What is a metaphor from the poem "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A metaphor is a type of figurative language that compares one thing to another without using the words "like" or "as." Usually, one thing is simply stated to be the other thing. Two notable metaphors in "Paul Revere's Ride" are explained below.

In the sixth stanza, the cemetery is compared to a military encampment with these words: "Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead, / In their night-encampment on the hill." Since this is a poem about the British military and a conflict that is about to occur, this metaphor is particularly apt. It makes one think about all the rows of graves as if they were the rows of tents in which soldiers would sleep. Like sleeping soldiers, the dead people in the graves were silent and still. Longfellow extends the metaphor by describing the wind as a "sentinel" that walks about among the tents, or graves.

In stanza 8 the flying hooves of Revere's horse are likened to a spark that ignites a raging fire: "And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, / Kindled the land into flame with its heat." Just as a single spark can cause a devastating forest fire, so the message that Paul Revere spread, and the battle that happened in response, began the Revolutionary War, an event that roused and involved the entire land occupied by the thirteen British colonies. 

Each of these metaphors helps create the solemn and portentous mood that Longfellow imparts in this poem. 

droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer above identifies two metaphors in this poem by Longfellow, which describes the ride of Paul Revere using lyrical and evocative language, creating mood with its "spectral" and "phantom" imagery. The shadows of the night are made vivid through the depictions of the boats like "a line of black" and the "spectral" church rising above the encampment of graves.

Another form of metaphor is personification, where an inanimate object or concept is described as if it has human attributes. We see this when Revere "galloped into Lexington," twice. Firstly, the weathercock he sees appears to "swim in the moonlight," another image that emphasizes the atmosphere of the poem. Next, we see the "meeting house windows, blank and bare," which "gaze at him with a spectral glare." Revere interprets the motive of the windows, further extending the metaphor: it is "as if they already stood aghast/at the bloody work they would look upon." Thus, the metaphor imagines the dark windows as the eyes of a spectator, potentially disapproving or anticipating terrible things from the night.