Just as poets sometimes use metaphor, they might also use symbols to express a deeper meaning. When you read a poem, look for an object that has meaning in itself but that also suggests something else.
Read the following poem “Up-Hill” by the nineteenth-century poet Christina Rossetti. The poet uses a question and answer format to relay her point about an uphill journey.
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
One of the most famous present-day poets is the African-American poet Maya Angelou. Read her poem “Caged Bird” by clicking the link. Return to this section when you are finished reading.
While Angelou’s poem on the surface seems like it’s about two birds—one in a cage and one in the sky—when you look for a deeper meaning, you can find one. In this poem, the birds are not just winged creatures; they represent anyone who has been enslaved and anyone who has lived in freedom.