In Sappho's poem"With His Venom," how is figurative language used?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sappho's poem uses the primary metaphor of a reptile to represent love.  "The loosener of limbs" is seen as a subterranean force, something that is stealth in how it "strikes down" its victims.  Sappho's trademark of "intense, stark emotions" is present in the poem.  The figurative language shows love to be a force from which there can be little preemption and little escape.  This is confirmed by the opening description of the venom, itself, as "irresistible and bittersweet."  The brevity of the poem, and the fact that it is all figurative language, helps to bring forth Sappho's idea that love is a personalized experience, something that cannot be restrained by society.  The "power of love within the individual heart" is a part of the experience that is brought out in the poem, and something towards which the poetess holds a great deal of respect.

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