Honoring Many Accomplishments Frederick Douglass

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“When it is finally ours this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful” (Line 1) is one of the many lines in Robert Hayden's poem “Frederick Douglass”. One of many poems in which Hayden takes events or figures from African American history as his subject. This poem was written as a tribute to Frederick Douglas himself. One of the very well-known and praised African Americans in the nineteenth century. This is no ordinary poem for Hayden. It is written in an improper sonnet. By improper I mean, sonnets are usually fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, which typically has ten syllables per line. Hayden has done a great job in using many different literary techniques to emphasize the work Frederick Douglass has done. These literary techniques consist of similes, imagery and also repetition.

Hayden’s tribute poem “Frederick Douglass” is not written in a form I have seen before or am familiar with. I have noticed a few thing while reading this poem. I previously called this poem a sonnet but later realized it just demonstrates a few of those qualities. This poem in particular, yes has fourteen lines but it lacks a rhyme scheme, meter. This poem has eighteen syllables when a typical sonnet poem only has ten. Hayden retains the line requirement for a sonnet, which is perhaps the only element he keeps. Hayden’s stanza construction adheres neither to the Petrarchan nor the Shakespearean archetypes. Rather in an outright defiance of the form, Hayden’s “Frederick Douglass” is not broken into stanzas at all. Hayden’s rhyme scheme deviates from classical sonnet models. While the number of syllables per line varies widely, the number of stressed syllables per line is more consistent. While on one hand Hayden is breaking a particular social order by having only one stanza, deviating from a classical rhyme scheme, and abandoning the iambic pentameter. Hayden on the other hand is building a new social order through rhetorical devices particularly anaphora. After doing extensive reading on anaphora rhetorical device, I found that this specific device suits this poem very well. Anaphora is defined as the repetition of a word or a group of words in the beginning of a sentence to add an emphasis and/or bring clauses together. It is important to understand that the utility of anaphora is most commonly used in poetry to add an artistic effect. With that being said, the opening anaphoric, “When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful and terrible thing” creates a momentum which will sustain this sentence for eleven lines. The next clause in this sentence switches the anaphora from “this” to “when it”. The overall function of anaphora is not only to add emphasis but to create a form of rhythm to make it memorable and pleasing to the audience.

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Similes were used in this poem is different ways. Hayden was trying to get the readers to understand what he was trying to say by making some simple comparisons. Similes is a figurative language that is defined as drawing comparisons. An example of a simile in the poem would be “Needful to man as air, useable as earth” (Lines 2-3) Hayden is comparing freedom to air and earth. Hayden is trying to get the reader to understand how important freedom is to a human being. Freedom and liberty is something that we all should obtain.

The next literary technique used in this poem is imagery. Imagery is a mental image. Hayden states “This man Douglass, this Negro, Beaten to his knees exiled, visioning a world, where none is lonely, none haunted, alien” (Line 7-9). Hayden is trying to get his readers to picture what kind life Douglass had. Douglass has been beaten up and badly mistreated and his doesn't want that for the African Americans to come after him. Hayden’s readers must picture the type of life Douglass foresee his people having, a type of life where they are free and living peacefully.

The last technique used is repetition. Repetition is the act of doing something over and over again. In some cases many authors of poem repeat phrases or word in order to try and get there point across to their readers. For example, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful” (Line 1) Robert Hayden repeats the word “this “in his poem emphasizing the words used right after to describe liberty and freedom. By doing this Hayden is contributing to the theme of trying to get across to his reader how important freedom is.

Robert Hayden did an amazing job of commemorating one of the most influential African American abolitionist of the nineteenth century. Robert Hayden points out that liberty and freedom are not just something that we should respect but something that is necessary for a human to love life. Hayden made use really great example to get his reader to understand what freedom would look like and feel. He did this by using many literary techniques such as similes, imagery, and repetition. Hayden also made sure that Frederick Douglass legacy will still remain alive for years to come, “With he lives grown out of his life, the lives fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.” (Line 13-14)

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Honoring Many Accomplishments Frederick Douglass. (2020, October 20). WritingBros. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/honoring-many-accomplishments-frederick-douglass/
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Honoring Many Accomplishments Frederick Douglass. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/honoring-many-accomplishments-frederick-douglass/> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
Honoring Many Accomplishments Frederick Douglass [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Oct 20 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/honoring-many-accomplishments-frederick-douglass/
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