What literary devices are used in the poem "She Was a Phantom of Delight" by Wordsworth? Is there personification, alliteration, or imagery?

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Wordsworth uses literary devices such as alliteration, meter, etc. 

The main literary devices used throughout the poem are rhyme and meter. The lines of the poem consist of four feet with each foot containing an unstressed syllable followed by an stressed syllable; the meter is thus iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme is AABBCC, etc., a form referred to as couplets. Thus a full description of the metrical structure of the poem would be "iambic tetrameter couplets." Most of these couplets are end-stopped rather than enjambed.

The poem makes extensive use of simile, a figure of explicit comparison, as in the lines comparing her eyes and hair to twilight:

Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;

Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;

Wordsworth also uses metaphor, comparing the woman of the poem implicitly to a phantom, apparition, and spirit without use of explicit comparison words such as "like" or "as."

The language tends to be quite abstract with little use of imagery other than the comparison of the woman to twilight; there is no actual description of her physical appearance.

The main rhetorical device of the poem is amplification, long lists which pile one element of praise or noble characteristic on top of another, as in:

The reason firm, the temperate will,

Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You ask about personification, alliteration, and imagery in "She was a Phantom of Delight." In this poem, Wordsworth uses objectification, which is the opposite of personification, to describe the woman who is the poem's subject. In personification, an animal or object is given human characteristics. In objectification, a human is assigned non-human attributes.

The poem's narrator objectifies the female subject as a ghost, calling her an "apparition," a "phantom," and a "Spirit." He also likens her to an "image," a "Creature" and a "machine," all non-human items.

There's very little alliteration in the poem. Rather than employing repeated consonants in the same line to build an effect, Wordsworth instead relies on rhyming couplets to structure his verse and provide rhythm. Several lines, however, do use alliteration, such as "For transient sorrows, simple wiles" (with its repeated "s" sounds), "A Being breathing thoughtful breath," and "To warn, to comfort, and command."

Wordsworth employs imagery in this poem. Imagery is the language of the five senses: what we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Here the narrator likens the woman's eyes to stars at twilight and her "dusky" (dark) hair to twilight. But he notes that she is more like "May" or "dawn," bright images. He also calls her a "traveler," an image implying that she is dead and her life was a brief journey. 

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question