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Onomatopoeia Examples in Poetry

Onomatopoeia Examples in Poetry

Instances of onomatopoeia in poetry make for a very interesting study because they are some of the most fun elements from the varied figures of speeches. In the following article, we will try and understand what onomatopoeia is and also study some of the prominent examples of the same through varied poems.
Rujuta Borkar
Last Updated: May 12, 2018
Sound gives life to our words just as well as the images they conjure up and the sound is there, whether or not we read them aloud.

A.A. Patawaran




That's how easy it is to understand what onomatopoeia is. All these sounds, what do they say to you? Don't they build an instant picture of the action that is being undertaken? That is exactly what onomatopoeia is. In this way, the sound and the meaning of a particular word is the same. A reading of the word leaves no doubt about the kind of meaning that it conveys. These words are conveyed from real life and therefore the presence is apparent in most cases. Which is what makes it one of the most interesting figures of speech in the English language, because one can simply confer the meaning from the existing word.

Onomatopoeia is used in different works of art to form some of the most effective works. In this article, we will study onomatopoeia examples in poetry and try to understand the concept better through this medium of literature.
Examples of Poems with Onomatopoeia
This figure of speech is one of the most interesting elements because it connects right through and leaves no doubt about what the action in question is. Here are some of the prominent poems containing onomatopoeia.
The Weary Blues
― Langston Hughes

"Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more..."

In this poem, the use of the word 'thump' is an onomatopoeic word that draws a picture before us of exactly how the person must've placed his foot, the pressure he must've used when the foot hit the floor. It is one of the examples of famous poems with onomatopoeia in it.

The Bells
― Edgar Allan Poe

"How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!"

"How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour."

In these examples, Poe has shown us the two contrasting features of the bells. At one point they 'tinkle' which is a very mild word and then they 'clang' which is a more forceful action. He thus draws a comparison in the two forms of bells moving in the air and makes the differing moods immediately clear. These are some of the best onomatopoeia words to use and are quite simple to understand.

Morte d'Arthur
― Alfred Lord Tennyson

"I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,
And the wild water lapping on the crag."

In these onomatopoeia examples, the words 'ripple' and 'lapping' help the audience feel the poem and live through the experience. One can picture the stream and the flow of the water in it.

The Highwayman
― Alfred Noyes

"Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred..."

Here the words 'clattered', 'clashed', and 'whip' are onomatopoeic words that put forth the picture of his actions. The way he crashes, the texture of the path, the whipping and force of the whip are all made to stand out with these examples of onomatopoeia.

Come down, O Maid
― Alfred Lord Tennyson

"The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees."

Sometimes, onomatopoeia need not be present as only complete words. Here the examples of onomatopoeia are conveyed through the sounds of 'n' and 'm'. These have a lilting rhythm to it which portrays the actions of insects. Thus without using clear-cut words, Lord Tennyson has been able to provide for subtle examples of the same.

― Ogden Nash

"There were no drums or saxophones,
But just the clatter of their bones,
A rolling, rattling carefree circus,
Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas."

In this poem, Nash brings to life the sounds of the band by using onomatopoeic words that describe the musical instruments. The very use of this figure of speech takes us into the world of the fossils and makes the experience even more life-like. The humor that is used as a theme in the poem is enhanced because of the instances of onomatopoeic words.

Meeting at Night
― Robert Browning

"Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match..."

In this poem, Browning describes a meeting that takes place at night. The entire poem is filled with imagery that is rich in bringing forth the scenes of the night. The darkness, the quiet, and the urgency of the meeting is made even more effective with the simple sprinkling of onomatopoeic words that Browning uses.

The Raven
― Edgar Allan Poe

"`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door..."

A read through this poem and you'll know that the entire poem―almost every line―is rife with onomatopoeic words. Poe has managed to weave a very interesting pattern with the way in which he liberally uses these words throughout the poem―but it is never out of context, and it never seems forced. In fact, it only enhances the effect of the poem, making the poem a real treat to read.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
― Robert Browning

"Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling."

This work of art is one of richest examples of how onomatopoeia has been used to give life to the many actions that have been described in this poem. In this excerpt, Browning has been able to make live the varied actions of the rats, increasing the intensity with every word and drawing the scene with absolute perfection. Words like rumbling, grumbling, and muttering are able to take forth the negativity that the rats have led to.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
― Robert Browning

"There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering..."

In stark contrast to the dark theme of the earlier excerpt, this excerpt talks about the excited flight of little children. Once again, Browning has been able to take into account the pulse of the emotions and use such onomatopoeic words that are highly positive such that the emotions and excitement of the children is brought to the fore.

These onomatopoeia examples in poetry will have given you a clear idea of what onomatopoeia is. It will have also helped you to understand that with the use of onomatopoeia, a piece of art can literally be made to stand right out, the readers can understand and connect with it better, and it lends to greater appeal for that work of art.