In Memoriam Questions and Answers
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Pick out an example of personification in the poem "Ring Out, Wild Bells" in In Memoriam.

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In "Ring Out, Wild Bells"—by Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson—you will be able to find many examples of the literary device called personification. Personification describes a non-human creature, object, or idea as having traits or performing actions that we normally attribute only to people. For example, let's look at this old saying: "The sun sees all I do, but the moon knows all my secrets." In this saying two non-human objects, the sun and the moon, are treated as though they were people: the sun and the moon are personified. St. Francis uses a great deal of personification in his famous prayer "Canticle of the Creatures," in which he thanks God for important natural elements such as "Brother Fire" and "Sister Water."

Personification can also take the form of a request made to a non-human creature, object, or idea. An example that comes to mind is a verse from a children's song that begins: "O Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me."

As a literary device, personification can provide whimsy, amusement, strong symbolism, or deep meaning condensed into a few words. Personification also engages the imagination in a memorable way.

In "Ring Out, Wild Bells," the poet asks the bells that mark the new year to do things (symbolically) that bells cannot of themselves really do. The poet imagines the bells as agents of change, capable of bringing new and better things in the year ahead. Have a look at the long list of wishes or requests in "Ring Out, Wild Bells." Keep in mind that in order to answer a question about personification, you need first to identify the non-human creature, object, or idea that is being addressed or presented as having human traits or capabilities. From there, you may quote the line or lines in which the example of personification appears.

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