How do poems use idioms?

Examples of the metaphor

The metaphor is certainly one of the stylistic devices that is most frequently used in all literary genres, i.e. poetry, drama and epic. But even if we read it frequently, the stylistic figure can cause us a lot of trouble in connection with the analysis and interpretation, as it is not so easy to define and explain (→ poem analysis).

Basically, that's what the metaphor is aboutthat a linguistic transfer of meaning is carried out. This means that two areas are linguistically connected which are actually unconnected. Words are therefore used improperly. Let's look at an example.


The delicious sea of ​​corn at my feet.

This verse is a metaphor for billowing grain. Thereby the word sea Used in an improper context, because the sea consists of water and not of Ears of wheat (~ Inflorescence in cereals). Therefore, in the example above, the grain field is equated with the sea.

Note: It is important here that we only speak of a metaphor when the terms are equated. If a spokesman were to say that the ears of wheat look like a sea, we would be dealing with a very simple comparison and not with a metaphor.

We can often simply derive other style figures and there is seldom a problem with the rhyme scheme either. For example, if a poem has the end rhyme sequence ABAB, we can say with certainty that it is a cross rhyme and if the beginnings repeat in successive lines of verse, we are dealing with an anaphora.

The metaphor is not that easy to determinebecause it is a linguistic image that connects two ideas. And we have to learn to recognize this linguistic image. Therefore, mnemonics are of little help in learning, but an example can be helpful.

Examples of the metaphor

It can therefore be very helpful to memorize the metaphor using examples in order to recognize other metaphors through these examples. At this point we would like to present and of course explain a selection of very different metaphors to you.

1. Metaphor example

Break someone's heart

Of course, the heart is only broken figuratively here and not really. The sentence logically means that we hurt someone who trusts us. Since the heart often represents love, we could also say that a person who has been broken has been left unhappy in a relationship.

2. Metaphor example

Can't hold a candle to a person

Here, too, it is not about the fact that we cannot give someone a bottle of water, but symbolically it is stated that someone cannot match someone else's abilities or achievements. A well-known play on words says, for example, “Can someone hold a candle to me?” And exploits the ambiguity of the statement.

3. Metaphor example

Build a wall of silence

Here we express that all-encompassing silence prevails. We can also infer rejection and that one person has given another non-verbal rebuff. Of course it will no classic wall erected.

4. Metaphor example

Someone is looking for a needle in a haystack

Means that someone embarks on a task that is almost in vain. The comparison is very clear here, since an action is equated with this linguistic image - which appears hopeless.

5. Metaphor example

You hit the nail on the head

If you hit a nail on your head, you will effectively knock it into the wall. So the nail was hit at the right point and that is why this picture means that someone else said, meant or expressed exactly the right thing.

6. Metaphor example

One person wears rose-colored glasses

The formulation means that someone evaluates a situation too positively and perhaps makes it more beautiful than it is now. So things are perceived and judged selectively. It is often used to describe a very romantic or transfigured point of view.

7. Metaphor example

They are real bad parents

Of course, this does not mean that someone is descended from birds or has a bird (which, by the way, is also an example of the metaphor), but that the parents are really bad and may treat their child badly or neglect them.

8. Metaphor example

What you say is yesterday's news

This statement compares yesterday's news with the statement made by the speaker. What is meant here is that this statement, like the snow, is no longer relevant or has even thawed. Here, too, the metaphorical image is created through the comparison.

9. Metaphor example

We have to hurry, there is a long line

This picture should be familiar to most of the people. Here, the snake-shaped collection of people is compared with the snake that we encounter in the animal kingdom. Of course, it's not a snake that has been waiting a long time.
10. Metaphor example

Politicians trample our rights. Nobody really looks at us!

In this way the law becomes, so to speak, a real object that can be trodden by others. The statement means that - in this case, a politician - someone disregards the rights of another person and consequently ignores them.

Notes on the metaphorical examples

We hope that this selection has helped you to understand the stylistic device and subsequently to recognize it in other texts and excerpts. However, we would like to emphasize that the metaphor is primarily characterized by the fact that it is not only a linguistic image, but also has a certain ambiguity.

  • There are metaphor examples that you can interpret either way, although the key message is not always clear. (→ poem interpretation)
  • Most importantly, it makes sense in the context of the underlying poem and obviously fits the rest of the message.
  • Sometimes the trick is also that metaphors are consciously used that contradict each other and are used in an unusual way.
  • In this case you just have to recognize that the metaphorical image is alienated.

Tip: Take a look at our idioms section, because most proverbs are metaphors too and can reveal other examples.

If we think, for example, of the phrase “to be washed up”, of course it does not mean that a person is particularly hygienic, but that they are truly experienced.