Last Updated 14 Aug 2020

What Is A Metaphor?

Category Metaphor, Poetry
Words 866 (3 pages)

Metaphor is a figurative trope, etymologically originated from Greek "metaphora", meaning transference of a word to a new sense or a thing regarded as representative or symbolic. The Oxford Dictionary defines metaphor as adding a new sense or meaning to a singular word or concept making it easier to understand and more interesting. Metaphor is employed effectively in Darwish's poetry for emphasis. It is essential constituent of the narratives that Darwish talks about in his poetry.

Darwish is a cultural icon who has contributed much to shaping the Palestinian identity and consciousness. He has the ability to recharge his language and reach for universal themes. His unsparing metaphors, which seem so omnipresent that they lyrically embrace every corner in his homeland, are an artistic re-creation. Darwish's main topics are his land and suffering under Israeli occupation. Therefore, his poetry, while employing metaphorical devices which are composed in the context of a conflict-ridden and globalized world, is considered a focus for many scholars because such poetry is governed by both cultural and linguistic rules.

Culture is considered the most important force that governs translators in narrating Darwish's poetry in a new target culture and language. Metaphor is at the heart of a cultural narrative. We acquire metaphor at an early age and it governs our minds and regulates our daily behaviors. Lacoff and Johnason (1980) illustrate that metaphors are merely the ornaments that belong to literature or language itself. But many scholars, as Doucherty, argue that human thought processes are essentially metaphorical; we can only make sense of something by comparing it to something else.

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Metaphors shape our actions and our sense of right and wrong. A powerful metaphor orders the world in such a way that we can identify roles that are useful and actions that are prohibited or unthinkable because they fall outside the metaphor (Doucherty 2004). In the discipline of translation studies, translation of metaphor has intrigued a number of scholars who have tackled the issue from several points of view and in relation to different types of discourse

Metaphor is regarded as an artistic tool with the help of which a poet conveys his ideas in a skillful way. It has always been regarded a major concern of all poetry. Muhawi (1995) believes that existence itself in the Arab and Islamic view is “understood through the metaphor of writing”. He indicates that “what Darwish attempts is a pure gesture in which writing itself becomes the dominant metaphor. He offers us a multi vocal text that resembles a broken mirror, reassembled to present the viewer with vying possibilities of clarity and fracture.” Metaphors are essential to Darwish as they are indeed to all poets.

Cameron (2003, P.2) points out that “understanding how metaphor is used may help us understand better how people think, how they make sense of the world and each other, and how they communicate.” Darwish`s literary work abounds in figurative language, especially image and metaphor. Darwish used metaphorical language, his poetry gradually move from metaphorical language to modern poetic expression.


arwish's later works, specifically from the mid-nineties until before his death in 2008 were pertinent to modernity. In reading his poems, one finds that he concentrates on universal themes such as freedom, love, hope, exile, death and he moves away from the local and the temporal. Freedom in Darwish’s poetry is often expressed via the metaphor of birds that possess the freedom he is denied as he cannot visit his beloved homeland which he was forced to leave. In his poem “The Hoopoe” (الهدهد,) Darwish urges birds to enjoy flying wherever they want and to sing and express their joy in freedom:

“You birds of plain and valley, fly! Fly swiftly toward my wings, toward my voice! People are birds unable to fly, O hoopoe of Words.”

(Translated by Akash and Forché, 2003: 31)

Unlike birds which can soar so freely in the sky, humans cannot fly and remain constrained by the limits of time and place. In one of his last poems "The Canary”, Darwish again depicts himself and his compatriots under siege in Ramallah in the West Bank as birds in a cage. The cage is a metaphor for the siege imposed by Israel and the canary a metaphor for people under siege. He writes:

“We listened to the canary’s words to me and you: / Singing in a cage is possible and so is happiness.” (Translated by Catherine Cobham in Darwish, 2009: 139).

Nature and its elements, like flowers, butterflies, doves, springs, and rivers are frequently used metaphorically in Darwish's works. It is a metaphor for the poets to transcend their present condition.

The poetry of Mahmoud Darwish is closely related to his own life experience extending from his early childhood till the period before his death. His life was marked with the perplexities of separation, attachment to his native land, resistance, imprisonment, pain of exile, loss of identity, travel, and the dream of return. This ps the period between 1960 and mid-nineties, when his themes revolved around these similar and interrelated subjects. Metaphor in that phase was used as “a means of recollecting an actual occasion” (Mansson 2003, p. 105). Consequently, these metaphors originated from close encounters with the trials and tribulations of that period.

What Is A Metaphor? essay

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