Explication Essay Poem Example Assonance

Many examples of assonance can be found in prose and poetry. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. It is used to reinforce the meanings of words or to set the mood. 

Setting the Mood with Assonance

In this example by Carl Sandburg, in Early Moon, the long “o” sounds old or mysterious.

“Poetry is old, ancient, goes back far. It is among the oldest of living things. So old it is that no man knows how and why the first poems came.”

Assonance examples are sometimes hard to find, because they work subconsciously sometimes, and are subtle. The long vowel sounds will slow down the energy and make the mood more somber, while high sounds can increase the energy level of the piece. 

Notice how the mood is set by using the long “A” in this excerpt from Cormac McCarthy's book, Outer Dark:

“And stepping softly with her air of blooded ruin about the glade in a frail agony of grace she trailed her rags through dust and ashes, circling the dead fire, the charred billets and chalk bones, the little calcined ribcage.”

The words "glade," "frail," "grace," and "trailed" help set the chilling mood of the work, and it is repeated and emphasized at the end with “ribcage.”

Dylan Thomas' famous poem "Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night" touches upon the subject of death and also sets the mood by using assonance as a literary tool:

"Do not go gentle into that good night,Old age should burn and rave at close of day;Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. . . .Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sightBlind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Here are a few short assonance examples:

  • "Hear the mellow wedding bells" by Edgar Allen Poe
  • "Try to light the fire"
  • "I lie down by the side fo my bride"/"Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geese"/"Hear the lark and harden to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground" by Pink Floyd
  • "It's hot and it's monotonous." by Sondheim
  • "The crumbling thunder of seas" by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • "If I bleat when I speak it's because I just got . . . fleeced." - "Deadwood" by Al Swearengen
  • "It beats . . . as it sweeps . . . as it cleans!" - slogan for Hoover vacuum cleaners
  • "Those images that yet/Fresh images beget,/That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea." - “Byzantium” by W.B. Yeats
  • "Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds" - "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce
  • "The spider skins lie on their sides, translucent and ragged, their legs drying in knots." - "Holy the Firm" by Annie Dillard
  • "The setting sun was licking the hard bright machine like some great invisible beast on its knees." - "Death, Sleep, and the Traveler" by John Hawkes
  • "I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless." - "With Love" by Thin Lizzy
  • "In the over-mastering loneliness of that moment, his whole life seemed to him nothing but vanity." - "Night Rider" by Robert Penn Warren
  • "A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an active Adam's apple, ogling Lo and her orange-brown bare midriff, which I kissed five minutes later, Jack." - "Lotita" by Vladimir Nabokov
  • "Strips of tinfoil winking like people" - "The Bee Meeting" by Sylvia Plath

Consonance and Alliteration

Another literary device used by writers and poets is consonance. It is the repetition of the final consonant sounds, usually in the more important words or in the accented syllables.

Here are some examples of consonance: “I dropped the locket in the thick mud.” and "as in guys she gently sways at ease" from The Silken Tent by Robert Frost.

Alliteration also deals with consonants, but repeats the first one in the words.  This is the easiest device to spot, and can be fun to say, as in tongue twisters.  Examples include:

  • “Betty bought butter but the butter was bitter, so Betty bought better butter to make the bitter butter better.”
  • “A skunk sat on a stump. The stump thought the skunk stunk. The skunk thought the stump stunk. What stunk, the skunk or the stump?”

Literary examples of alliteration include:

  • “Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, He bravely breach'd his boiling bloody breast.” from Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
  • Dancing Dolphins/Those tidal thorough/breds that tango through the turquoise tide./Their taut tails thrashing they twist in tribute to the titans./They twirl through the trek tumbling towards the tide./Throwing themselves towards those theatrical thespians. - by Paul McCann

Edgar Allan Poe was a master of assonance, consonance, and alliteration. Here is one line from the poem The Raven:

“And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain”

In this one line, assonance is the “ur” sound in “purple” and “curtain”, consonance is the “s” sound in “uncertain” and “rustling”, and alliteration is shown in the “s” sound at the beginning of "silked" and "sad."

Other Literary Devices

Similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia are other tools to make writing interesting, descriptive, and colorful:

  • Similes use the words “as” or “like” in making a comparison, like “as busy as a bee” and “You are as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.”
  • Metaphors on the other hand, compare two unlike things that have something in common.  The statement doesn’t make sense, until you think about it and see the comparison that is being made.  Examples of metaphors are: “The world is my oyster” and “I am going to be toast when I get home.”
  • Hyperbole is an outrageous exaggeration, like “I am so hungry I could eat a horse.” “You snore louder than a freight train.” and “If he talks to me, I will die of embarrassment.”
  • Onomatopoeia uses words that sound like their meaning, like “The burning wood hissed and crackled” or words like: clap, boom, or zap.

All of these literary devices make writing and reading fun. Each has its own purpose; but, you can't beat the use of assonance to reinforce meanings or to set the mood.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

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Assonance Examples

By YourDictionary

Many examples of assonance can be found in prose and poetry. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. It is used to reinforce the meanings of words or to set the mood. 

I. What is Assonance?

Assonance (pronounced as–uh-nuh ns) is the repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds within words, phrases, or sentences. The word is derived from the Latin phrase assonare, meaning to answer with the same sound. The following is a simple example of assonance:

She seems to beam rays of sunshine with her eyes of green.

In this example, the speaker uses assonance to describe a pretty woman. Assonance occurs in the repeating vowel sounds of seems, beam, and green.

 

II. Examples of Assonance

Here are a few examples of how assonance can be used to invoke a certain feeling or to create rhythm:

Example 1

A girl uses assonance to show dislike:

 

They’re some creeps who I wouldn’t meet if you paid me a heap of cash!

Like in a rap song, assonance gives a sentence rhythm and musicality . This helps reflect the speaker’s aggressive mood. Assonance occurs in the vowel sounds repeated through creeps, meet, me, and heap.

Example 2

A poet uses assonance in a different way:

I wish there was a way to make her state similar feelings to those of my soul.

Assonance is used to provide a poem with musicality and softness which mirrors the romantic, longing mood of the line. Assonance occurs in the vowel sounds of way, make, and state as well as those and soul.

 

III. The importance of using Assonance

Assonance can be used in all types of literature, but is commonly found in poetry. Assonance provides poetic writing with rhythm and musicality. It also mirrors or changes the mood of a poem in order to match the subject matter. Beyond literature, assonance is also found in pop culture, especially in music. As you will hear, it is possible to use assonance in everyday speech. However, most people don’t use it intentionally, unless trying to woo someone romantically!

 

IV. Examples of Assonance in Literature

Assonance is used in both poetry and prose, but is primarily found in poetry. Here are a few examples:

Example 1

William Wordsworth uses assonance to reflect the calm and thoughtful mood of his poem “Daffodils”:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o‘er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…

Host, golden, and daffodils share the same vowel sound. Beneath, trees, and breeze share the same vowel sound as well.

Example 2

James Joyce invokes the feeling of whispering and beauty in these lines from his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weds.

Issued, spitless, lips, and swished all share the same vowel sound in a way that nearly sounds like soft whispering in rhythm.

 

V. Examples of Assonance in Pop Culture

Like poetry, music is full of assonance as a sound device for beauty, rhythm, and mood. Assonance is found in all genres of music from post-rock to pop to jazz to rap.

Example 1

Pink Floyd’s “Granchester Meadows” is full of poetic devices, including assonance:

In the sky a bird was heard to cry
Misty morning whisperings and gentle stirring sounds
Belie the deathly silence that lay all around

Bird and heard; misty, whisperings, and stirring; belie and silence! There are many instances of assonance to be found in this song. Theses allow a mysterious, poetic, and beautiful sound.

Example 2

Thin Lizzy’s “With Love” also employs assonance:

It’s a tedious existence laying your love on the line

Resistance is useless she can leave at any time

I must confess that it my quest I felt depressed and restless

But this Casanova’s roving days are over more or less

The third line is full of assonance which gives this brokenhearted love song poetic beauty.

Example 3

Eminem, known for his use of poetic devices in rap, also uses assonance in this line:

Fire at the private eye hired to pry in my business.

Such use of assonance gives Eminem’s rap a clear and steady rhythm.

 

VI. Related Terms

(Terms: alliteration and rhyme)

Alliteration

Like assonance, alliteration involves the repetition of certain sounds. Whereas assonance is repetition of vowel sounds within words, alliteration is repetition of the consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. Alliteration and assonance are both used in poetry to provide rhythm. A common example of alliteration is the tongue twister: “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.”

Rhyme

Assonance and rhyme both provide poetry and prose with musicality and rhythm. Although assonance and rhyme both involve repetition, there is a slight difference. Assonance is a repetition of vowel sounds, whereas rhyme is a repetition of both vowel and consonant sounds. Here are a few examples:

Assonance:

Oh, how the evening light fades over the lake.

Fade and lake share a vowel sound, but not a consonant sound, so this line uses assonance rather than rhyme.

Rhyme:

Evening light flickers and will fade over the holiday parade.

In this line, fade and parade contain shared vowel and consonant sounds. Therefore, they would be considered a case of rhyme rather than assonance.

Note that assonance occurs as well: holiday shares vowel sounds with fade and parade.

Assonance:

I find this line difficult to complete in time.

In this line, find, line, and time all include the same vowel sound, but have differing consonant sounds. Let’s examine a similar line for rhyme:

Rhyme:

I find this grind of coffee in a line of fine brands on the shelf.

In this line, there are two instances of rhyme: find and grind, and line and fine. Interestingly, all share vowel sounds, so although find and fine and grind and line are not rhymes, they form assonance.

 

VII. Conclusion

In conclusion, assonance is a useful poetic device in which the writer places repeating vowel sounds closely. Doing so gives the composition rhythm and sound, which may reflect the overall meaning or mood of the piece.

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