Seamus Cooney

What is a paraphrase and how do you write one?

Here's the best definition I can come up with of a paraphrase:

"A piece of modern speech you can imagine the speaker of the original poem saying that conveys in different words exactly and fully every shade of meaning in the original poem, both what's said and what's implied."

A paraphrase will have none of the beauty or effectiveness of the original. It merely aims, in its prosy way, to spell out the literal meaning. It will not substitute for the original, then, but will help us appreciate the compactness and complexity of many poems.

Here is a sample paraphrase of a fairly difficult poem, John Donne's "The Sun Rising."

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    Updated 27 January 1998