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Metaphoric Congruity (1 Viewer)

clark

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Metaphoric Congruity: when are the two elements of a metaphor--the 'thing', 'quality', 'referent' in the world of experience (the ANCHOR) and the flight of imagination (the PROJECTION) taken by the poet into 'new realms'--too far apart to establish themselves organically within a poem's flow of images? Poetic license does not mean wildly throwing images one after another because the poet 'feels' them that way. Or does it? Is a term such as Metaphoric Logic meaningful to you, or is it an oxymoron?

Yes, a discussion of theory, but a particularly interesting one because it could have a direct impact on poetic practice.
 

RHPeat

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Staff member
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Image before metaphor: Part 1

METAPHOR — from source, my teacher. Part 1

"Thinking that one of the means to meaning in this art is a certain relationship of images: that might be called a coupling of images, though the coupling may include more images than two. One image is established by words which make it sensuous and vivid to the eyes or ears or touch — to any of the senses. (including the unknown or unexperienced as a new experience.) Another image is put beside it. And a meaning appears which is neither the meaning of the one image nor the meaning of the other nor even the sum of both but a consequence of both — a consequence of both in their conjunction, in their relation to each other. There is the blue smoke of war. There are the white bones of men. And there is the heaviness of time in the space between them.

Suppose we press the examination a little further. What is the nature of the this meaning which coupled images can contain? Is it emotional only — sadness for that unending war, for all the unending wars, for ourselves in our own time caught between the white bones of our brothers killed years ago in another country and that enormous mushroom of fiery poisoned smoke on the horizon? Is that all those images contain? For some, perhaps. And for some, perhaps, it is enough. To feel emotion is at least to feel. The crime against life, the worst of all crimes is not to feel. And there was never, perhaps, a civilization in which that crime, the crime of torpor, or lethargy, or apathy, the snake-like sin of coldness-at-the-heart, was commoner than in our technological civilization in which the emotionless emotions of adolescent boys are mass produced on television screens to do our feeling for us, and a woman's longing for her life is twisted, by singing commercials, into a longing for a new detergent, family size, which will keep her hands as innocent as though she had never lived. It is the modern painless death, this commercialized atrophy of the heart. None of us is safe from it. The intellectual life can become technological too no matter what its content, and Acedy, you may recall, was the occupational sin of the medieval Clerks. If poetry can call our numbed emotions to life, its plain human usefulness needs no further demonstration.

But nevertheless, is it only emotion which the coupled images in a poem capture? Or is the emotion in its turn a means, as the coupled images are, and is the meaning farther? Do the coupled images , that is to say evoke between them feeling, and does the feeling in that place between, discover something more than feeling? Bring back to your mind, if you will that old English song.


O western wind when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.

There is the west wind, the spring wind, and its small rain. There is a bed and a girl. And there is emotion certainly there between them, an ache of longing. But is that all? Or is there also, and on beyond, a recognition of something known, Something known before and now, in the space between the bed and the west wind, realized? Are the bed and the girl and the wind and the rain in some way caught up together, not in the mind, which cannot understand these irrelevancies, but in the emotion which can And does the emotion itself change in consequence of the images which create it so that what was at first a passionate longing for that smooth girl in the warm bed becomes, in the shadow of wind and rain, bed and girl on the other filled, not with emotion only, but with something emotion knows — something more immediate than knowledge, something more tangible and felt, something as tangible as experience itself, felt as immediately as experience? Is it human experience itself, in its livingness as experience, these coupled images and the emotion they evoke, have captured? And was this what Wordsworth meant when he spoke of truth "carried alive into the heart by passion"? "

A. ML.
 
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midnightpoet

WF Veterans
Speaking of Clark's "anchor" and "projection" in the realms of metaphor: considering the wide breadth of poetic interpretation can any concept be too far apart to be considered too unwieldy to be used as the basis for the poet's art?
 

RHPeat

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Speaking of Clark's "anchor" and "projection" in the realms of metaphor: considering the wide breadth of poetic interpretation can any concept be too far apart to be considered too unwieldy to be used as the basis for the poet's art?
Midnight

I don't think so. I think at times that can happen. It depends on the context of the complete poem and how the couplings takes place within that context. What empowers the metaphors are the couplings of different images for the purpose of the poem. How the images fit the poem's context is quite another thing for it is the total metaphor that carries the impact to the reader.

If the metaphors are extended like a short conceits within the poem then the context builds on the experience that will be derived from the poem as a whole. I feel Clark is taking more about mixed metaphors without associations in the context within a single poem. This can be a problem unless the writer creates a common thread for the different metaphors.

You can mix metaphors however and still have a strong poem. But you need a common thread of concern to keep the reader on track. I personally call it corralling the metaphors. Then it can work. The question to ask is can different images coupled together take you to the same place within the overall experience of the poem. Like "O Western Wind" does within its four lines. It's compounding the figurative language in a metaphorical way with four images. One central image in each line. (wind, rain, love (as girl), & bed)

Ramming a lot of metaphors together can be overwhelming to the reader. So breaking the poem in different ways can help if you have more than one metaphor within the poems context. But different images can lead you to the same goal in presentation by corralling them in a some way with a common thread of concern rather than an image. Here's a poem I wrote back in 1997 that corrals its metaphors with coupled images: it also interlocks two subjects for the context between a photograph and a robin throughout the complete poem, creating a conceit of the whole poem.


In-between A Robin And A Photograph
(Eight Vignettes Toward Loss)
Remembering spring in the autumn
His heart is snapped grief
Her photograph hangs against the wall
The Robin lights upon the lawn
Does its little hop dance
And prances upon the new-green blades
The bent wire upon the hammered nail
Is hidden behind the slanted frame
Just beyond his sight
The Robin's tilted head
Hears what moves beneath the grass
There's a film of dust upon the picture's glass
That mutes the light dangling before his eyes
Stretched beyond its grip
Pulled from its earthen home
The worm is swiftly undone
Death as a pinched meal
Then the Robin flies away
The bumped frame falls along the wall
Slides to the hardwood floor
With its yellowed photograph
Wrinkled in its fractured landscape
A flashed wing in the sudden cracked sky
Distance broken within pealed thunder
© R. H. Peat -- 2/26/97
Well working metaphors being characteristic part of the craft of poetry.

For within any metaphorical presentation the parts are greater than the whole. That in a Pythagorean ontological sense of the quantitative combination of elementary units, I believe the psyche is the center of both the release of the metaphorical conceit and the conceit’s contact of absorbed repercussion—The metaphor's recovered internal reconstruction from its immeasurable fractionation in comparison. That the metaphor's infinite connotation becomes singular again within the reader's own inner space. That the archetypal is understood through an archetypal presentation. And this can be applied to poetic prose as well as poetry.


For as Carl Jung says:
An archetypal expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors. If such a content should speak of the sun and identify with it the lion, the king, the hoard of gold guarded by the dragon, or the power that makes for the life and health of man it is neither the one thing nor the other, but the unknown third thing that finds more or less adequate expression in all these similes, yet — to the perpetual vexation of the intellect—remains unknown and not to be fitted into a formula. For this reason the scientific intellect is always inclined to put on airs of enlightenment in the hope of banishing the spectre once and for all. Whether its endeavors where called … Enlightenment in the narrow sense, or Positivism, there was always a myth hiding behind it, in new and disconcerting garb, which then, following the ancient and venerable pattern, gave itself out as ultimate truth. i.e.

(The collective Unconscious, Myth, and the Archetype/ From Literature In Critical Perspectives)

a poet friend
RH Peat
 
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RHPeat

Met3 Group Leader
Staff member
Senior Mentor
Image before metaphor: Part 2

METAPHOR — from a source, my teacher. Part 2

"In part, I should say. But I should not feel, in saying so, that I had answered the question — that I had really explained the power of these coupled images. To carry experience itself alive into the heart is an an extraordinary achievement, an achievement neither science nor philosophy has accomplished. But is the possession of experience, even its possession alive, an ultimate conquest? Is it because "O western wind ... " enables us to possess a living moment of experience that we have treasured this little four-line poem for hundreds of years as though it had told us a secret? I think not. And certainly Wordswoth did not think so, for what is carried alive into the heart in his saying is, You will remember, "truth." it is meaning he means. And it is meaning we must mean also if we are to push our question to conclusions. For there is a sense of meaning, an odor of meaning one might almost say, about these coupled images in a poem whenever they work as coupled images. That dead doe under the white rushes in the ancient Chienese poem, and the living girl who lies with her lover in the place beside, seem not only to be together but to mean together — so much so that one's first impulse is to make them one: dead doe under that bundle of white rushes mistaken for the girl covered by her lover's body — so much so indeed, that Pound, when he translated this poem, was tempted to, and did, introduce a line which is not there: "dead as doe is maidenhead" — with the result that the poem is at once "explained" and destroyed in a single stroke.

But what meaning can there be in this collision of images which do not collide — images as logically unrelated as the bailie's bell, and the robes in folds, and the sun in the glass window in "The maidens came ..."? How can the relation of the unrelated be said, in poetry, to mean and what kind of meaning is it which only the emotions can understand? This question, obviously, takes me farther than I ought to try to go alone, for it pushes past the gates and doors of the art of poetry the art itself — to the forbidden place within the art where the Pytho sits above the vapor. What is involved is the nature of meaning in poetry. Fortunately however there are witnesses qualified to speak who have spoken. And fortunately also, what they have seen and said has been very much the same. C.Day Lewis sums it up for men of our tongue by saying, in his Poetic Image, that if the poets of England were questioned on the ultimates of their art they would all reply, because, in one way or another, they all have, that "poetry's truth comes from the perception of a unity underlying and relating all phenomena." And one of the most French of all French Poets, Charles Baudelaire, bore much the same witness in the most unequivocal terms. The poet's imagination, he wrote, is "la plus scientifique des faculties parse queen, Seul, Elle compared l'analogue universelle" — The most scientific of all faculties because it alone comprehends "the universal analogy."

This comes down to saying, as you see, that it is precisely the relation of the unrelated which does mean in poetry: indeed: that the essential meaning of the art is that relation ... and the shadow it can cast ... or the light. Whether or not one accepts this statement as a definition — and a definition wide enough to include the meaningfulness of all true poems — the fact nevertheless remains that men entitled to an opinion have thought it true. To Wordsworth, for one, "the pleasure which he mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude ... is the great spring of the activity of our minds and their chief feeder ..." and thus a fundamental underpinning of the whole theory of poetry which he was defending in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads. But whether one is prepared to go as far as Baudelaire or even as far as Wordsworth the relevance of their doctrines to the meaningfulness of coupled images is obvious. If f Baudelaire and Mr. Lewis's English poets are right then images are not coupled in poetry merely to excite emotions. They are not even coupled merely to seize on moments of experience made palpable to the emotions. They are coupled to stir the emotions to comprehend an instant of the analogy universelle."

A. ML.
 
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clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Most explanations of the nature of poetry fail because they use an inappropriate linguistic platform--descriptive prose--as the vehicle to carry them into the challenge. Not unlike bringing a knife to a gunfight. Grant me the analogy for a moment (James, ease the safety back on your .45). Should the knife fighter win, his victory would be the result of his amazing skill, not because his weapon suddenly became 'appropriate'. Inherent in the use of prose is an acceptance of rational, logical thought patterns. Syntax, verb endings, word choice, prepositions--just to get stated--comprise a coda to which the writer is expected to comply. Keats says, "Coleridge would let go by a fine, isolated verisimilitude caught from the penetralium of mystery, because of an irritable reaching after fact and reason" (Letters). That Keats is wrong about Coleridge is the stuff of another argument; he is 'right' in pointing out the limitations imposed by prose on itself as a linguistic tool. The pull of a simple sentence in English is towards conventional word order, subject/verb agreement, data + data = conclusion . The basic purpose of a line of reasoning would be a logical conclusion (except perhaps when James's .45 is aimed at my thinking [c'mon, smile! 😁])..

With those qualifications as my preamble, I'd like to recommend Ron's teacher's work with image and metaphor (Ron's posts #3 and 6 above). I've read those posts a number of times. And I will return to them as prose statements rife with ore.

Within the poetic image "coupling" and resultant metaphors lies Truth unattainable otherwise. In the Gospels, the disciples constantly nag Jesus for explanations, for words of wisdom about the meaning of virtue, how to live according to God's dictates, and similar thorny questions. Rarely does Jesus answer these queries directly; usually, his "answers" are equivocal. His favorite mode of 'answer' is a metaphor. He wants, for example, to underline God's relationship with all the minute aspects of Creation, including humankind's unique 'positioning', but rather than simply make a statement, he says "consider the lillies of the field how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you . . ." And the Disciples are left scratching their heads going "whaddafuck . . .how'd we get from God and Truth to some dumb flower . . .?" Because that is where the Truth lies. In a strange 'place' that is neither rational nor imaginative yet it is both. It is a 'place' beyond the constraints of language but attainable through language. It is that deep, deep, deeper recognition of unities that reveal "the world in a grain of sand" that Blake saw. Grasping the meaning of meaning in metaphor is to grasp the "analogy universelle"--a designation typical of McLeish-- with which Ron concludes his essay.

Ironically, poetry's strongest detractors cite metaphor most frequently as an example of how poetry obfuscates Truth in layers of ambiguity. In actuality, those metaphors are our surest route to the Truths that exist in context behind seemingly disparate couplings. **


** Ron suggests in his post #5, " I feel Clark is taking more about mixed metaphors without associations in the context within a single poem. This can be a problem unless the writer creates a common thread for the different metaphors" . . .yes, he's correct. In a short poem, a level of clarity-of-reference is required, if the poet wants the reader onboard. Pound's "In A Station of the Metro" or William's "Red Wheel Barrow" are good examples. In both poems the ENTIRE poem is one 'arm' of the metaphor; the other lies in the world of experience. If a reader had never been in a subway, never heard of them or read of them, thus had no idea what one was or what 'metro'. referred to--the poem would be lost on them. The poet is under no obligation whatsoever to actively consider the potential audience of their work; the poet, of course, wants all the parts of a poem 'understood', but in practice an image or full metaphor can present itself so compellingly that the poet must use it, audience be damned.
 

RHPeat

Met3 Group Leader
Staff member
Senior Mentor
Image before metaphor: Part 3

METAPHOR — from a source, my teacher. Part 3

Why the universal analogy? Why should the comprehension of the universal analogy, granted that such an analogy exists, be meaningful? (emotionally). For the obvious reason of course: because it would make sense of experience —and make sense of it, futherermore, in its own terms, not in terms of an equation of abstractions on the blackboard or a philosophy of abstractions in a book, in either one of which the experience is made to mean by truningit into something else. If the fragments of experience are in truth parts of the whole, and if the relation of the parts to each other and thus the whole can in truth be seen, sensed, felt, in the fragments themselves then there is meaning in that seeing, in that sensing, in that feeling — extraordinary meaning.

Even sometimes, unbearable meaning. There is a poem of Baudelaire's which Cezanne is said to have had by heart and to have used both as touchstone and lantern, which will show, if you will look at it, just how unbearable the comprehension of the universal analogy can be — the terrible poem called "Une Charogne" (A Carcass, A Carrion) in which death and sexuality are coupled in the incongruous congruity of panting lasciviousness and having putrescence. When you read it — ask yourself if you think it was written merely to shock. And ask yourself too whether you think you will remember it only because it is horrible.

(be sure to scroll down there are about 5 translations of Baudelaire's poem)


There are aspects of experience from which, quite naturally and quite understandably, we turn away our eyes — aspects which, unwillingly seen, we eradicate from our memories. But poetry does not turn away from them, because it cannot turn away from them: because to turn away from them would be to betray the Analogy Universelle. It is this the censors never understand. To the censors, and those who impose censorship on their fellow citizens, Baudelaire did not have to write "Une Charogne" He could perfectly well have gone on about that "Beau matin diet is Doux" with which he began the poem. Neither censors nor the churches which promote censorship nor the readers of poems who find the image or that "too terrible" will ever understand the little sentence Emily Dickinson wrote to Colonel Higginson: "Candor is the only wile." If they did they would excommunicate the saint of Amherst and burn her books.

No to the universal analogy one must first see the universe and no man can be a reader of poems to say nothing of being a writer of poems, who cannot, or will not, see that far. And neither can any man be a writer of poems or a right reader of them, who, when he has seen, blinds himself to the congruity of the incongruous because he does not wish incongruous things to touch each other — Cannot bear the thought that they should touch each other. Most of upkeep the bones of the dead out of our minds. Most of us delight in thinking of a lovely girl. But the man who keeps the two so far apart that they can never meet may miss the meaning of his life to say nothing of the meaning of John Donne's "The Relic."


It would be possible as we all know, because we have all suffered from it, to read that line "A bracelet of bright hair about the bone" as a paradox produced characteristically by a poet who, having been designated Metaphysical by the professors, had no choice but to invent paradoxes and other toys. But paradox surprises: it does not move. And that line moves. Why? Because nothing could be farther from the dead man's bone than the circle of bright hair and because nothing could be nearer. It is an unexpected conjunction, yes, but it is not the unexpectedness alone which startles us into understanding. It is the rightness too. The rightness and the the unexpectedness: the unexpectedness and the rightness. We feel a knowledge which we cannot think — a knowledge which, for its moment, brings world and death together and gives death a place. That girl across the street there with her bright gold hair — it is mortality upon the hair which touches us. We knew it but we did not know it. Now we know.

But if the relation of the unrelated is ultimate, or in any case, the characteristic, meaning of poetry — poetry's "truth" to borrow Day Lewis's umbrella word — why then is not the coupling of images, which is the relations of the unrelated in practice and in fact, the characteristic means to meaning? I should have to reply that I think it is. But in so saying I should find myself at once in a distinct, and not very distinguished minority of one with the greater and dangerous weight of authoritative opinion leaning above me like a cliff: the opinion of the psychologists in letters and the literary men in psychology who have reserved that central place for the symbol, and the opinion of the critics of poetry, headed by the greatest of the all, who holds (I am referring, of course, to Ivor Richards) that "Metaphor is the supreme agent by which and hitherto unconnected things are brought together in poetry" Mine is not a comfortable position to be in even in the relative privacy of a (?) classroom. In cold public print it demands explanation.

I shall begin by trying to explain why I think the primacy of the coupling of images as means to meaning is poetry can be defended even against the claims of that enormous orbiting sputnik of the modern literary skies: The symbol.

A. ML.
 
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Sinister

Senior Member
Metaphoric Congruity: when are the two elements of a metaphor--the 'thing', 'quality', 'referent' in the world of experience (the ANCHOR) and the flight of imagination (the PROJECTION) taken by the poet into 'new realms'--too far apart to establish themselves organically within a poem's flow of images? Poetic license does not mean wildly throwing images one after another because the poet 'feels' them that way. Or does it? Is a term such as Metaphoric Logic meaningful to you, or is it an oxymoron?

Yes, a discussion of theory, but a particularly interesting one because it could have a direct impact on poetic practice.
You mean a Pataphor?

To be perfectly honest, I see two uses of a metaphor and that's all. If it's first person or spoken, which would be rare, then it gives us a distinct snapshot of the charater's(sic) state of mind. If not, then it's a good opportunity to connect with the reader on some level. There are flowery and showy third options if it doesn't accomplish either of the first two, but you risk losing the reader if you're not careful and invest too deeply into a metaphor. They'll appreciate a gag or a joke, but not wasting their time just for the sake of aesthetics.

Then again, I try to be conservative and minimalistic.

-Sin
 
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clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
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I don't understand, Sin . Your assertion that a metaphor "in first person or spoken . . . would be rare" does not seem descriptive of how metaphor works, at all. You may have a different usage here, which I'm not picking up on. So, rather than make an ass of myself running down the wrong path . . .would you please clarify.
 

Sinister

Senior Member
I don't understand, Sin . Your assertion that a metaphor "in first person or spoken . . . would be rare" does not seem descriptive of how metaphor works, at all. You may have a different usage here, which I'm not picking up on. So, rather than make an ass of myself running down the wrong path . . .would you please clarify.
SPOKEN: John looked at the military maneuvers. "They're a colony of ants on parade." He said, musingly.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE: I, personally, didn't understand him then. I'm not sure I understand him now. His mind was a jumbled combination lock.

These are the only two instances I've ever personally used metaphors and the first instance, spoken, I've used the least. That is all I meant from that part you quoted.

What I meant from there forward was, that I would use that opportunity in the spoken example to expand on John's character. It's a seemingly normal metaphor for anyone to make. But why not give it specific significance to John? Like if he were an entomologist or was afraid of ants. In my style of writing, that would be when I would use a spoken metaphor. Otherwise, I'm not fond of them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing their use in the hands of other people. To each their own. I just don't enjoy them as much as others seem to. It was just me adding my two cents, which, I admit, was gratuitous and besides the point.

In poems and stories, I've used objective correlatives, which are similar, but that dips into semiotics far more deeply than metaphors and I think are more effective. Just an opinion.

-Sin
 
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RHPeat

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You mean a Pataphor?

To be perfectly honest, I see two uses of a metaphor and that's all. If it's first person or spoken, which would be rare, then it gives us a distinct snapshot of the charater's(sic) state of mind. If not, then it's a good opportunity to connect with the reader on some level. There are flowery and showy third options if it doesn't accomplish either of the first two, but you risk losing the reader if you're not careful and invest too deeply into a metaphor. They'll appreciate a gag or a joke, but not wasting their time just for the sake of aesthetics.

Then again, I try to be conservative and minimalistic.

-Sin
Sinister

You're confusing Cataphor with Metaphor
A Cataphor uses a pronoun
and a metaphor says a thing is another thing. "My love is a rose" is a simple metaphor — There are hundreds of thousands of uses in the English language for metaphors. But poetically we speak of a metaphorical language as being figurative. or figurative speech. Look it up; it might answer a lot of your confusion. Or if you have M.H. Abrams "Glossary of Literary Terms" look it up there. an extended metaphor is called a conceit. A complete poem can become a conceit as an extended metaphor. At the bottom of Clarks comment you'll fine a great extended metaphor by John Dunne, His famous statement I might add: ""No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee.
" John Donne, Meditation XVII Even Hemingway refers to it in one of his novels. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" it tolls for thee.


cat·a·phor| ˈkatəfər, -ˌfôr | noun Grammar a word or phrase that refers to or stands for a later word or phrase (e.g., in when they saw Ruth, the men looked slightly abashed, the word they is used as a cataphor for the men).

met·a·phor| ˈmedəˌfôr, ˈmedəˌfər | noun a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable: her poetry depends on suggestion and metaphor | “I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression,” said Mark, who was fond of theatrical metaphors. • a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract: the amounts of money being lost by the company were enough to make it a metaphor for an industry that was teetering.

a poet friend
RH Peat
 

Sinister

Senior Member
If you refer to when I asked if clark meant a Pataphor. I apologize. That was a joke in poor taste. Pataphors were kind of an in-joke back when I was in University. They're any extended, unwieldy or self-referential metaphors, according to Pablo Lopez.

I'm familiar with cataphora, I'm afraid. My examples above however, while using pronouns, were still according-to-Hoyle metaphors, though, as the designata and denotata were not literally applicable. The military maneuvers were not actually ants. His mind was not actually a jumbled lock. etc.

I am grateful you summoned up one of my favorite Meditations by John Donne. Though I do prefer his poems The Flea, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning and Death, Be Not Proud. The first two have excellent examples of metaphors.

-Sin
 
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clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Implicit in Ron's point (and Abrams') about metaphor being part of the family 'Figurative language', is the loose grammatical usage among poets of the term 'metaphor'. A poet may speak of a grammatical simile, for example, as part of a metaphor. Or an entire (usually fairly short) poem--which does not feature a single metaphor--being described as "a metaphor for . . ." At the other end of the scale, I recall an article which described the totality of Moby Dick as "a tragic metaphor for the failure of aggressive American idealism"
 
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