What are the figures of speech used in the poem "An Ordinary Day" by Norman Maccaig?

Expert Answers

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

In "An Ordinary Day," the poet describes a number of ordinary phenomena of nature that he saw when he took a walk.  Some of these things are:

*"The light glittered on the water"

*"Cormorants [a type of bird] stood on a tidal rock

With their wings spread out,
Stopping no traffic"

*"Various ducks

Shilly-shallied [moved in an undecided way] here and there"

*"Small flowers" attracted bees

*"Long weeds in the clear water" swayed in the wind

*"A cow

Started a moo but thought
Better of it"

The poet concludes with the observation:

how ordinary
Extraordinary things are or
How extraordinary ordinary
Things are

The poet seems to be asking: Are these beautiful sights really extraordinary, but we think they are ordinary because we do not pay enough attention to them?  Or, are all ordinary things really extraordinarily beautiful, if we only would pay attention to them?

This style of turning around simple phrases to create questions is a primary figure of speech in this poem.  Other examples are:

*I took my mind a walk

Or my mind took me a walk

*The light glittered on the water

Or the water glittered in the light.

*And my mind observed to me

Or I to it

The poet also uses more conventional figures of speech; some examples are:

PERSONIFICATION (speaking of non-human objects as if they were human):

Small flowers
Were dong their level best
To bring to their kerb bees

Flowers don't consciously try to bring bees to themselves (at least I don't think they do!)

METAPHOR (a comparison that does not use the word "like" or "as"):

Long weeds in the clear
Water did Eastern dances

Weeds don't actually dance the way people do; they appear to be dancing as the wind causes them to sway.

SIMILE (a comparison that does use the word "like" or "as"):

Small flowers
Were dong their level best
To bring to their kerb bees like
Aerial charabancs

A charabanc was a kind of open-topped horse-drawn bus that was common in England in the 1920's and '30's.  The poet is comparing the flight of the bees to the movement of charabancs.




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