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Literary Devices used in a Lyrical Ballad

Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


To point out some of the several literacy devices used in a lyrical ballad, Rime of the
Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge has been chosen. The literary devices explained
with examples from the ballad include alliteration, anaphora, assonance, consonance, elision,
hyperbole, imagery, inversion, irony, metaphor, onomatopoeia, oxymoron, paradox,
personification, rhyme scheme, simile and symbols.

Alliteration:
Alliteration is a literary device where words are used in quick succession and begin
with letters belonging to the same sound group. Whether it is the consonant sound or a
specific vowel group, the alliteration involves creating a repetition of similar sounds in the
sentence. Alliterations are also created when the words all begin with the same letter.
Alliterations are used to add character to the writing. For example in part 2, line 102-103;
The breezes blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow follow'd free:
The bold word is an example of alliteration in the poem.

Anaphora:
The term anaphora refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or
lines begin with the same words. The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long
as an entire phrase. For example in part 1, line 27-28:
Below the Kirk, below the Hill,
Below the Light-house top.
Here, below is used as anaphora to create a litany and rhyme.

Assonance:
It is the effect created when there is a repetition of a vowel sound in stressed syllables
with different consonant sounds. Assonance can be understood to be a kind of alliteration.

What sets it apart from alliterations is that it is the repetition of only vowel sounds. This
effect is used widely throughout the ballad to establish its rhythm. For example in part 1, line
21-22:
The Ship was cheer'd, the Harbour clear'd-Merrily did we drop
Assonance appears in the long e sound in cheerd and cleard.

Consonance:
Consonance refers to repetition of sounds in quick succession produced by consonants
within a sentence or phrase. The repetitive sound is often found at the end of a word.
Consonance is the opposite of assonance. For example in part 1, line 27-28:
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the Sea.
The words bright and right have the same last consonants, creating the effect of
consonance.

Elision:
Elision refers to the leaving out of an unstressed syllable or vowel, usually in order to
keep a regular meter in a line of poetry. It is the deliberate omission of a sound between two
words. In Rime of the Ancient Mariner, elision is used repeatedly:
It crack'd and growl'd, and roar'd and howl'd-Like noises of a swound. (Line 61-62)
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew. (Line 67-68)
And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe: (Line 91-92)
The highlighted words are examples of elision.

Hyperbole:
A hyperbole is a literary device wherein the author uses specific words and phrases
that exaggerate and overemphasize the basic crux of the statement in order to produce a
grander, more noticeable effect. The purpose of hyperbole is to create a larger-than-life effect
and overly stress a specific point. Such sentences usually convey an action or sentiment that
is generally not practically or realistically possible or plausible but helps emphasize an
emotion. For example in lines
As idle as a painted Ship
Upon a painted Ocean. (Line 117-118)
This hyperbole is used because it stretches the truth so that we understand how still
the boat is.
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. (Line 121-122)
The poet has used exaggeration to define the ancient mariners thirst when he is
stranded in the ocean and how he cant drink a drop of that huge mass of water.

Imagery:
In poetry, one of the strongest devices is imagery when the poet uses words and
phrases to create mental images for the reader. Imagery helps the reader to visualize and
hence more realistically experience the authors writings. The usage of descriptive words and
similes, amongst other literary forms, in order to awaken the readers sensory perceptions is
referred to as imagery. Imagery is not limited to only visual sensations, but also refers to
sensations of taste, smell, touch and hearing as well. For example
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound! (Line 59-62)

These lines appeal specifically to the sense of sight and hearing when the ice is
described as cracking, growling, roaring and howling noises.
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. (Lines 121-122)
These lines portray the intense thirst the narrator felt which plays with the readers
sense of taste.
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea. (Lines 125-126)
These lines appeal to the sense of touch because we are repulsed by the reading the
description of slimy insects with their legs and the sea as slimy.

Inversion:
The term inversion refers to the practice of changing the conventional placement of
words. It is a literary practice typical of the classical poetry. It is usually used for the purpose
of laying emphasis. It helps to arrange the poem in a manner that catches the attention of the
reader not only with its content but also with its physical appearance; a result of the peculiar
structuring. For example Coleridge inverts the word order from time to time, as the following
lines demonstrate:
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung. (Lines 141-142)
The normal word order of this line would be was hung about my neck.
The naked hulk alongside came (line 195)
Here the normal word order would be came alongside.

Irony:
The use of irony refers to playing around with words such that the meaning implied
by a sentence or word is actually different from the literal meaning derived. Often, irony is
used to suggest the stark contrast of the literal meaning being put forth. The deeper, real layer

of significance is revealed not by the words themselves but the situation and the context in
which they are placed. For example:
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. (Lines 119-122)
These lines signify that water is everywhere, but there is none to actually drink.

Metaphor:
A metaphor refers to a meaning or identity ascribed to one subject by way of another.
In a metaphor, one subject is implied to be another so as to draw a comparison between their
similarities and shared traits. The first subject, which is the focus of the sentences, is usually
compared to the second subject, which is used to convey a degree of meaning that is used to
characterize the first. The purpose of using a metaphor is to take an identity or concept that
we understand clearly (second subject) and use it to better understand the lesser-known
element (the first subject). For example:
They coil'd and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire. (Lines 281-282)
In the above stated lines, the metaphor is the comparison of the wake of the waves left
by the sea snakes with fire.
O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessd them unaware: (Lines 282-285)
A spring of love gushed from my heart is the metaphor used for love in this line by
Coleridge. It shows how beautiful the bride and groom looked that the ancient mariner
blessed them with a spring of love gushing from his heart.

Onomatopoeia:
The term refers to words whose very sound is very close to the sound they are meant
to depict. In other words, it refers to sound words whose pronunciation to the actual sound or
noise they represent. For example
It crack'd and growl'd, and roar'd and howl'd (Line 61)
The words in bold are onomatopoeia i.e. when pronounced they portray the sounds of
actions they represent.

Oxymoron:
It allows the author to use contradictory, contrasting concepts placed together in a
manner that actually ends up making sense in a strange, and slightly complex manner. An
oxymoron is an interesting literary device because it helps to perceive a deeper level of truth
and explore different layers of semantics while writing. For example:
And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold: (Line 51-52)
The phrase wondrous cold is an oxymoron.
And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen: (Line 55-56)
Dismal sheen is the oxymoron used in these lines.

Paradox:
A paradox refers to the use of concepts or ideas that are contradictory to one another,
yet, when placed together they hold significant value on several levels. The uniqueness of
paradoxes lies in the fact that a deeper level of meaning and significance is not revealed at
first glance, but when it does crystallize, it provides astonishing insight. For example:
Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread;

But where the ship's huge shadow lay,


The charmd water burnt alway
A still and awful red. (Lines 267-271)
This warring imagery of the moon spreads frosty colors across the ship, but the water
burns red in its shadow. While the moon might calm the curse momentarily, it still lies
beneath.

Personification:
Personification refers to the practice of attaching human traits and characteristics with
inanimate objects, phenomena and animals.
The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea. (Lines 25-28)
In these lines, the sun is personified as a human being.
Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread; (Line 267-268)
The moon in these lines is personified as a mocking woman.

Rhyme Scheme:
It is the practice of rhyming words placed at the end of the lines. Rhyme scheme
refers to the order in which particular words rhyme. If the alternate words rhyme, it is an ab-a-b rhyme scheme, which means a is the rhyme for the lines 1 and 3 and b is the
rhyme affected in the lines 2 and 4. For example most stanzas in Rime of the Ancient
Mariner have four-lines, called a quatrain, but not all of the stanzas have exactly four lines.
The second and fourth line of each four-line stanza rhyme, providing a song like rhythm; e.g.
hand and sand in the first stanza. But some stanzas have five lines. In these stanzas the

second line rhymes with the fifth, the third line rhymes with the fourth. Some stanzas contain
six lines. In these stanzas the second, fourth and sixth lines rhyme.

Simile:
It is the practice of drawing parallels or comparisons between two unrelated and
dissimilar things, people, beings, places and concepts. By using similes a greater degree of
meaning and understanding is attached to an otherwise simple sentence. The reader is able to
better understand the sentiment the author wishes to convey. Similes are marked by the use of
the words as or such as or like. For example
Every soul, it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my crossbow! (Lines 223-224)
In these lines, there is the comparison of the passing of a soul to the sound of a shot
arrow.
The sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye (Lines 251-252)
Comparison of the sky and sea to a weight on the eye is the simile in these lines.

Symbol:
A symbol is literary device that contains several layers of meaning, often concealed at
first sight, and is representative of several other aspects or concepts and traits than those that
are visible in the literal translation alone. Symbol is using an object or action that means
something more than its literal meaning. For example, in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
the Mariner is an actual symbolic representation of Adam. The Ancient Mariner slaying of the
Albatross is equal to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
The moon and sun also play an important symbol in this story. The sun represents Gods
influence of wrathful power but the moon has a more positive association than the sun.
Generally troubling outcome happens to the Mariner during the day while more favorable
result happens by moon light. For example, the mariners curse lifts and he returns home by
moonlight.
Reference: http://literary-devices.com/