"a thing is spoken of
as being that which it only resembles",
That is, one thing is spoken of in terms of another.
The thing being spoken of is sometimes called the tenor; the thing in
terms of which it's being spoken is then called the vehicle.
- Yes! in the sea of life enisled, ...
The "thing" being spoken of (the tenor) is us. The thing which we only resemble
(the vehicle) is an island. "Enisled" in one word makes the comparison, the
fusion of the two things into a single image.
We mortal millions live alone.
- A Sonnet is a moment's monument ...
Tenor: sonnet. Vehicle: a monument (i.e. a tangible structure, such as
- Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee ...
Two metaphors here. (1) Tenor: the abstract emotion despair. Vehicle: a dead
carcass. (2) Tenor: the "I", the speaker. Vehicle: a bird of prey or an
animal (like a hyena) that feeds on carrion.
- I taste a liquor never brewed ...
The vehicle announces itself at once (some sort of alcoholic drink): it's
metaphorical, we know, because it's never been brewed, thus is not literal.
However, it's only when we get farther along in the poem that we discover more
about what experience is intoxicating the speaker. Then we find that the tenor
might be summed up as nature, or her joy in nature.
Inebriate of Air -- am I -- ...
An interesting point here is the metaphor can convey experience which would
otherwise be hard to name. In fact, if this were not the case, what excuse
would there be for using metaphor?
- I shall never get you put together entirely
The vehicle is a statue, announced by the poem's title, "The Colossus." The
tenor, we discover gradually, is some enormous, dominating, but obscure
presence which she has to labor to recover and understand and which is named
finally as her father.
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
- Prayer, the Church's banquet, Angels' age,
Three metaphors in series for (tenor) prayer. The second one is obscure to
me, but the first (a collective meal, a shared pleasure) and the third
(human utterance as inspired -- breathed into us -- by God) as rich and
yet easily comprehensible in a Christian context.
God's breath in man returning to his birth ...
- The hour-glass whispers to the lion's paw ...
Hour-glasses don't whisper, so we're in the realm of metaphor (a
personification, to start with). Hour-glasses do make a noise, though,
as the sand sifts through. What might they be thought of as "saying"?
Something, surely, about time passing inexorably.
Why is this addressed to the lion's paw? Perhaps an echo of Shakespeare's
sonnet on roughly the same theme: "Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's