A metaphor is a comparison between two things that replaces the word or name for one object with that of another. Unlike a simile, a type of analogy that uses “like” or “as” (you shine like the sun!), a metaphor does not use these two words (a famous line from Romeo and Juliet has Romeo proclaiming “Juliet is the sun”). Metaphors are commonly used throughout all types of literature, but rarely to the extent that they are used in poetry.
Famous Metaphors in Poetry
Because poems are meant to impart often complex images and feelings to a reader, metaphors often state the comparisons most poignantly. Here are a few of the most famous metaphors ever used in poetry:
The Sun Rising
“She is all states, and all princes, I.”
Metaphysical poet John Donne was well-known for his use of metaphor throughout his poetical works.
In his famous work “The Sun Rising,” the speaker scolds the sun for waking up him and his lover. Among the most evocative metaphors in literature, he explains “she is all states, and all princes, I.” This line demonstrates the speaker’s belief that he and his lover are richer than all states, kingdoms, and rulers in all the world because of the love that they share.
Other metaphors appear throughout the poem as well. In the following line, the speaker explains to the sun that compared with his love,
“all honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.”
In essence, any sense of honor and pride is diminished by the honor felt in his love, and all material wealth is little more than alchemy, a pseudo-science that tried to turn common elements such as lead into gold.
“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day,”
If one poet ever mastered the metaphor, that poet has to be William Shakespeare. His poetical works and his dramas all make extensive use of metaphors.
“Sonnet 18,” also known as “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day,” is an extended analogy between the love of the speaker and the fairness of the summer season. He writes that “thy eternal summer,” here taken to mean the love of the subject, “shall not fade.”
This love poem continues to use metaphor through the final stanza, a rhyming couplet.
“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
We will also review a playlist of Spoke word Poetry from National Poetry Month: (See: Summer 2013 Creative Writing Videos).
From the YouTube description:
“If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B … ” began spoken word poet Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011. She tells the story of her metamorphosis — from a wide-eyed teenager soaking in verse at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club to a teacher connecting kids with the power of self-expression through Project V.O.I.C.E. — and gives two breathtaking performances of “B” and “Hiroshima.”