Hyperbole poetry is poetry that includes the use of over-exaggeration for the purpose of creating emphasis or being humorous, but it is not intended to be taken literally. Hyperbole is a common feature of poetry throughout the ages.
Hyperbole Poems: From Homer to Shakespeare
Following are some examples of hyperbole poetry:
- The poet Homer often made use of hyperbole in his epic poems. Two examples include the lines suggesting that the god Mars cried out “as loudly as nine or ten thousand men” and that the weather was so foul that “two winds rose with a cry that rent the air and swept the clouds before them.”
- Andrew Marvell, the 17th century metaphysical English poet who was celebrated in his own lifetime, often used hyperbole in his poetry. One famous example from To His Coy Mistress says, “An hundred years should go to praise / Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; / Two hundred to adore each breast; / But thirty thousand to the rest…”
- William Collins‘ “An Ode To Music” contains a bit of hyperbole that reads, “And, dashing soft from rocks around, / Bubbling runnels joined the sound; / Through glades and glooms the mingled measure stole, / Or, o’er some haunted stream, with fond delay, / Round an holy calm diffusing, / Love of Peace, and lonely musing, / In hollow murmurs died away.”
- George Gordon, Lord Byron was a Romantic poet and used hyperbole often. One example shows up in his “She Walks in Beauty,” which reads, “She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies; / And all that ‘s best of dark and bright/ /Meet in her aspect and her eyes: / Thus mellow’d to that tender light / Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”
- Romantic poet and consumption sufferer John Keats often used hyperbole, as in his poem “To Autumn,” in which he says, “And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; / To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells / With a sweet kernel; to set budding more.”
- W.H. Auden was an American poet who often used hyperbole. As an example, he once wrote in his poem “As I Walked Out One Evening,” “I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you / Till China and Africa meet, / And the river jumps over the mountain / And the salmon sing in the street.”
- William Wordsworth’s romantic era masterpiece “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is rife with hyperbole, including the line, “Continuous as the stars that shine / And twinkle on the milky way, / They stretched in never-ending line / Along the margin of a bay: / Ten thousand saw I at a glance, / Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
- “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” is a hyperbole that refers to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was used in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson called “The Concord Hymn,” which read, “Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world.”
- Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter in his literature has a poetic quality about it. For instance, in Othello, he unleashes this bit of hyperbole: “If thou dost slander her and torture me, / Never pray more; / abandon all remorse; / On horror’s head accumulate; / Do deeds to make heaven weep, / all earth amazed; / For nothing canst thou to damnation add / Greater than that.”
Now that you have read many different examples of hyperbole poems you can more easily spot this literary device and you may be able to use it yourself in writing your own poetry.