What figures of speech are used in Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life"?

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Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life" uses various figures of speech, including personification, simile, metaphor, allusion, parallelism, and alliteration. Personification is seen when the heart is given human qualities, and similes compare hearts to drums and people to cattle. Metaphors liken the world to a battlefield and life to an "empty dream". The title and opening line allude to the Bible's psalms and the Book of Numbers. Parallelism is evident in repeated phrases, and alliteration is found in phrases like "Find us further" and "Dumb driven cattle".

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In the fourth stanza, the speaker says,

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

Here, the heart is personified as possessing the qualities of determination and courage. Personification occurs when human characteristics and behaviors are attributed to nonhuman objects or entities. Then, hearts are compared, via a simile, to drums that keeps time for our funeral march to our deaths. A simile is a comparison of two unalike things using the word like or as.

The next stanza reads,

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

The speaker uses a metaphor to compare the world to a field of battle. A metaphor is a comparison of two unalike things where the poet says that one thing is another. In the next line, life is compared, via a continuation of the same metaphor, to a temporary camp (like one set up by soldiers) that lacks tents or cover (so one is especially vulnerable). Another simile compares people to animals that simply follow without question, like cattle, as the speaker exhorts us not to be like cows, but rather to be heroes on the battlefield of life, to take charge of our own fates.

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"The Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a poem which encourages its readers to live a good and moral life, so the title itself is an allusion to the psalms of the Bible. In the first line, that biblical allusion continues with "Tell me not, in mournful numbers..." alluding to the Bible's Book of Numbers.

From there, we find metaphors and personification. First, life is compared to an "empty dream" (a metaphor); and "For the soul is dead that slumbers" personifies the soul.

Parallelism comes to play in the second and final stanzas: "Life is real! Life is earnest!" And "Still achieving, still pursuing."

More metaphors, as well as similes, are found throughout the piece. Hearts are compared (simile) to drums in the fourth stanza, and people are compared (simile) to cattle in the fifth. "Art is long and Time is fleeting" is a metaphor.

Finally, this poem contains quite a bit of alliteration: "Find us further" is one example. "Dumb driven cattle" is another.

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What are the figures of speech used in the poem "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

In the first stanza, the speaker tells the psalmist not to say that "Life is but an empty dream," employing a metaphor that he does not want the psalmist to use. A metaphor compares two unalike things—in this case, life and a dream—by saying that one thing is another (without using like or as, as a simile would).  

In the second stanza, the narrator says that "the grave is not [Life's] goal," employing metonymy. Metonymy is when the poet substitutes a detail associated with a thing for the thing itself. In this case, grave is standing in for death. Because we typically automatically associate graves with death, we understand the meaning of the figure of speech.

In the third stanza, Longfellow employs a simile (a comparison of two unalike things that uses like or as) in the lines, "And our hearts, though stout and brave, / Still, like muffled drums, are beating . . . " He compares our hearts to muffled drums. The first of these lines also employs personification of the hearts, giving them the human qualities of being stout and brave. Personification is when the poet gives human traits to something nonhuman.

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What are the figures of speech used in the poem "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

In the first stanza of "A Psalm of Life," the speaker tells the Psalmist not to say that life is an empty dream because a soul that slumbers is dead. A person has a soul. That person/soul cannot be asleep in order to dream of life. Therefore, the person/soul must be awake.

Longfellow is playing with the ideas of sleep, wakefulness, death, and life. However, he does not take the usual route of equating death with sleep and life with wakefulness. Here, the speaker argues against the metaphor of life as a sleeping dream because a soul (in life or in death) cannot be asleep. A soul and the living person must be awake. This poem is about wakefulness in the sense of being aware and living for the present. 

In the second stanza, life and the soul are personified. 

In the fifth stanza, the speaker argues against passive living, using the simile "Be not like dumb, driven cattle!" 

In the seventh stanza, a complex metaphor involves the description of footprints as two things: life experiences and as the impressions of those experiences on others. In other words, "footprints" are both the events of a life and the signification/significance of those events as others see them.

The phrase "sands of time" is metaphoric. Sands in an hourglass measure time, but the actual increments of time are lengths of temporal duration. "Footprints on the sands of time" is a metaphor for the impressions a person's life leaves on others. 

One of the main themes of the poem is to focus on the present. Therefore, the future and the past, including those who see our footprints, will take care of themselves if we "make our lives sublime." 

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What rhetorical devices does Longfellow use in "A Psalm of Life"?

Rhetorical devices are persuasive devices.

In this poem, the speaker is trying to persuade us to lead active lives. He advises us not to think of life as a dream or to set our eyes on heaven and the afterlife. We should throw our energies into the here and now.

One way the speaker is persuasive is by using frequent exclamation points to emphasize his passion for living an active life. Through his emotional writing, he shows us he cares deeply about making an impact on this world. For example, he writes:

Life is real! Life is earnest!

He is not simply saying that—he is throwing all his intensity behind those ideas, almost shouting them.

The speaker also uses imagery to convince us of what he says. Imagery is describing using the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and hearing. For example, he writes:

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
We can imagine being a head of cattle, slowly plodding along without purpose, or we can see ourselves as a hero gallantly fighting in the midst of battle. In putting these two images side by side, Longfellow creates an antithesis, which is the juxtaposition of two opposite ideas. Most of us would decide we want to be heroic warriors and take on life rather than be like cattle.
Longfellow also uses metaphor, which is comparison not using the words like or as, for example, when he writes that what we should leave behind us:
Footprints on the sands of time
He is comparing our achievements in life to footprints in the sand: most of us would want to leave behind some imprint of what we did in life after we die, so this metaphor might inspire us to action.

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