Metaphor: There Is No Frigate Like A Book

USS Constitution | Oil on Canvas | Russ Webster | Blackwood/March

USS Constitution | Oil on Canvas | Russ Webster | Blackwood/March

There is no frigate like a book (1263)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

METAPHOR is a literary technique that writers use to make comparison between two people, things, animals, or places that are not alike. In fact, the definition of those objects are so far apart that they seem to have nothing in common. For example, a FRIGATE in comparison to a book, or COURSER in comparison to the pages of a book. In the poem, There Is No Frigate Like A Book by Emily Dickinson, we notice the use of various literary techniques such as PERSONIFICATION and SIMILE, appropriate to the first four lines of the poem. However, notice how Emily uses metaphorical language to show us the qualities of books in playful and effective comparison.

Let’s take the poem apart in sections:

“There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us lands away”

Books cannot physically “take us” anywhere, but the author cleverly compares a book to a frigate to show us we can travel using our imaginations. Emily’s words later gives the poem a human like quality by saying that it is “prancing”, in doing so she gives reading a playful persona.

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

Next, we see a clear metaphor of a traveler passing through a rode on a journey. On a normal toll road a traveler must pay a fee to drive through, not in this case. The “Traverse” that the reader takes doesn’t cost anything, and therefore it is “Without oppress of Toll.”

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll

The last two lines are still talking about the power and benefit of reading books. Notice that the word “frugal” is a synonym for “inexpensive” or “affordable”.

“How frugal is the Chariot

That bears the Human soul

Let’s read it again using the a synonym for “frugal”: “How affordable is the Chariot that bears the Human soul”. The author means to say that books hold on to or carry part of the human soul with them because books come from the minds and inspirations of people.

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  1. Write a statement explaining the central idea of Emily Dickinson’s poem.
  2. Read the poem once more and identify words that sound playful or adventurous.
  3. In her poem, Emily Dickinson compares books to various forms of transportation like a frigate, coursers, and chariot. If you were to rewrite the verse, what modern forms of transportation would you place in that section of the poem? Rewrite the poem using your new words.


Categories: Literary Devices

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3 replies

  1. 1)I think Emily Dickison is saying that there is a land in every book that you travel to without moving a finger.