What are the poetic devices in the ballad "A Legend of the Northland" by Phoebe Cary?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major literary devices, also called poetic devices, in "A Legend of the Northland" by Phoebe Cary are in the literary element category, with a striking absence of any in the literary technique category. The most striking literary elements pertain to the structure of the quatrain stanzas (four lines per stanza) that have no end punctuation. Each line rolls to the other through enjambment. It works very well in most spots, although there are one or two places where the enjambment is clumsy, such as "Where a little woman was making cakes / And baking them on the hearth / And being faint from fasting... ." There is both an explicit speaker ("tell me a curious story") and an explicit addressee ("yet you might learn"). The poem is a dramatic narrative told from inside a frame in which the speaker introduces the story to the addressee. The rhyme scheme is alternates unrhymed lines with rhymed ones in an abcb defe etc. pattern. The major literary technique is sensory imagery that includes vision, taste, and sound as Saint Peter (the technique of Biblical allusion) approaches the cottage and witnesses the baking of the cakes then turns the woman into a woodpecker that can be heard tapping tapping on a tree. The absence of symbolism, metaphor, and simile are striking.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Other poetic devices used in the poem include the following:

  • assonance (repetition of vowel sounds)--line 1: "Away, away..."
  • consonance (repetition of consonant sounds)--stanza 2: swift, sledge, snow
  • allusion (reference to a historical or literary person or event)--Saint Peter
  • simile (a comparison using like or as)--stanza 1: the children look like bears' cubs
  • repetition--stanza 12: boring, and boring, and boring
  • personification (giving human characteristics to inanimate things)--stanza 17: listen to pity's call

I hope this helps you.