Apostrophe Poetic Device Explained with Examples

Poetic devices, including apostrophe, are important tools used by poets to create meaning, convey emotions, and engage the reader or listener. Apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, a place, a thing, or an abstract concept.

One of the main purposes of apostrophe in poetry is to add emotional intensity or to create a sense of intimacy between the speaker and the object or person being addressed. By directly speaking to an object or concept, the poet can bring it to life, personifying it and making it more relatable to the reader or listener.

Apostrophe is also used in poetry to create a sense of dramatic tension or to convey a sense of longing or loss. For example, a poet might address a deceased loved one or a lost homeland, using apostrophe to express their emotions and to give voice to their grief.

Overall, apostrophe is an important poetic device that can add depth, emotion, and power to a poem. It allows poets to break free from the constraints of everyday language and to create a more vivid and memorable experience for the reader or listener.

What is ‘Apostrophe’ Poetic device?

An apostrophe is a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer addresses an imaginary or absent person, object, or concept as if it were present and able to respond. In poetry, an apostrophe is often used to convey intense emotion or to give voice to an otherwise inanimate object or abstract idea.

Here’s an example of an apostrophe in poetry:

“O, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

In this line, Juliet is speaking to Romeo, even though he is not present. The apostrophe allows her to express her intense longing for Romeo and her frustration that they cannot be together.

Another example of an apostrophe in poetry can be found in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind”:

“O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.”

In this poem, Shelley addresses the West Wind as if it were a living being, capable of understanding and responding to his words. The apostrophe allows Shelley to personify the wind and give it a sense of agency and power.

How to identify apostrophe poetic device?

To identify an apostrophe as a poetic device, you can look for the following elements in the poem:

  1. Addressing an Absent Person/Object: The poet speaks to an absent person, an abstract idea, or a non-human object as if it were present and able to respond.
  2. Direct Address: The poet uses second-person pronouns (such as “you” or “your”) or directly addresses the absent person/object as if they were listening.
  3. Emotionally Charged Language: The poet uses emotionally charged language to convey their feelings towards the absent person/object.
  4. Symbolic Language: The poet may use symbolic language to describe the absent person/object, suggesting deeper meanings or associations beyond their literal interpretation.

Some Examples of Apostrophe Poetic Device

Here are a few examples of the use of apostrophe poetic device in literature:

1. “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

“My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness, —
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.”

In these lines, Keats addresses the nightingale, an absent object, and speaks to it as if it were present. He uses emotionally charged language to convey his admiration for the bird’s carefree happiness, and he also uses symbolic language to describe the bird as a “light-winged Dryad of the trees.” By addressing the nightingale directly and using emotionally charged and symbolic language, Keats is using apostrophe as a poetic device.

2: “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!”

In this example, Shelley addresses the West Wind as if it were a person, asking it to make him its lyre and to drive his thoughts across the universe like withered leaves.

3: “To Autumn” by John Keats

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.”

In this example, Keats addresses Autumn as if it were a person, describing its actions as if they were intentional, such as conspiring with the sun and filling all fruit with ripeness to the core.

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