Beginning from the 5th century, the lingua franca– English Language has undergone many changes. The history of English has seen continuous modifications and alterations owing to the multiple cultures and various people who influenced it. Among these changes, many literary terms and grammatical concepts were introduced to ease communication and form various compositions. Poems are one of the forms of expressions that use different “Poetic Devices” to create a narrative, to deliver a message, or exhibit emotions, feelings in a rhythmic and aesthetic form. In this blog, we will see the various forms of 50+ poetic devices in English Literature with examples and meanings!
Poems are defined as “the clarification and magnification of being” – Hirshfield (1997)
This Blog Includes:
- What are Poetic Devices?
- Commonly Used Poetic Devices
- 50+ Poetic Devices with Examples
- Top 10 Poetic Devices with Examples
- Poetic Devices in English Literature Explained with Examples!
- Poetic Devices in Fire and Ice
- Why are Poetic Devices Used?
What are Poetic Devices?
Poetic devices can be simply referred to as a form of literary devices which are used in poetry. They are used as different elements in a poem just like above in verbal, visual, structural, rhythmic, metrical, grammatical elements, and so on. These poetic devices are tools used by poets to augment the meaning of a poem, make it rhythmic pleasing, or intensify the core emotion, mood, or feeling represented in the poem.
Commonly Used Poetic Devices
Here are the most commonly used and interesting poetic devices in English literature you must know about:
50+ Poetic Devices with Examples
There are different types of Poetic Devices which can be incorporate in a poem to make it more meaningful and filled with imagery. The major forms of poetic devices are based on:
- To add sounds of words
- To enhance the meaning of words
- To arrange the words in a certain order or sequence
- To create imagery through words
Now, let’s take a look at the complete list of poetic devices of each of these purposes:
English Poetic Devices Used to Create Rhythm/Sound
Top 10 Poetic Devices with Examples
- Onomatopeia: Splash, Murmur, Bang, Fwoosh, Buzz
- Alliteration: “She sells seashells by the sea-shore.”
- Rhyme: Night-Bright, Skin-Grin, Frog-Log
- Assonance: “The crumbling thunder of seas” (Robert Louis Stevenson); “Strips of tinfoil winking like people” (Sylvia Plath)
- Consonance: Toss the glass, boss; Dawn goes down
- Euphony: “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (Shakespeare)
- Repetition: Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
“The woods are lovely dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
- Cacophony: “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! The frumious Bandersnatch!” (Lewis Carroll)
- Rhythm: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Shakespeare)
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. (Robert Frost)
English Poetic Devices Used to Change the Meaning of Words
- Irony: Stevie Smith’s Not Waving But Drowning
“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.”
- Allegory: The Tortoise and the Hare – Aesop’s Fables
“If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, “He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone. – Thomas Hardy
“O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy;
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy” (William Blake’s The Rose)
She sweeps with many-colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond! (Emily Dickinson)
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called” (William Shakespeare)
“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.” (William Wordsworth)
- Cliche: A heart full of sorrow
- Connotation: “She’s all states, and all princes, I” (John Donne)
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.” (William Shakespeare)
“Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on
us?” (John Donne)
- Metaphor: “An elephant, a ponderous house
A melon strolling on two tendrils.” (Sylvia Plath)
- Pun: “Apocalypse soon
Coming our way
Ground zero at noon
Halve a nice day.” (Edmund Conti)
- Hyperbole: “And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:” (Robert Burns)
- Simile: “Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.” (Shakespeare)
“O, for a draught of vintage!” (John Keats) [Here Vintage is a metonymy for Wine]
“Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.” (Shakespeare)
- Paradox: “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.” (Oscar Wilde)
“‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.” (Shakespeare)
I am of one element,
Levity my matter,
Like enough a withered leaf
For the winds to scatter. (The Archepoet)
English Poetic Devices for Arranging the Words
- Rhyme Scheme
- Verse Line
- Blank Verse & Free Verse
English Poetic Devices for Adding Imagery
- Tone or Mood
Poetic Devices in English Literature Explained with Examples!
To help you understand the definition and meaning of English poetic devices, we have elaborated all the major poetic devices with examples in English literature:
One of the most used poetic devices, Alliteration is a phonetic structure and repeated usage of sound or letter used in the first syllable of a word. It is considered as the oldest poetic tool that is generally used for two or more words in a poem. Most of the poets take alliteration into account while framing a particular poem as it adds charm and effectiveness. Sometimes, alliteration perfectly fits in tongue twisters.
Examples of Alliteration as a Poetic Device
- Dan’s dog dove deep in the dam, drinking dirty water as he dove
- She sells seashells by the sea-shore
- Hannah’s home is warm now, hopefully.
By this term, we can understand it is a phrase or a word that is meant to call something without mentioning it clearly. Allusion, which is yet another popularly used poetic device in English, is an ambiguous statement or phrase that leaves a reader in oblivion.
Examples of Allusion as a Poetic Device:
- Michel’s rival was in search of his Achilles heel to defeat him
- A noted American Scientist faces racism
- A giant aeroplane crashed like a helpless bird
“Another age shall see the golden ear
Embrown the slope, and nod on the parterre,
Deep harvests bury all his pride has planned,
And laughing Ceres reassume the land.”
In a literary landscape, when two or more words that are close to each other repeats the same vowel sounds then such English poetic devices are known as Assonance. However, they commence with different consonant sounds. Let’s understand this through examples.
Examples of Assonance as a Poetic Device:
- I feel depressed and restless.
- You should go and mow the courtyard.
- Michel took the steering of a car and drove the vehicle.
Falling under the list of poetic devices, Consonance is used in both prose and poetry. It can be understood as the repetition of sounds that are produced by the consonants in a phrase or a sentence. It is quite contrary to assonance’s repetition of vowel sounds. Sometimes, the usage of this word gives a rhythmic mood in a writeup. Let’s get it clear with the examples.
Examples of Consonance as a Poetic Device
- Zubair zooms the zooming lens of a DSLR camera
- In April, Arvind likes his new Avatar
- Don’t creep and beep while grandpa falls asleep
“Great, or good, or kind, or fair,
I will ne’er the more despair;
If she loves me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve;
If she slights me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go;
For if she be not for me,
What care I for whom she be?”
In the literary landscape, words are often framed in such a way that their original meaning gets changed. As a popular English poetic device, it is actually a figure of speech that helps us understand the difference between reality and appearance. For example, we are anticipating that a particular situation would be a particular expectation but turns quite contradictory to that.
Examples of Irony as a Poetic Device:
- The moment I posted the cooking video on Youtube, I broke my smartphone
- There is a thick smog coming from a fire station, it seems like something is burning
- Your heart is soft as a stone in the ocean
In order to put extreme emphasis on our writing style, we use the repetition technique. Through such poetic devices in English, the words or phrases are repeated in sentences. It is used in poetry as well as the prose sections.
Examples of Repetition as a Poetic Device:
- Amid the Coronavirus scare, the Doctor suggested me not take cold food, not to consume ice cream and to avoid attending gatherings.
- I was watching a crime series where the judge repeatedly commanded “order in the court, order in the court” while stamping his mallet on the table.
- After watching the movie, I felt that it was a total wastage of time, wastage of energy as well as wastage of money.
“It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know..
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love–
I and my Annabel Lee …”
Being the most important poetic devices, these are widely used while framing poems. They play a decisive role in adding more charm and mood in the poem. It is a tool that brings music to the poem in a proper rhythmic structure. Here is an example of rhyme as a poetic device:
Amongst all the poetic devices, personification is a simple one to understand. As the name suggests, you need to personify inanimate objects or plants or animals or any other living beings with human qualities thus transforming your poetry into lively and filled with imagery and description. Let’s take a look at an example of personification as a poetic device in Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room by William Blake:
“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”
As a figure of speech is a poetic device, a metaphor is used in order to draw a comparison between unrelated things in an implicit or hidden way. Or, this is used when a poet tries to resemble two opposite things or objects on the basis of some common characteristics.
Examples of Metaphor as a Poetic Device:
- Shizuka’s appearance is a great poem
- The skies of his future began to darken
- His words are pearls of wisdom
Similes are those poetic devices that are used to make a comparison to depict the similarities between two different things. However, this resemblance is done by taking words “like” and “as” into account when establishing a direct comparison.
Examples of Simile as a Poetic Device
- Shikha is so nervous, her feet are as cold as ice.
- You are as sweet as sugar.
- As soon as I got my blood test done, I felt as light as a feather.
As a poetic device, calligram blends together calligraphy with portraying certain aspects in a poem in a different manner. It uses the formation of letters or the font of specific words to represent a feature of the poem’s subject.
For example, if the poet wants to convey that some words in a poem are meant to be read in a specific way like trembling fonts might represent fear or small font size can show that the words are hushed. Here is an example of calligram as a poetic device in a poem written by Lewis Carroll:
This word has a Greek origin “AEIDEIN”, which means to sing. We can say that these poetic devices are lyrical lines that are not very lengthy. There are mainly three types of Odes namely, Pindar, Horatian and Irregular ode. Here is an example of Ode as a Poetic Device:
In simple words, onomatopoeia can be termed as the creation of a word describing its sound. Some of the popular examples of words sounding similar to their meanings are roar, clap, moo, etc. It is one of the popular poetic devices used in children rhymes to give them a rhythmic and easy to remember structure similar to a jingle. Here is a renowned example of onomatopoeia as a poetic device:
“Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling.”
Poetic Devices in Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
– Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
- Assonance: Same vowels are repeated in I hold with those who favor fire“
- Alliteration: Favor fire; Some say
- Imagery: for Destruction Ice, the world will end in fire
- Rhyme: Desire -> Fire; Twice -> Ice -> Suffice
- Personification: Fire and Ice are given human qualities by showing them as capable of destruction.
Why are Poetic Devices Used?
Poetic devices are important literary tools that are used to intensify an emotion, add rhythm or make a poem more meaningful. A poetic device plays a significant role in putting a poem in all its beauty by intensifies its meaning, enhancing the emotional feeling and leaving the reader mesmerized! Here are the top reasons why poetic devices are used:
- To add rhythm and tone to a poem by rhyming words, using sounds, etc.
- To enhance the imagery in a poem by using metaphors, natural imagery, etc.
- To improve or intensify a certain feeling in the poem by personification, irony, etc.
- To make a poem more meaningful with wordplay, similes, metaphors, allusion, etc.
- To add structure to a poem like with stanzas, ballet, sonnet, etc.
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