Samples of metaphor and simile

Seamus Cooney

Here are the answers to the questions on the samples page. If you find any of these answers wrong or doubtful, send e-mail to

  1. I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vale and hill

    Simile (I am like a cloud in my loneliness and detachment).

  2. Crossing the street,
    I saw the parents and the child
    At their window, gleaming like fruit
    With evening's mild gold leaf.
    Simile ("gleaming like fruit"), then metaphor ("evening's mild gold leaf").

  3. The Soul selects her own Society --
    Then shuts the door -- ...
    Metaphor (the soul is a person entertaining some visitors while excluding others).

  4. Love a child is ever criing,
    Please him, and hee straite is flying,
    Give him hee the more is craving
    Never satisfi'd with having ...
    Metaphor (an extended analogy, but presented as an identity, so a metaphor and not a simile).

  5. That time of year thou mayest in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold ...
    Metaphor, with a second metaphor within it (first my age as autumn, then the boughs as a person's limbs shaking with the cold).

  6. The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day ...
    Metaphor (evening as a funeral).

  7. When my mother died I was very young ...
    Neither: just plain statement.

  8. O Rose, thou art sick.
    Metaphor (the flower as a person).

  9. Be near me when my light is low ...
    Metaphor (vitality as a lamp or candle).

  10. The sea is calm tonight.
    The tide is full ...
    Neither: just plain statement.

  11. An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered cloak upon a stick ...
    Plain statement, followed by a metaphor (old man as scarecrow).

  12. As if he had been poured
    in tar, he lies
    on a pillow of turf
    and seems to weep

    the black river of himself.
    Metaphors -- three of them, by my count (Heaney is describing "Grauballe Man," a stone-age corpse recovered from a bog in Denmark). "Poured in tar" I take to be a metaphor seeing the mummified body as something poured into a sort of mold. "Pillow of turf" is a simple seeing of the peat on which he lies as a bed. And "weep the black river of himelf" compares the flowing of tears to the flowing of a river (black -- like "tar" above -- referring to the literal color of the corpse).

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