Language and poetic devices

Style of language

The language of James Thomson’s poem “Rule, Britannia!” is designed to inspire patriotism and pride in readers and listeners. 

The poem makes use of lots of verbs, particularly in the imperative form (used for giving orders). The most obvious example is in the repeated chorus: “Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves, / Britons never will be slaves.” Here, the speaker is instructing Britannia (as the personification of the British nation) to “rule” over the seas and to continue to colonize other countries. 

The poem also repeatedly uses adjectives to describe Britain and its beauty: “While thou shalt flourish great and free, / The dread and envy of them all.” (ll. 8-9). Here the speaker uses four different adjectives to describe the nation, concisely portraying Britain as powerful and free on the one hand, and feared and envied by other nations on the other. Elsewhere in the poem, Britain is described as “majestic” (l. 13), “dreadful” (l. 14), and “generous” (l. 21). This use of adjectives has the effect of exaggerating Britain’s good qualities, while ignoring all of its bad qualities. 

The poem is written in a patriotic style, using formal language...

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