What are the poetic devices (figurative language) in the poem "Ode to my Socks"?  How do they contribute to the meaning of the poem?

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The theme of “Ode to my Socks” is that beauty is made more beautiful if it is also utilitarian. This theme is most evident in the last stanza, where the speaker explains the “moral” of his ode:

So this isthe moral of my ode:beauty is beautytwice over ...

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The theme of “Ode to my Socks” is that beauty is made more beautiful if it is also utilitarian. This theme is most evident in the last stanza, where the speaker explains the “moral” of his ode:

So this is
the moral of my ode:
beauty is beauty
twice over
and good things are doubly
good
when you're talking about a pair of wool
socks
in the dead of winter.

The usefulness of the socks is made clear in the reference to the setting being “the dead of winter,” because the socks can be used for the practical purpose of keeping his feet warm. But what about the beauty of the socks? This is where Neruda’s fantastic use of imagery comes in.

The majority of the poem sets up this moral by celebrating the fierce beauty of the socks. The beauty is found in the visual imagery when Neruda describes his temptation to put the socks into a casement where they can be showcased for their beauty. In stanza seven, he compares them to “fireflies in a bottle” that children commonly store away in jars. The reason people put fireflies in jars is to appreciate and show off their glow. In stanza eight, he compares the socks to a beautiful bird that he has the urge to lock away in “a golden cage” for his own appreciation. The imagery is reinforcing that the socks are worth valuing for their beauty alone.

Neruda also describes his feet as ugly, violent things in contrast to the beauty of the socks. He calls his feet “two gangly / Navy-blue sharks” that are “impaled / on a golden thread” in stanza 4. He later compares his feet to “firemen / unworthy of that embroidered / fire.” The image is exaggerating the beauty of the fire, saying it is worth more than the firemen trying to put it out. In the scenario, his feet are the “unworthy” firemen bringing damage to the beautiful, embroidered socks.

The speaker has the impulse to set the socks aside for display, but in the end, he must damage them by wearing them and make use of their warmth and beauty. He has determined that using the beautiful socks makes them “doubly good.”

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The poet also uses a series of images to describe how his feet feel when he puts on the socks. His feet become woolen fish, like two blue sharks. His feet also become two huge blackbirds and two cannons. These metaphors call attention to how extraordinary the socks are that they could transform his feet into such objects. To describe how unworthy his feet are to be wearing the socks, he describes his feet as two old firefighters, afraid that his plain feet will put out the fire of the socks.

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The very first line, “Maru Mori brought me,” sets a rhythm to the poem through the repetition of “m” and “r,” which seem to roll, not unlike the sounds of the entire poem. No specific rhythm dominates, but sounds link lines together, creating an inner beat.  The abundant presence of l’s and h’s and oo’s in the first stanza, for example, give the sense of luxury, contrasting with mundane topic of “socks,” a word itself consisting of pleasant sibilants of the “s” undermined by the vigor of the hard “k.” The poem uses images that appeal to the senses, such as  “soft as rabbits”  and “two knitted cases.”  Note here also the parallelism in structure that imitates the nature of the socks (always a pair).  This follows with the metaphor of “with threads of twilight and goatskin.”  Twilight and goatskin again contrast with each other (one ethereal and gentle, the other concrete and rough), reflecting the main idea of the poem concerning the beauty in something simple and useful.

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