde antyquyte,
Where was for me a dyryge devoutely
And with many a masse full ryght solempnely;
And over my grave, to be in memory,
Remembraunce made this lytell epytaphy:
This is amazing poem was written in 1506. The very opening of this stanza from “The Pastime of Pleasure” shows that Stephen Hawes has personified two abstract ideas Mercy and Charity, presenting them as Dames who visit the tomb of the speaker, pay their respects, and pray for him. This shows that the poet wants to show his readers that these two actions of a person could save him. In other words, he has stressed upon the religious ideas of mercy and charity through the allegorical storyline of Dame Mercy and Dame Charyte.
This Lunar Beauty by W. H. Auden
This lunar beauty
Has no history
Is complete and early,
If beauty later
Bear any feature
It had a lover
And is another.
This like a dream
Keeps other time
And daytime is
The loss of this,
For time is inches
And the heart’s changes
Where ghost has haunted
Lost and wanted.
This modern poetry has personified the beauty of the moon. He has used this allegory to tell his readers that beauty is always feminine and that where there is beauty, there is a lover. If this beauty comes at night, its loss is daytime, Auden says adding that time becomes a measuring tool, the heart becomes unpredictable and the entire atmosphere becomes haunted. This means that the lunar beauty is, somewhat, allegorically related to something terrifyingly beautiful.
The Moon by Shelley
And, like a dying lady lean and pale,
Who totters forth, wrapp’d in a gauzy veil,
Out of her chamber, led by the insane
And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
The moon arose up in the murky east
A white and shapeless mass.
Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
Painted as a shy female, Shelley has written this beautiful allegory to describe the emergence of the moon and its beauty. First, he compares it to a lady wrapped in a veil that is very feeble in her gait. The second stanza presents her a loveless lady who has become frail and fragile due to her loneliness as she has no companion when she goes on her tour to heaven. This allegorical presentation of the moon shows the poet presenting feminine beauty through a comparison with the moon.
Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake
Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.
These two stanzas are taken from the beautiful poem of William Blake “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in which he presents the allegory of heaven and hell. The presentation shows heaven as the perilous path that becomes beautiful due to the replacement of thorns with roses and barrenness with honeybees. The second stanza shows the presence of a river, cliff, and tomb as part of heaven. This is a very good allegorical presentation of heaven.