Howard Nemerov

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How are metaphors, analogies, symbols, alliteration, figures of speech, etc. used in the poem "Having a Mind to Change the World" by Howard Nemerov?

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Two-time poet laureate Howard Nemerov's "Having a Mind to Change the World" is about daylight saving time. The poet uses alliteration, metaphor, and allusion to present a comic image of nature obeying mankind's whims within the context of daylight saving time. The text is as follows:

Twice a year and during Sunday sleep
The Republic finds itself unanimously
Agreed except for Indianapolis
To shift the sun through fifteen degrees of arc
In a trice or two by twiddling some knobs
Whereon the sun obedient moves back and forth
At the mere commandment of Democracy.
Not Joshua in the Vale of Ajalon
Did more than stay the sun a space, while we
By will alone twitch him about the sky,
Taking a daylight hour from the dawn
And giving it to evening, even if
We Indian-givers later take it back.
What shall be denied unto this people
That with a thought thus moves both heaven and earth?

First, the speaker claims that the "Republic . . . shift[s] the sun," comically suggesting that the state has the power to move celestial bodies. Alliteration is employed in the line that reads "a trice or two by twiddling some knobs." Furthermore, the sun can be seen as a symbol of daylight saving time itself, though mankind's alleged movement of the sun is ironic. The idea that mankind is actually moving "heaven and earth" is facetious, and such movement can thus be seen as an ironic metaphor for man's would-be dominion over the natural world.

A biblical allusion, too, is present in the mention of Joshua, who (in the Old Testament's Book of Joshua) defeated the Israelites with the help of Yahweh, who stopped the sun and the moon.

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