What kinds of poetic devices help contribute to the effectiveness of Wilfred Owen's poem "Greater Love"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Part of the effectiveness of Wilfred Owen’s poem “Greater Love” depends on its use of a variety of poetic devices and techniques, including the following:

  • Repetition, as in the double use of “red” in line 1 or the reference to “Rolling and rolling” in line 9.
  • Alliteration, is in the emphasis on “s” and “t” sounds in the phrase “stained stones kissed” in line 2 and the emphasis on “s” sounds of “voice sings not so soft” (line 13)
  • Assonance, as in the phrase “wooed and wooer” in line 3 (a phrase that also involves repetition).
  • Irony, as in the reference in line 2 to “stained stones kissed by the English dead” (emphasis added).
  • Personification, as in the direct address to “Love” in line 5 and in the direct address to “Heart” in line 19.
  • Metaphors, as in the phrase “slender attitude” (line 7).
  • Inventive, unconventional language, as in the reference in 8 to “limbs knife-skewed” (emphasis added) or the use of “evening” as an adjective in “evening clear” (line 13).
  • Paradoxical or oxymoronic phrasing, as in the reference to “fierce love” in line 11.
  • Heavily accented verbs, as in the use of “Cramps” at the very beginning of line 12.
  • The combination of assonance and alliteration, as in the phrase “death’s . . . decrepitude” (line 12), which emphasizes “d” sounds (alliteration) and short “e” sounds (assonance).
  • Similes, as in the phrase “even as wind murmuring” (line 14).
  • The combination of long and short lines, so that the second and sixth lines of each stanza are long and the other lines are shorter.
  • Parallel phrasing, as in the opening two lines of the final stanza:

Heart, you were never hot

Nor large, nor full . . . (lines 19-20)

  • Emphatic contrasts, as in the final line: “you may weep, for you may touch them not.”
  • Enjambment, as in the endings of lines 1, 3, and 5.
  • Iambic rhythm (in which odd syllables are unaccented and even syllables are accented), as in lines 4-5.