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Poetic Apostrophe

Page history last edited by Bradley Grant 5 years, 10 months ago

Poetic Apostrophe

In poetry, an apostrophe is a figure of speech in which the poet addresses an absent person, an abstract idea, or a thing. Apostrophes are found throughout poetry, but they’re less common since the early 20th century. Poets may apostrophize a beloved, the Muse, God, love, time, or any other entity that can’t respond in reality.

The word O is often used to signal such an invocation.

 

Some examples:

When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs? [Gerard Manley Hopkins]

O holy virgin! clad in purest white,
Unlock heav’n's golden gates, and issue forth; [William Blake]

O cunning Love! with tears thou keep’st me blind,
Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find. [William Shakespeare]

 

Walt Whitman wrote about the death of Lincoln.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;  
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;  
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,  
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:  
    But O heart! heart! heart!          5
      O the bleeding drops of red,  
        Where on the deck my Captain lies,  
          Fallen cold and dead.  
  
2
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
 
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;   10
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;  
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;  
    Here Captain! dear father!  
      This arm beneath your head;  
        It is some dream that on the deck,   15
          You’ve fallen cold and dead.  
  
3
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
 
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;  
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;  
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;   20
    Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!  
      But I, with mournful tread,  
        Walk the deck my Captain lies,  
          Fallen cold and dead.

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