Maria Ferzoco
Intro to Literature
Professor Moffett
17 February 2017
Figurative Language Usage in Poems
Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell's anthology, Portable Literature: Reading, Writing, Reacting, includes many poems, short stories and plays. Figurative language is a device that is present within many of the works, and is especially seen in Mary Oliver's poem, "Wild Geese" and John Donne's poem, "The Flea". "Wild Geese", one of the poets most striking pieces, was published in 1986 and "The Flea" was first published in 1633. These poems were written between a vast number of years, but have many similar qualities. Writers incorporate figurative language throughout their work because it helps create vivid pictures in the reader's mind, states ideas in ways to satisfy different imaginations, helps develop a specific setting, tone or mood, makes the theme of the work easier to comprehend, and can reveal the personality of the character or narrator of the piece. Poets use this device to make unfamiliar objects and situations more familiar. Characters become alive to the reader, making the piece more interesting. The two poems are similar in their usage of figurative language because they both incorporate metaphors, similes, personification, and imagery to enhance important themes and messages.
Metaphors, which are figures of speech that make a comparison between two things that are not related, but share common characteristics, are present throughout both of the poems. In the allegory, "The Flea", Donne applies a metaphor very early on. He says, "Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare" (Donne 10). The flea has three lives, consisting of its own, a man's, and a woman's. Clearly, this part of the poem is implying a theological reference. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are the three parts of the Holy Trinity, paralleling the three different lives in the flea. Donne continues using figurative language by stating, "Where we almost, nay more than married are. / This flea is you and I, and this/ Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is" (13). The marriage is a metaphor that comes from the pun of two different kinds of blood- literal blood and genetic blood. When marriage takes place, blood is mixed. Towards the end of the poem, it is verified that the flea does, in fact, contain three lives. He states, "And sacrilege, three sins in killing three" (18). The speaker is accusing the woman of killing. There are three lives being taken, hence, there are three sins being committed. In addition to the metaphors used in this poem, the author of "Wild Geese", also uses metaphors. She expresses a bright and happy message to the reader and writes, "Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, / are heading home again" (Oliver 12-13). The geese are flying, illustrating freedom. They are soaring home, showing that they are going back to childhood, looking at the world with wonder, awe, and innocence. While metaphors are very common in these two poems, similes are as well.
Both poets use the word "like" or "as" to compare two different things. In "The Flea", Donne compares life with honor. He says, "Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me, / Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee" (26-27). This is a gloomy way to end a poem but by using a simile, the reader can understand the message he is conveying. Her life will be conserved when the flea dies, just as her honor will be conserved when she has given in to him. Similarly, there are many similes present in "Wild Geese". Oliver says, "the world offers itself to your imagination, / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting" (15-16). The reader better understands the poet's intentions through their comparisons. By using similes, the author can convey images that are easier to picture in the human brain. In these lines, the world is being personified as a human, comforting people through their faults and this is another literary device that can contribute to a piece of writing.
Oliver and Donne give inanimate objects or things human characteristics and qualities in each of their poems. The flea is personified as a spoiled human being, feasting on blood. Donne writes, "And pampered