a poet's glossary

dead metaphor A metaphor that has supposedly been used so often that it has lost its capacity to describe one thing in terms of another, and no longer operates as a metaphor. Do we think of the heart when we say that this definition strikes the heart of the matter. The question of whether or not a dead metaphor is still a metaphor has been debated in recent years. Metaphors may not be surprising –I'm skating on thin ice here–but they can still work as metaphors. Zoltán Kövecses explains: “The ‘dead metaphor’ account misses an important point… . The metaphors … may be highly conventionally and effortlessly used, but this does not mean that they have lost their vigor in thought and that they are dead. On the contrary, they are 'alive’ in the most important sense–they govern our thought–they are 'metaphors we live by.’” Some poets, such as Samuel Johnson in “The Vanity of Human Wishes” (1749), make a point of invigorating dead metaphors. Giambattista Vico contended in The New Science (1725) that all language begins with metaphor and that the first metaphors were drawn from the human body. A great deal of what we think of as literal speech consists of dead metaphors, as when we say “the mouth of a river,” “veins of minerals,” “murmuring waves,” “weeping willows,” “the bowels of the earth,” and “smiling skies.” We speak the vestiges of ancient metaphorical language.

— A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch

See also: cliché, convention, metaphor, personification

badii'a This Arabic word refers to the poetry of the early Abbasid period (late eighth, early ninth century). The poets of this era developed a difficult new style, poetry of elaborate figuration, somewhat akin to English metaphysical poetry. Muslim Ibn al-Walid (d. 823) is said to be the first Arabic poet to employ this elaborated stylistic approach. Suzanne Stetkevych proposes that “badii'a poetry be defined not merely as the occurrence of this particular rhetorical device but rather that the badii'a style is first and foremost the intentional, conscious encoding of abstract meaning into metaphor… . The large number of … rhetorical devices in badii'a poetry is not a mere proliferation due to infatuation … but rather the product of a constant and ineluctable awareness of the logical and etymological relationship between words, and the intention to express this awareness.” The Hebrew poets of Andalusia, especially Solomon Ibn Gabirol (ca. 1021-1058), frequently adopted the the badii'a stylistic approach.

— A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch

See also: metaphysical poets