LINGUIST List 12.1029

Wed Apr 11 2001

Sum: "Life is Journey" Metaphors in Poems

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. tzuyinlai, "Life is journey" metaphors in poems

Message 1: "Life is journey" metaphors in poems

Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001 18:40:59 +0800
From: tzuyinlai <>
Subject: "Life is journey" metaphors in poems

I have posted a question concerning LIFE IS JOURNEY metaphor in poetry.
I have received several responding emails, listed in the below.
I thank you all very much for helping me.

Vicky Tzuyin Lai

From: "tzuyinlai" <>
Subject: LIFE IS JOURNEY metaphor in poetry

I am doing a research on LIFE IS JOURNEY metaphor in English poetry. For
example, in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken", the LIFE IS
JOURNEY metaphor is used. Could you suggest other poems using the same

I will compile a list and post for the future reference.
Thank you.

Vicky Tzuyin Lai

First canto in Dante's infereno
Roger Hurwitz

You might find the poem "Prayer to the Pacific" by Leslie Marmon Silko
useful to your study of the life-as-journey metaphor. Silko is part
American Indian, part Mexican, part white. She is from the state of New
Mexico in the U.S. The poem speaks of more than a personal (and
metaphorical) journey to the edge of the Pacific ocean. It also speaks in
terms of tribal myth and the origins of her people in Asia--specifically
China--which I feel could be read as the life-journey of an entire people.
Since you are apparently from Taiwan (I used to teach in Hsinchu), you
might be especially drawn to this poem. You can find it in the *Norton
Anthology of American Literature* or in Silko's book *Storyteller*, which
is probably a bit more difficult to find than the Norton. All the best.
Your study sounds interesting.

A. Cecilia Hazelrigg
Doctoral Candidate, Educational Linguistics
University of New Mexico

Dear Vicky,
There is the poetry of Emily Dickinson, some of which was analysed by Lakoff
and Turner (1989). Their book is titled _More than Cool Reason. A Field
Guide to Poetic Metaphor_. Chicago and London: The Chicago University Press.
I hope this will help you.
Good luck.
Dr Zouhair Maalej,
Department of English, Chair,
Faculty of Letters,
University of Manouba,
Tunis-Manouba, 2010, Tunis, Tunisia.

Hi. In response to your query on the Linguist List about Life Is A Journey
metaphors in poetry, if you haven't already consulted Lakoff and Johnson's
(1989) book "More than cool reason," you would surely find it useful. This
metaphor also appears regularly throughout Lakoff's other works.

I am also attaching a paper (as of yet, unpublished) that I wrote on Life Is
A Journey and Love Is A Journey metaphors in song lyrics. In my master's
thesis (from which the paper stems), I argued that song lyrics are, in fact,
poetry. If you would like justification for that theory, which is argued by 
some theorists, I can provide it as well.

I hope this is useful!

Amy Ruzycki-Shinabarger

Dear colleague,
I have a collection of metaphors on LIFE IS A JOURNEY in Turkish (prose,
poetry and spontaneous speech). It is part of a paper I wrote on metaphors
of death & life in Turkish. I would be happy to send further information
if you are interested.

Best regards,
seyda ozcaliskan

Ms Lai,

I believe you have chosen a very difficult subject. Life is hard to
express in a poem because a poem usually captures a fregment of life.
Almost all of Frost's poems express beautifully such a fragment. But
you might look at Emily Dickinson's poems. One I remember talks about
Death picking her up in a carriage and in the end she realizes that
she is on a "journey to death."

You will find many, many more examples of "Life as a Journey" in
novels and movies. The picaresque (travel) novels of the 17th and
18th century are a good example.

There is also the sub-theme of "growing into adulthood as a
journey," which is more common in literature (e.g., Salinger) than
"life as a journey." And there is also the related theme of
"life-goes-on as a journey" such as in Western movies where the hero
rides into town, saves everyone, and then rides off into the sunset
(life goes on). The ending of Faulkner's "Light in August" uses the
same symbolism with the black woman walking down the road (life goes

Actually, you would be better off asking this question on a
literature teachers' list, not a linguists' list.

John Mackin

Maybe try Tolkien's "The Road goes ever on and on"

Robert Orr

Dear Vicky,

I have read your message about poems using the metaphor of life as a
journey. It is a very interesting topic and it is very related to a
classical image of the ship of self. People are ships and life is our

There is a poem by Wyatt called "My galley charged with forgetfulness"
which you may like.

I guess poems that deal with ships and the sea are very related to your
topic of interest.

Rafael Ballesteros

There is a lovely poem by the Greek poet Kavafis. The title of the poem is
Ithaka and you can find it in a translation of Kavafis poems by Edmund
Keely & Philip Sherrard.

Kazantzakis's epic poem 'The Odyssey' is another one translated by Kimon
Friar. But this one is huge.

All the best
Irene Philippaki-Warburton
Professor of Linguistics
The University of Reading,
POBox 218, Reading, RG6 6AA, UK
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