Alliteration: The repetition of the same consonant sounds in a sequence of words, usually at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable: "descending dew drops"; "luscious lemons." Alliteration is based on the sounds of letters, rather than the spelling of words; for example, "keen" and "car" alliterate, but "car" and "cite" do not. Used sparingly, alliteration can intensify ideas by emphasizing key words, but when used too self-consciously, it can be distracting, even ridiculous, rather than effective.
Alliteration is the recurrence of initial consonant sounds. The repetition can be juxtaposed (and then it is usually limited to two words):
• Ah, what a delicious day!
• Yes, I have read that little bundle of pernicious prose, but I have no comment to make upon it.
• Done well, alliteration is a satisfying sensation.
This two-word alliteration calls attention to the phrase and fixes it in the reader's mind, and so is useful for emphasis as well as art. Often, though, several words not next to each other are alliterated in a sentence. Here the use is more artistic. And note in the second example how wonderfully alliteration combines with antithesis:
• I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or see the stars twinkle, in the company of men to whom Nature does not spread her volumes or utter her voice in vain. --Samuel Johnson
• Do not let such evils overwhelm you as thousands have suffered, and thousands have surmounted; but turn your thoughts with vigor to some other plan of life, and keep always in your mind, that, with due submission to Providence, a man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself. --Samuel Johnson
• I conceive therefore, as to the business of being profound, that it is with writers, as with wells; a person with good eyes may see to the bottom of the deepest, provided any water be there; and that often, when there is nothing in the world at the bottom, besides dryness and dirt, though it be but a yard and a half under ground, it shall pass, however, for wondrous deep, upon no wiser a reason than because it is wondrous dark. --Jonathan Swift
Assonance: The repetition of internal vowel sounds in nearby words that do not end the same, for example, "asleep under a tree," or "each evening." Similar endings result in rhyme, as in "asleep in the deep." Assonance is a strong means of emphasizing important words in a line. See also alliteration, consonance.
Assonance: similar vowel sounds repeated in successive or proximate words containing different consonants:
• A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. --Matthew 5:14b (KJV)
• Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. --Matthew 5:16 (KJV)
Personification A form of metaphor in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things. Personification offers the writer a way to give the world life and motion by assigning familiar human behaviors and emotions to animals, inanimate objects, and abstract ideas. For example, in Keats’s "Ode on a Grecian Urn," the speaker refers to the urn as an "unravished bride of quietness."
Personification metaphorically represents an animal or inanimate object as having human attributes--attributes of form, character, feelings, behavior, and so on. Ideas and abstractions can also be personified.
• The ship began to creak and protest as it struggled against the rising sea.
• We bought this house instead of the one on Maple because this one is more friendly.
• This coffee is strong enough to get up and walk away.
• I can't get the fuel pump back on because this bolt is being uncooperative.
• Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. --Genesis 4:10b (NIV)
• That ignorance and perverseness should always obtain what they like was never considered as the end of government; of which it is the great and standing benefit that the wise see for the simple, and the regular act for the capricious. --Samuel Johnson
• Wisdom cries aloud in the streets; in the markets she raises her voice . . . .--Psalm 1:20 (RSV; and cf. 1:21-33)
While personification functions primarily as a device of art, it can often serve to make an abstraction clearer and more real to the reader by defining or explaining the concept in terms of everyday human action (as for example man's rejection of readily available wisdom is presented as a woman crying out to be heard but being ignored). Ideas can be brought to life through personification and objects can be given greater interest. But try always to be fresh: "winking stars" is worn out; "winking dewdrops" may be all right.
Personification of just the natural world has its own name, fictio. And when this natural-world personification is limited to emotion, John Ruskin called it the pathetic fallacy. Ruskin considered this latter to be a vice because it was so often overdone (and let this be a caution to you). We do not receive much pleasure from an overwrought vision like this:
• The angry clouds in the hateful sky cruelly spat down on the poor man who had forgotten his umbrella.
Nevertheless, humanizing a cold abstraction or even some natural phenomenon gives us a way to understand it, one more way to arrange the world in our own terms, so that we can further comprehend it. And even the so-called pathetic fallacy can sometimes be turned to advantage, when the writer sees his own feelings in the inanimate world around him:
• After two hours of political platitudes, everyone grew bored. The delegates were bored; the guests were bored; the speaker himself was bored. Even the chairs were bored.
a complicated intellectual metaphor. Petrarchan conceits drew on conventional sensory imagery popularized by the Italian poet Petrarch (1304-74). Metaphysical conceits were characterized by esoteric, abstract associations and surprising effects. John Donne and other so-called metaphysical poets used conceits in ways that fused the sensory and the abstract. Examples are John Donne's use of the compass in "The Ecstasy" and of alchemy in "A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day."
Simile: A common figure of speech that makes an explicit comparison between two things by using words such as like, as, than, appears, and seems: "A sip of Mrs. Cook’s coffee is like a punch in the stomach." The effectiveness of this simile is created by the differences between the two things compared. There would be no simile if the comparison were stated this way: "Mrs. Cook’s coffee is as strong as the cafeteria’s coffee." This is a literal translation because Mrs. Cook’s coffee is compared with something like it—another kind of coffee.
Simile is a comparison between two different things that resemble each other in at least one way. In formal prose the simile is a device both of art and explanation, comparing an unfamiliar thing to some familiar thing (an object, event, process, etc.) known to the reader.
When you compare a noun to a noun, the simile is usually introduced by like:
• I see men, but they look like trees, walking. --Mark 8:24
• After such long exposure to the direct sun, the leaves of the houseplant looked like pieces of overcooked bacon.
• The soul in the body is like a bird in a cage.
When a verb or phrase is compared to a verb or phrase, as is used:
• They remained constantly attentive to their goal, as a sunflower always turns and stays focused on the sun.
• Here is your pencil and paper. I want you to compete as the greatest hero would in the race of his life.
Often the simile--the object or circumstances of imaginative identity (called the vehicle, since it carries or conveys a meaning about the word or thing which is likened to it)-precedes the thing likened to it (the tenor). In such cases, so usually shows the comparison:
• The grass bends with every wind; so does Harvey.
• The seas are quiet when the winds give o're; / So calm are we when passions are no more. --Edmund Waller
But sometimes the so is understood rather than expressed:
• As wax melts before the fire,/ may the wicked perish before God. --Psalm 68:2b
Whenever it is not immediately clear to the reader, the point of similarity between the unlike objects must be specified to avoid confusion and vagueness. Rather than say, then, that "Money is like muck," and "Fortune is like glass," a writer will show clearly how these very different things are like each other:
• And money is like muck, not good except it be spread. --Francis Bacon
• Fortune is like glass--the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken. --Publilius Syrus
• Like a skunk, he suffered from bad publicity for one noticeable flaw, but bore no one any ill will.
• James now felt like an old adding machine: he had been punched and poked so much that he had finally worn out.
• This paper is just like an accountant's report: precise and accurate but absolutely useless.
Many times the point of similarity can be expressed in just a word or two:
• Yes, he is a cute puppy, but when he grows up he will be as big as a house.
• The pitching mound is humped too much like a camel's back.
And occasionally, the simile word can be used as an adjective:
• The argument of this book utilizes pretzel-like logic.
• This gear has a flower-like symmetry to it.
Similes can be negative, too, asserting that two things are unlike in one or more respects:
• My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. . . . --Shakespeare
• John certainly does not attack the way a Sherman tank does; but if you encourage him, he is bold enough.
Other ways to create similes include the use of comparison:
• Norman was more anxious to leave the area than Herman Milquetoast after seeing ten abominable snowmen charging his way with hunger in their eyes.
• But this truth is more obvious than the sun--here it is; look at it; its brightness blinds you.
Or the use of another comparative word is possible:
• Microcomputer EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) resembles a chalk board in that it is used for consultation instead of figuring, and shows at each glance the same information unless erased and rewritten.
• His temper reminds me of a volcano; his heart, of a rock; his personality, of sandpaper.
• His speech was smoother than butter. . . .--Psalm 55:21
Metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things, without using the word like or as. Metaphors assert the identity of dissimilar things, as when Macbeth asserts that life is a "brief candle." Metaphors can be subtle and powerful, and can transform people, places, objects, and ideas into whatever the writer imagines them to be. An implied metaphor is a more subtle comparison; the terms being compared are not so specifically explained. For example, to describe a stubborn man unwilling to leave, one could say that he was "a mule standing his ground." This is a fairly explicit metaphor; the man is being compared to a mule. But to say that the man "brayed his refusal to leave" is to create an implied metaphor, because the subject (the man) is never overtly identified as a mule. Braying is associated with the mule, a notoriously stubborn creature, and so the comparison between the stubborn man and the mule is sustained. Implied metaphors can slip by inattentive readers who are not sensitive to such carefully chosen, highly concentrated language. An extended metaphor is a sustained comparison in which part or all of a poem consists of a series of related metaphors. Robert Francis’s poem "Catch" relies on an extended metaphor that compares poetry to playing catch. A controlling metaphor runs through an entire work and determines the form or nature of that work. The controlling metaphor in Anne Bradstreet’s poem "The Author to Her Book" likens her book to a child. Synecdoche is a kind of metaphor in which a part of something is used to signify the whole, as when a gossip is called a "wagging tongue," or when ten ships are called "ten sails." Sometimes, synecdoche refers to the whole being used to signify the part, as in the phrase "Boston won the baseball game." Clearly, the entire city of Boston did not participate in the game; the whole of Boston is being used to signify the individuals who played and won the game. Metonymy is a type of metaphor in which something closely associated with a subject is substituted for it. In this way, we speak of the "silver screen" to mean motion pictures, "the crown" to stand for the king, "the White House" to stand for the activities of the president.
Metaphor compares two different things by speaking of one in terms of the other. Unlike a simile or analogy, metaphor asserts that one thing is another thing, not just that one is like another. Very frequently a metaphor is invoked by the to be verb:
Affliction then is ours; / We are the trees whom shaking fastens more. --George Herbert
• Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life." --John 6:35 [And compare the use of metaphor in 6:32-63]
• Thus a mind that is free from passion is a very citadel; man has no stronger fortress in which to seek shelter and defy every assault. Failure to perceive this is ignorance; but to perceive it, and still not to seek its refuge, is misfortune indeed. --Marcus Aurelius
• The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter. --Joshua Reynolds
Just as frequently, though, the comparison is clear enough that the a-is-b form is not necessary:
• The fountain of knowledge will dry up unless it is continuously replenished by streams of new learning.
• This first beam of hope that had ever darted into his mind rekindled youth in his cheeks and doubled the lustre of his eyes. --Samuel Johnson
• I wonder when motor mouth is going to run out of gas.
• When it comes to midterms, it's kill or be killed. Let's go in and slay this test.
• What sort of a monster then is man? What a novelty, what a portent, what a chaos, what a mass of contradictions, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, a ridiculous earthworm who is the repository of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the glory and the scum of the world. --Blaise Pascal
• The most learned philosopher knew little more. He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. . . . I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined. --Mary Shelley
• The furnace of affliction had softened his heart and purified his soul.
Compare the different degrees of direct identification between tenor and vehicle. There is fully expressed:
• Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness. --Luke 11:34 (RSV)
There is semi-implied:
• And he said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course."' --Luke 13:32 (RSV)
There is implied:
• . . . For thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy. --Psalm 63:7 (RSV)
And there is very implied:
• For if men do these things when the tree is green what will happen when it is dry? --Luke 23:31 (NIV)
Like simile and analogy, metaphor is a profoundly important and useful device. Aristotle says in his Rhetoric, "It is metaphor above all else that gives clearness, charm, and distinction to the style." And Joseph Addison says of it:
• By these allusions a truth in the understanding is as it were reflected by the imagination; we are able to see something like color and shape in a notion, and to discover a scheme of thoughts traced out upon matter. And here the mind receives a great deal of satisfaction, and has two of its faculties gratified at the same time, while the fancy is busy in copying after the understanding, and transcribing ideas out of the intellectual world into the material.
So a metaphor not only explains by making the abstract or unknown concrete and familiar, but it also enlivens by touching the reader's imagination. Further, it affirms one more interconnection in the unity of all things by showing a relationship between things seemingly alien to each other.
And the fact that two very unlike things can be equated or referred to in terms of one another comments upon them both. No metaphor is "just a metaphor." All have significant implications, and they must be chosen carefully, especially in regard to the connotations the vehicle (image) will transfer to the tenor. Consider, for example, the differences in meaning conveyed by these statements:
• That club is spreading like wildfire.
• That club is spreading like cancer.
• That club is really blossoming now.
• That club, in its amoebic motions, is engulfing the campus.
And do you see any reason that one of these metaphors was chosen over the others?
• The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. --Luke 10:2
• The pile of dirt is high, but we do not have many shovels.
• The diamonds cover the ground, but we need more people to pick them up.
So bold and striking is metaphor that it is sometimes taken literally rather than as a comparison. (Jesus' disciples sometimes failed here--see John 4:32ff and John 6:46-60; a few religious groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses interpret such passages as Psalm 75:8 and 118:15 literally and thus see God as anthropomorphic; and even today a lot of controversy surrounds the interpretation of Matthew 26:26.) Always be careful in your own writing, therefore, to avoid possible confusion between metaphor and reality. In practice this is usually not very difficult.
Synecdoche (Greek, "a receiving together"):
a figure of speech where the part stands for the whole (for example, "I've got wheels" for "I have a car"). One expression that combines synecdoche and metonymy (in which a word normally associated with something is substituted for the term usually naming that thing) is "boob tube," meaning "television."
Synecdoche is a type of metaphor in which the part stands for the whole, the whole for a part, the genus for the species, the species for the genus, the material for the thing made, or in short, any portion, section, or main quality for the whole or the thing itself (or vice versa).
• Farmer Jones has two hundred head of cattle and three hired hands.
Here we recognize that Jones also owns the bodies of the cattle, and that the hired hands have bodies attached. This is a simple part-for-whole synecdoche. Here are a few more:
• If I had some wheels, I'd put on my best threads and ask for Jane's hand in marriage.
• The army included two hundred horse and three hundred foot.
• It is sure hard to earn a dollar these days.
• Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. --Genesis 2:7
And notice the other kinds of substitutions that can be made:
• Get in here this instant or I'll spank your body. [Whole for part--i.e. "body" for "rear end"]
• Put Beethoven on the turntable and turn up the volume. [Composer substituted for record]
• A few hundred pounds of twenty dollar bills ought to solve that problem nicely. [Weight for amount]
• He drew his steel from his scabbard and welcomed all comers. [Material for thing made]
• Patty's hobby is exposing film; Harold's is burning up gasoline in his dune buggy. [Part for whole]
• Okay team. Get those blades back on the ice. [Part for whole]
Take care to make your synecdoche clear by choosing an important and obvious part to represent the whole. Compare:
• His pet purr was home alone and asleep.
• His pet paws [whiskers?] was home alone and asleep.
One of the easiest kinds of synecdoche to write is the substitution of genus for species. Here you choose the class to which the idea or thing to be expressed belongs, and use that rather than the idea or thing itself:
• There sits my animal [instead of "dog"] guarding the door to the henhouse.
• He hurled the barbed weapon [instead of "harpoon"] at the whale.
A possible problem can arise with the genus-for-species substitution because the movement is from more specific to more general; this can result in vagueness and loss of information. Note that in the example above some additional contextual information will be needed to clarify that "weapon" means "harpoon" in this case, rather than, say, "dagger" or something else. The same is true for the animal-for-dog substitution.
Perhaps a better substitution is the species for the genus--a single, specific, representative item symbolic of the whole. This form of synecdoche will usually be clearer and more effective than the other:
• A major lesson Americans need to learn is that life consists of more than cars and television sets. [Two specific items substituted for the concept of material wealth]
• Give us this day our daily bread. --Matt. 6:11
• If you still do not feel well, you'd better call up a sawbones and have him examine you.
• This program is for the little old lady in Cleveland who cannot afford to pay her heating bill.
Metonymy is another form of metaphor, very similar to synecdoche (and, in fact, some rhetoricians do not distinguish between the two), in which the thing chosen for the metaphorical image is closely associated with (but not an actual part of) the subject with which it is to be compared.
• The orders came directly from the White House.
In this example we know that the writer means the President issued the orders, because "White House" is quite closely associated with "President," even though it is not physically a part of him. Consider these substitutions, and notice that some are more obvious than others, but that in context all are clear:
• You can't fight city hall.
• This land belongs to the crown.
• In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread . . . . --Genesis 3:19
• Boy, I'm dying from the heat. Just look how the mercury is rising.
• His blood be on us and on our children. --Matt. 27:25
• The checkered flag waved and victory crossed the finish line.
• Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. --Psalm 100:1-2 (KJV)
The use of a particular metonymy makes a comment about the idea for which it has been substituted, and thereby helps to define that idea. Note how much more vivid "in the sweat of thy face" is in the third example above than "by labor" would have been. And in the fourth example, "mercury rising" has a more graphic, physical, and pictorial effect than would "temperature increasing." Attune yourself to such subtleties of language, and study the effects of connotation, suggestion, substitution, and metaphor.
Epithet is an adjective or adjective phrase appropriately qualifying a subject (noun) by naming a key or important characteristic of the subject, as in "laughing happiness," "sneering contempt," "untroubled sleep," "peaceful dawn," and "lifegiving water." Sometimes a metaphorical epithet will be good to use, as in "lazy road," "tired landscape," "smirking billboards," "anxious apple." Aptness and brilliant effectiveness are the key considerations in choosing epithets. Be fresh, seek striking images, pay attention to connotative value.
A transferred epithet is an adjective modifying a noun which it does not normally modify, but which makes figurative sense:
• At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth of thieves and murderers . . . . --George Herbert
• Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold / A sheep hook . . . . --John Milton
• In an age of pressurized happiness, we sometimes grow insensitive to subtle joys.
The striking and unusual quality of the transferred epithet calls attention to it, and it can therefore be used to introduce emphatically an idea you plan to develop. The phrase will stay with the reader, so there is no need to repeat it, for that would make it too obviously rhetorical and even a little annoying. Thus, if you introduce the phrase, "diluted electricity," your subsequent development ought to return to more mundane synonyms, such as "low voltage," "brownouts," and so forth. It may be best to save your transferred epithet for a space near the conclusion of the discussion where it will be not only clearer (as a synonym for previously stated and clearly understandable terms) but more effective, as a kind of final, quintessential, and yet novel conceptualization of the issue. The reader will love it.
Antithesis establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between two ideas by joining them together or juxtaposing them, often in parallel structure. Human beings are inveterate systematizers and categorizers, so the mind has a natural love for antithesis, which creates a definite and systematic relationship between ideas:
• To err is human; to forgive, divine. --Pope
• That short and easy trip made a lasting and profound change in Harold's outlook.
• That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. --Neil Armstrong
Antithesis can convey some sense of complexity in a person or idea by admitting opposite or nearly opposite truths:
• Though surprising, it is true; though frightening at first, it is really harmless.
• If we try, we might succeed; if we do not try, we cannot succeed.
• Success makes men proud; failure makes them wise.
Antithesis, because of its close juxtaposition and intentional
contrast of two terms or ideas, is also very useful for making relatively fine distinctions or for clarifying differences which might be otherwise overlooked by a careless thinker or casual reader:
• In order that all men may be taught to speak truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it. --Samuel Johnson
• The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. --Matt. 23:2-3 (RSV)
• I agree that it is legal; but my question was, Is it moral?
• The advertisement indeed says that these shoes are the best, but it means that they are equal; for in advertising "best" is a parity claim and only "better" indicates superiority.
Note also that short phrases can be made antithetical:
• Every man who proposes to grow eminent by learning should carry in his mind, at once, the difficulty of excellence and the force of industry; and remember that fame is not conferred but as the recompense of labor, and that labor, vigorously continued, has not often failed of its reward. --Samuel Johnson
Onomatopoeia is the use of words whose pronunciation imitates the sound the word describes. "Buzz," for example, when spoken is intended to resemble the sound of a flying insect. Other examples include these: slam, pow, screech, whirr, crush, sizzle, crunch, wring, wrench, gouge, grind, mangle, bang, blam, pow, zap, fizz, urp, roar, growl, blip, click, whimper, and, of course, snap, crackle, and pop. Note that the connection between sound and pronunciation is sometimes rather a product of imagination ("slam" and "wring" are not very good imitations). And note also that written language retains an aural quality, so that even unspoken your writing has a sound to it. Compare these sentences, for instance:
• Someone yelled, "Look out!" and I heard the skidding of tires and the horrible noise of bending metal and breaking glass.
• Someone yelled "Look out!" and I heard a loud screech followed by a grinding, wrenching crash.
Onomatopoeia can produce a lively sentence, adding a kind of flavoring by its sound effects:
The flies buzzing and whizzing around their ears kept them from finishing the experiment at the swamp.
• No one talks in these factories. Everyone is too busy. The only sounds are the snip, snip of scissors and the hum of sewing machines.
• But I loved that old car. I never heard the incessant rattle on a rough road, or the squeakitysqueak whenever I hit a bump; and as for the squeal of the tires around every corner--well, that was macho.
• If you like the plop, plop, plop of a faucet at three in the morning, you will like this record.
Cacophony Language that is discordant and difficult to pronounce, such as this line from John Updike’s "Player Piano": "never my numb plunker fumbles." Cacophony ("bad sound") may be unintentional in the writer’s sense of music, or it may be used consciously for deliberate dramatic effect.
Euphony Euphony ("good sound") refers to language that is smooth and musically pleasant to the ear.
Hyperbole: A boldly exaggerated statement that adds emphasis without in-tending to be literally true, as in the statement "He ate everything in the house." Hyperbole (also called overstatement) may be used for serious, comic, or ironic effect. See also figures of speech.
Hyperbole, the counterpart of understatement, deliberately exaggerates conditions for emphasis or effect. In formal writing the hyperbole must be clearly intended as an exaggeration, and should be carefully restricted. That is, do not exaggerate everything, but treat hyperbole like an exclamation point, to be used only once a year. Then it will be quite effective as a table-thumping attention getter, introductory to your essay or some section thereof:
• There are a thousand reasons why more research is needed on solar energy.
Or it can make a single point very enthusiastically:
• I said "rare," not "raw." I've seen cows hurt worse than this get up and get well.
Or you can exaggerate one thing to show how really different it is from something supposedly similar to which it is being compared:
• This stuff is used motor oil compared to the coffee you make, my love.
• If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. --Luke 14:26 (NASB)
Hyperbole is the most overused and overdone rhetorical figure in the whole world (and that is no hyperbole); we are a society of excess and exaggeration. Nevertheless, hyperbole still has a rightful and useful place in art and letters; just handle it like dynamite, and do not blow up everything you can find.
a brief funeral hymn or song. An example is Henry King's Exequy.
a burial inscription, often in verse. Philip Reder's Epitaphs (London: Michael Joseph, 1969) collected authentic examples, largely from British gravestones. Here are two:
Here lies Robert Wallis,
Clerk of All Hallows,
King of good fellows,
And maker of bellows.
He bellows did make till the day of his death,
But he that made bellows could never make breath. (p. 53; Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I poorly lived, and poorly died,
And when I was buried, nobody cried. (p. 89; Lillington)
Dorothy Parker's "Epitaph for a Darling Lady" makes light of the form.
a brief witty poem. Randle Cotgrave (1611) translates "Epigramme" as "An Epigram; a Couplet, Stanzo, or short Poeme, wittily taxing a particular person, or fault; also, a title, inscription, or superscription."
a poem representing itself as a speech made by one person to a silent listener, usually not the reader. Examples include Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," Alfred lord Tennyson's "Ulysses," and T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." A lyric may also be addressed to someone, but it is short and song-like and may appear to address either the reader or the poet.
Ballad stanza: A four-line stanza, known as a quatrain, consisting of alternating eight- and six-syllable lines. Usually only the second and fourth lines rhyme (an abcb pattern). Coleridge adopted the ballad stanza in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
All in a hot and copper sky
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Climax (gradatio) consists of arranging words, clauses, or sentences in the order of increasing importance, weight, or emphasis. Parallelism usually forms a part of the arrangement, because it offers a sense of continuity, order, and movement-up the ladder of importance. But if you wish to vary the amount of discussion on each point, parallelism is not essential.
• The concerto was applauded at the house of Baron von Schnooty, it was praised highly at court, it was voted best concerto of the year by the Academy, it was considered by Mozart the highlight of his career, and it has become known today as the best concerto in the world.
• At 6:20 a.m. the ground began to heave. Windows rattled; then they broke. Objects started falling from shelves. Water heaters fell from their pedestals, tearing out plumbing. Outside, the road began to break up. Water mains and gas lines were wrenched apart, causing flooding and the danger of explosion. Office buildings began cracking; soon twenty, thirty, forty stories of concrete were diving at the helpless pedestrians panicking below.
• To have faults is not good, but faults are human. Worse is to have them and not see them. Yet beyond that is to have faults, to see them, and to do nothing about them. But even that seems mild compared to him who knows his faults, and who parades them about and encourages them as though they were virtues.
In addition to arranging sentences or groups of short ideas in climactic order, you generally should also arrange the large sections of ideas in your papers, the points in your arguments, and the examples for your generalizations climactically; although in these cases, the first item should not be the very least important (because its weakness might alienate the reader). Always begin with a point or proof substantial enough to generate interest, and then continue with ideas of increasing importance. That way your argument gets stronger as it moves along, and every point hits harder than the previous one.
An expression that endows inanimate things with human feelings.
Symbol A person, object, image, word, or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract than its literal significance. Symbols are educational devices for evoking complex ideas without having to resort to painstaking explanations that would make a story more like an essay than an experience. Conventional symbols have meanings that are widely recognized by a society or culture. Some conventional symbols are the Christian cross, the Star of David, a swastika, or a nation’s flag. Writers use conventional symbols to reinforce meanings. Kate Chopin, for example, emphasizes the spring setting in "The Story of an Hour" as a way of suggesting the renewed sense of life that Mrs. Mallard feels when she thinks herself free from her husband. A literary or contextual symbol can be a setting, character, action, object, name, or anything else in a work that maintains its literal significance while suggesting other meanings. Such symbols go beyond conventional symbols; they gain their symbolic meaning within the context of a specific story. For example, the white whale in Melville’s Moby-Dick takes on multiple symbolic meanings in the work, but these meanings do not automatically carry over into other stories about whales. The meanings suggested by Melville’s whale are specific to that text; therefore, it becomes a contextual symbol. See also allegory.