How To Include A Poem In An Essay Chicago Style The Use of Colors in Poetry

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The Use of Colors in Poetry

Do you remember, from your early days of education, how you selected colors from the Crayola box to color within the lines? Perhaps later, your elementary school teacher, to stimulate your imagination, asked you what any color looked like, or smelled, or tasted like.

Poets also use their colors to activate their thinking in a similar way. Most often, colors can be used as symbols that imply intangibles or concepts.

Here is a short list of implications of color in poetry over the past few centuries:

green = jealousy, rebirth, money

purple = royalty, enlightenment, fantasy

pink = happiness

brown = earthy qualities

orange = curiosity, wisdom

gray = depression, defeat, monotony, boredom

gold – happiness

red = anger, danger, war, seduction, passion

black = sadness or death

white = purity but also death (shroud implied)

blue = sadness

Apart from its symbolic and impressionistic use, the application of colors added to the visual image of the poems.

“The waves of the sea are green and wet,

But where do they die from?

Others still vaster rise,

And they’re brown and dry.”

By Robert Frost Sand dunes

The use of color in poetry goes back a long way to written history. Roman and Greek poets, like poets of other races, used colors because of their strong connections with emotions. For example, Homer used the color bronze to imply power, and in Roman poetry, certain color combinations, especially purple and gold, hinted at royalty while red and white meant conquest and other concepts. Virgil alone used more than 500 color words in the Aeneid.

“I myself gave (Ulysses) a bronze sword and a beautiful purple mantle, double-lined, with a shirt that came down to his feet, and sent him on board his ship with all the mark of honor.” since The Odyssey – Book XIX

“And few its walls defend the Trojan troops:

The city is full of slaughter and floats,

With a red deluge, their trenches rising.”

since The Aeneid – Chapter 10

Later, Dante used the colors vividly to paint the picture of his Inferno in the readers’ imaginations.

“On a yellow bag I saw azure

That he had the face and posture of a lion.

Proceeding then the stream of my sight,

Another of them saw me, red as blood,

It shows a goose whiter than butter.

And one, with a blue and pregnant sow

Iconic had his little white bag,”

since Inferno, Canto XVII by Dante Alighieri

Shakespeare, too, used colors frequently and also the word color itself, attaching it to other nouns to paint even more dramatic word pictures.

“Mr. ANDREW

Oh, it’s strong, and it does well indifferent one

flame colored stock. Shall we have a party?”

From Twelfth Night – Act 1, Scene III, by William Shakespeare

During the last two centuries, the use of colors in poetry has become more subjective; although, the colors were also applied with their real identities.

“The joyful Sphinx arose,

And he no longer crouched on the stone;

She melted into a purple cloud,

She silvered in the moon;

She threw a yellow flame;

She blossomed into red flowers;

By Ralph Waldo Emerson The Sphinx

“With a veil as white as snow and garments like flame,

She is in front of you, what a long time ago

filled your young heart with passion and woe.”

since Divine Comedy by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Within the circuit of this laborious life

There are moments of blue hue,”

since Winter memories by Henry David Thoreau

“In winter, in my room,

I found a worm

Pink, loose and warm.”

By Emily Dickinson “In the winter, in my room,”

So the next time you sit down at your desk with your pen or in front of your computer to write poetry, think about using color. Perhaps you can add another dimension to its use.

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