What are three literary devices in the "Invocation" from John Brown's Body?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first device that Stephen Vincent Benét uses in the poem’s “Invocation” section is apostrophe, direct address to a person, thing, or abstract concept. The speaker (who is apparently the poet) directs their words to the abstract “American muse” in line one. It becomes evident in Line 4 that this is direct address, as the speaker uses second-person, speaking to the muse: “you are as various as your land.”

This device is combined with personification, as the poet endows the American muse with human characteristics. Among those characteristics are sensations such as thirst and relationships such as friendship.

In the second stanza, the speaker says the muse is “Thirsty with deserts.” After providing numerous qualities of America, in stanza ten, they summarize several human features:

A friend, an enemy, a sacred hag

With two tied oceans in her medicine-bag.

A third device that Benét employs is metaphor, direct comparison for effect. In stanzas three and four, the speaker uses the metaphor of hunting for their attempts, as a writer, to capture the important essences of the American muse.

The muse has been “pursued” but “never captured or subdued” by fifty “great huntsmen.” Although all of them have “failed,” the speaker will endeavor to succeed. They use the metaphor of a “snare” by which they will catch the “quarry” that is the muse, meaning that through their words in this poem, they modestly hope to capture the important essence of America:

Where the great huntsmen failed, I set my sorry

And mortal snare for your immortal quarry.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial