William Makepeace Thackeray

Start Free Trial

What are the figures of speech in "King Canute" by W. M. Thackeray?

Expert Answers

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

"King Canute”  is a poem written by W.M.Thackeray's (1811-1863).  The style of the poem is written as a Ballad.  There is a rhyming pattern and several different literary devices are used in the poem.  Thackeray uses similes and euphemisms to advance his theme of an omnipotent and supreme God.  He is being worshiped by his courtier's, advisers, and people but remains discontented with his rule and his age.  He wishes that he could die and that he could stop reliving his past wars and his past mistakes.  He states that he is "tired and weary."

In his desire to prove his point to his followers he orders the ocean waves to stop advancing and receeding.  The ocean continues its path and the old King tells his followers never to "kneel to anything made of clay."  He is saying that we should never put our faith or trust in anything unless it has the power to stop the natural progression of life.


"Sliding after like his shadow, pausing when he chose to pause."


"Oh, remorse, the writhing serpent! at my bosom tears and bites;
Horrid, horrid things I look on, though I put out all the lights;
Ghosts of ghastly recollections troop about my bed at nights"


"dropped their jaws;"

"but he bade her hold her tongue."

"in the lurch."

These are just a few of the many figures of speech in this poem.  Hopefully this will aid you in finding more.

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