In Shelley's  "O World! O Life!" what are the attention grabbing poetic elements?

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several poetic elements grab the attention of the reader in this poem.

First, in the beginning two lines:

O world! O life! O time!
On whose last steps I climb,

both a speaker and the intended audience are revealed. These poetic elements are different than a novel or short story in that those types of literature often have an author and intended audience of just readers, whoever will read. Here the speaker is a person near the end of their life, and they are speaking in apostrophies to some rather big concepts: the world, one's life, and time.

These same lines reveal a metaphor. The speaker is comparing the journey of life to a ladder or staircase as we see the reference of the "last steps I climb."

In the second stanza, we see a paradox at work in the words:

Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight;
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar,
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more -- Oh, never more!

The speaker references a joy that is welling within him, but then speaking to spring, summer, and winter he asks to be moved with grief and to have joy no more.

The last lines of the two stanzas have the repetition of the words:

No more -- Oh, never more!

Obviously this repetition exaggerates the depressing tone.