Are you looking for famous metaphor poems? Along with the simile, this is one of the most common types of figurative language. Learn more about how an extended metaphor can impact poetry.
You probably learned all about metaphors and similes in high school. Metaphors can be a commanding literary vehicle for communicating powerful messages. The use of metaphor in poems can be a powerful way to communicate certain messages to the reader. Different similes and metaphors work well in different poems. For example, some metaphors might communicate challenges the character overcomes, while others might focus on interactions with nature.
From William Shakespeare to Langston Hughes and from Sylvia Plath to Emily Dickinson, numerous famous authors throughout history have used metaphor and simile poems to make an impact on the reader. Take a look at a few of the top examples of metaphor poems below.
1. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Robert Frost is one of the most studied poets in all of history. One of his most famous works is called The Road Not Taken. The poem opens with the line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Yes, it is possible to interpret this poem literally. However, as the poem unfolds, it becomes obvious that this line is a metaphor for someone trying to make a difficult decision. The metaphor creates a powerful image for the reader, showing someone literally trying to make a difficult decision by comparing it to a walk in the woods.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could.”
2. As You Like It by Williams Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is one of the most important literary figures of all time. He produced countless written works, including numerous plays and poems. In his famous play, As You Like It, there is a specific line where the main character, Jaques, says, “all the word is a stage. All men and women are merely players.” In this line, Shakespeare compares the world to a giant stage. The main character goes on to elaborate on the reason behind this comparison. This is one of the most famous examples of metaphors in poems in all of literature.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”
3. The Sun Rising by John Donne
John Donne is a famous poet known for his use of metaphors. One of his most famous poems is called The Sun Rising. In the story, the speaker communicates with the sun. He tells the sun that the most important thing in the world to him is his lover. He states, “she’s all states and all princes.” In this poem, he compares his lover to every ruler and every country in the world. He uses this comparison to emphasize just how important his lover is to him.
“Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?”
4. Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Here is another famous work by William Shakespeare. The first line of this poem is “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” This is one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines. Because it does not use “like” or “as,” it is a metaphor. He compares someone to a summer’s day, which is usually seen as a compliment. The goal is to communicate that the target of the dialogue will remain beautiful for many years.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,”
5. The Poison Tree by William Blake
Based on the title, you probably think the work is about a tree that has been poisoned or is poisoning other people; however, as The Poison Tree unfolds, it is evident that it is not meant to be taken literally. In the story, wrath, anger, and revenge are compared to something you can grow and nurture. These emotions are also compared to a person who can listen to what is happening. As a result, this is one of the most powerful examples of metaphors in literature.
“And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.”
6. When I Have Fears by John Keats
John Keats is one of the most prolific authors, but he also suffered a tremendous tragedy. His poem, When I Heave Fears, contains numerous metaphors related to life and death. He writes about shadows following him with magic hands of chance, creating a powerful image through his symbolic use of life and death following him as he goes throughout his life. Even though the poem is not explicitly about him, it is widely believed that the poem is about the tragedies he has suffered in his life.
“When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance”
7. Hope’ Is The Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson
Hope is one of the most famous works by Emily Dickinson, one of the top female authors of all time. Even though the poem is vague, she compares hope to something resembling a bird. The poem states that it perches in the soul, sings a tune without words, and has feathers. It is a powerful poem that creates vivid imagery and uses intense symbolism to communicate its theme. It’s a good example of an extended metaphor.
“Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all”
8. Metaphors by Sylvia Plath
Given the name of the poem, it is obvious that it contains a lot of metaphors; however, Metaphors is not literally about metaphors, which is a bit ironic. Throughout the poem, she compares her pregnancy to an elephant, a melon, a red fruit, a loaf of some sort, and a fat purse. She even compares herself to a cow when she gets close to the end. It doesn’t exactly create a favorable picture of pregnancy, but it is an effective use of metaphors.
“I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.”
9. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wadsworth
The poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud opens with a simile; however, further comparisons are metaphors. For example, he talks about daffodils dancing in the breeze and tossing their heads. This is not meant to be taken literally, but it is an important flower metaphor. There are numerous other metaphors throughout the poem that discuss nature.
“The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:”
10. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night is a powerful, frequently quoted poem by Dylan Thomas. When he was talking about that good night, he is not talking about the literal setting of the sun. Instead, he uses this as a metaphor for old age. It can also be interpreted as discussing blindness or darkness of the soul. Even though the poem can be interpreted literally, as the various lines unfold, it is obvious it is meant to be a powerful metaphor.
“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Final Word on The Usage of Metaphor In Poems
These are a few examples of powerful metaphors from poetry and literature. You have probably studied numerous types of poetry on various worksheets throughout your education, and have even tried to use metaphors in your own poetry.
Metaphors are used throughout multiple types of poems to compare two things creatively. For example, metaphors could be used to bring nature to life, describe obstacles the narrator must address, or evoke feelings of incredible emotion. Metaphors are a powerful way to communicate important messages to the reader. Some of the most talented writers of all time have gotten incredibly creative with their use of metaphors in poems.
It’s common to find poems using metaphors. So if you want to find more poetry metaphors, check out our guide how to analyze a poem.
FAQs About Metaphor In Poems
What is the difference between a metaphor and a simile?
Both a metaphor and a simile are used to draw a comparison between two things. A metaphor is a literary tool that compares without using like or as. A simile makes a direct comparison using like or as.
Why do poets like to use metaphors in their poems?
Even though it is possible to make a statement directly, it is frequently more powerful to use a metaphor. A metaphor can create a vivid image in the reader’s mind, causing them to connect with the poem on a deeper level.
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