Mysterious and catching poetry has captivated people’s hearts and minds for centuries. Poetry widely uses various literary devices, such as allegory, allusion, metaphor, etc., which contribute to its expressiveness. The poem “Uphill” explores the theme of a spiritual journey in an allegorical form.
“At the Border” is another poem using allegory to consider an idea of a journey from the past to the future. “Dreams of Suicide” presents an interesting example of using allusion to discuss certain events and commemorate prominent people. The poems explore similar themes and present good examples of successful usage of literary devices.
“Uphill”, a poem written by Christina Rossetti, focuses on the inevitability of facing death at the end of a life journey. As the poem is written in the question-and-answer form, there are two speakers in it. The first one asks questions about the journey, and the second one gives comprehensive answers. The author masterly uses an allegorical figure of a journey to explore essential issues about life and death.
“The day’s journey” is an allegorical figure of life, and “Night” is an allegorical figure of death (Rossetti, 1861, l. 3-4). A final “resting-place”, or a grave, is portrayed as the inn waiting for all of us (Rossetti, 1861, l. 5). The second speaker emphasizes the inevitability of death, saying, “You cannot miss that inn” (Rossetti, 1861, l. 8). The allegorical framework of the poem creates a unique and mystic foundation for the exploration of themes related to life and deaths.
“At the Border”, a poem written by Carl Dennis, discusses the steps needed to be taken to move from the past to the future. The speaker is the person discussing the theme of our continuous movement towards the future. The speaker addresses the problem of uncertainty at the future, saying, “Are you sure you’re ready to leave, / To cross the bridge that begins / Under a clear sky and ends in fog?” (Dennis, 2004, l. 11-13).
Dennis uses allegory and portrays the past and the future like two countries. Every person, “just as a tourist”, comes to the border between them in every present moment (Dennis, 2004, l. 4). The use of allegory helps the author to explore the chosen theme in an unusual and comprehensive way.
“Dreams of Suicide”, a poem written by William Meredith, focuses on the events related to the suicides committed by famous writers. The speaker seems to be involved in the events described in the poem. The author uses allusion to refer to the writers and the causes of their deaths without naming them directly. In such a way, the author enriches his poem by providing associations from the context known to a certain category of readers.
The first stanza describes the speaker’s dream of Hemingway killing himself with a gun. Meredith uses allegory to portray the uniqueness of the writer’s talent, saying, “More surely than the unicorn, / you are the mythical beast” (Meredith, 1980, l. 4-5). The second stanza presents an allegorical image of the suicide committed by Sylvia Path, who killed herself by using a gas oven.
The third stanza portrays the suicide committed by John Berryman. Meredith uses allegory by describing the story of Icarus, who stands for the dead writer. Use of mythology in the allegory makes the description of the real event sound clearer to every reader.
While “Uphill” presents a discussion of life and death issues, “At the border” demonstrates the transition between past and future. “Dreams of Suicide” portrays death using the examples of suicides committed by three prominent writers. Each of three poems explores the themes of death and life in a unique way.
It appears that they express similar thematic ideas of the inevitability of death and the shortness of life. The poems create a ground for further speculation about death in the minds of readers. Besides, they give examples of how the literary devices can be masterly used to contribute to the comprehensiveness and refinement of the poetry.
Dennis, C. (2012). At the border. In L. G. Kirszner & S. R. Mandell (Eds.), Compact literature: Reading, reacting, writing (8th ed., p. 868). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. (Original work published 2004)
Meredith, W. (2012). Dreams of suicide. In L. G. Kirszner & S. R. Mandell (Eds.), Compact literature: Reading, reacting, writing (8th ed., p. 870). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. (Original work published 1980)
Rossetti, C. (2012). Uphill. In L. G. Kirszner & S. R. Mandell (Eds.), Compact literature: Reading, reacting, writing (8th ed., p. 867). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. (Original work published 1861)