Edgar A. Guest

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What poetic devices are used in Edgar Guest's poem "Equipment"?

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The poem "Equipment" by Edgar Guest employs several poetic devices including apostrophe, anaphora, allusion, and repetition. Apostrophe is seen in the direct address to "my lad," while anaphora is evident in the repeated use of "you" at the start of successive lines. Allusion is subtly incorporated through references to unnamed "great men," and repetition is used effectively to emphasize the poem's message and give it a rhythmic flow.

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Two poetic devices used by Edgar Guest in his poem "Equipment" are apostrophe and anaphora. These devices work together to enhance the inspirational message of the poem as well as the personal tone of encouragement that characterizes the work as a whole.

Apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a poet addresses an absent person, idea or thing in the work of poetry. Guest uses apostrophe throughout this poem, addressing the poem directly to "my lad," as evidenced by the first line of the poem. The lad in question is unnamed, so many readers interpret him as any person reading the poem who might benefit from some encouragement and inspiration. It is possible that Guest had a relative or family friend in mind while writing the poem, and this individual is the person to whom the poem is addressed.

Anaphora is defined as the repetition of a word at the beginning of successive clauses in order to emphasize a particular point. In several lines of the poem, and in stanzas three and four in particular, the poet repeats the pronoun "you" to emphasize the potential of the reader of the poem. By using the pronoun over and over in stanzas three and four, the poet gathers momentum, adding a sense of power and a uniquely strong energy to the message of the poem.

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This is a fantastic poem to analyze as there are so many poetic devices to be found in "Equipment," many of which have been pointed out by other educators. Here are a few more things to consider as you read and enjoy this poem:

Allusion, in which the author refers to unnamed "great men" outside the context of the poem. Although we do not know which of the greats Edgar Guest had in mind, we can assume he did this intentionally, since the lad he addresses may have his own heroes. Maybe he admires Abraham Lincoln's honesty and work ethic or Alexander the Conqueror's bold intelligence. Whatever the case may be, in alluding to great men who have come before, the poet offers his listener a chance to consider who he may become in time, if only he uses the equipment he has been given.

Repetition is another poetic device used here with great effect. Many of the lines begin with the word "you." For example, in the third stanza:

You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if only you will,
You're well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,

Four lines in a row all begin with "you"! That repetition is important; poets do not use any word by accident. It is an essential reminder that this poem is not about any abstract concept or idea, but is in fact a message directed at a specific person. You, the reader, the lad addressed in the first line. Also, this repetition gives the poem its distinct flow, almost like a chant. We can easily imagine young men reciting it out loud. Repetition makes a poem beg to be spoken and shared, like a song.

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Guest's inspirational poem uses apostrophe, anaphora, and simple diction. Apostrophe is the literary device of directly addressing a person or object in a poem. In this case, the speaker addresses "my lad" in the first line and then repeatedly speaks to "you," telling this "you" he can "triumph," "be great," etc., if he wants to do so. This use of apostrophe or direct address has the effect of making the poem feel personal and immediate. Whoever is reading the poem has the sensation of being directly and individually addressed and reassured that they have what it takes to succeed.

Anaphora is repeating the same words at the beginning of successive lines of a poem. This creates a sense of rhythm and continuity, as well as establishing authority (the Bible uses this technique—"And lo the Lord . . ." did this "And lo the Lord . . ." did that: who argues with these statements from on high?) Some examples of Guest doing this include the following: "And similar" in stanza 2, "you can" in stanza three, and "you are" in stanza 4.

Guest also uses simple diction or words so that the reader cannot miss his point. He is not trying to be ambiguous but direct and to the point. He tells the reader authoritatively that he can get ahead in life. The literary techniques of apostrophe, anaphora, and simple diction amplify his message.

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Guest uses a broad array of poetic techniques and devices in "Equipment."

Let's start with the most basic. The poem uses line breaks to shape the poem, and is arranged into distinct stanzas.

The lines rhyme in a regular structure: AA BB CC (the first and second lines, the third and fourth, and the fifth and the sixth).

Repetition is used: see the uses of "two" in line 3.

Imagery is used throughout, as are metaphors. The images are clear, if the language is a bit basic: look at the mention of the men using similar laces in their shoes.

The idea of great men taking their food from a "common plate" is a useful metaphor. They don't literally eat from a shared plate, one big platter, but metaphorically, they have a lot in common.

The poem uses direct address, engaging the reader in a shared mission for greatness through the use of "you.

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What are examples of figurative language in the poem "Equipment" by Edgar A. Guest?

In this poem, the word "equipment" is itself a metaphor, a form of figurative language. When Guest says, "With this equipment they all began," referring to "the greatest of men," he means that everyone, even those who go on to achieve great success, start with the same potential. Therefore, equipment is a metaphor for the potential to achieve that equality among all people. Similarly, when Guest writes that the person he is addressing has "Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes / And a brain to use," these body parts are also metaphorical. They stand for the way in which everyone has the same potential in life because people all start with the same tools. 

In the second stanza, when Guest writes, "They take their food from a common plate, / And similar knives and forks they use, / With similar laces they tie their shoes," he is also referring to the sameness of people's potential. The "common plate" is a metaphor for the commonality of people's experiences, as are "similar knives and forks" and "similar laces." In other words, not only do people start with the same equipment, they also face similar situations as they go through life. 

Later, Guest writes that people are their own worst enemies and get in the way of their success. He says, "You are the handicap you must face." In this line, "handicap" is a metaphor for the ways in which people put obstacles in their own paths. 

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