Is this something you would recommend. I went to Wikipedia and ended up on this page about the Goddess of the Dawn, Eos

And one of the symbols associated with the deity is: grasshopper.

So could I write the following in a poem:

I saw the grasshopper, our legs bent

as it appeared each morning from

the ocean like the dawning sun.

Say what you will, but this sounds really silly. But is this technically ok?


You're the writer, you can do whatever you want.

It's common to use symbols to refer to people, places, things, and so on. The question you want to ask yourself is, does your reader know what the heck you're talking about?

In this case, maybe open up the poem talking about Eos directly. A statue, a story, anything. I personally would be clear that she's related to early morning.

Then talk about being haunted (or stalked, or visited) each morning by the grasshopper. While most readers won't know the symbolic association, at least it will make sense to a degree. The reader will know that somehow the grasshopper is connected with the deity you spoke of before, especially because you've already associated the timing.

  • But still I have no idea how the grasshopper is related to Eos in any way. That's why even if I do what you say, it will sound silly. If I use the symbol of the scythe to refer to death, it's a different story, because the symbol makes perfect sense. Feb 1 '19 at 1:51
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    Well I figured you found a symbol you liked and I wasn't going to question it. If a grasshopper really does symbolize her then, doing it as I suggested, would work, even if only a few people would get it. Depends I suppose if you want to write poetry that requires analyzing it in order to understand it. Some people do. :-) Feb 1 '19 at 2:50
  • @repomonster As an aside, symbols are only imbued with meaning due to common understanding. It is likely that the association between Eos and grasshoppers is as obvious to its creators as Death-Scythe to us. To a non-agricultural society, I sincerely doubt that the death-scythe symbolism would make the least bit of sense. As for the actual suggestion, you could phrase the title of your poem to reference Eos and grasshoppers and let the audience do the googling to find the link ;) Feb 20 '19 at 12:51

The problem with your example is that while it may be true that the grasshopper is a symbol of the goddess Eos in Greek mythology, few modern readers would see the word "grasshopper" and immediately think "Greek goddess Eos".

I am a fairly well educated person, I'd guess I know more about Greek mythology than most, and I don't recall ever having heard of this symbol. If I read it somewhere I've long since forgotten.

I know that the owl is a symbol of Athena. But unless the context of the story or poem makes clear it's about Greek mythology, I doubt I would see the word "owl" and think "Athena".

For this to make sense to 99.9% of modern readers, you would have to tell the reader about the connection first.

  • It's on the Wikipedia page. Symbol saffron, chariot, cloak, roses, tiara, grasshopper, cicada, cricket Feb 1 '19 at 16:54
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    I'm not disputing that the OP is correct in saying that the grasshopper is a symbol of Eos. I'm saying that most modern readers would not know this off the top of their heads. If I read a poem that mentioned a grasshopper and had no clear reference to Greek mythology, I can't imagine that I would think, "Let me check the Wikipedia page on the Greek goddess Eos and see if this is a symbol of her." What would lead me to even think that?
    – Jay
    Feb 1 '19 at 18:51

For symbols to work, they need to be understood. Think of symbols as a language; if you speak the language, and the readers speak the same language, everything's good. If, however, you speak the language, but the readers don't, your message would get lost, just as if you'd chosen to write half your poem in Ancient Greek.

The trouble with your example is, exactly as @Jay says, that modern readers are extremely unlikely to associate grasshoppers with Eos. Even for readers who are familiar with that particular symbol, this would not be their first association.

There are other ways in which you can use the same symbols, without losing the readers. For example, I could write about

Eos's green fiddler

Even a reader who is unfamiliar with the particular association, is likely to recognise the grasshopper, especially if you give a few more lines in the same vein. Here' the reference to the goddess is explicit, the fact that you are in fact speaking in metaphor is explicit, and it remains to riddle out only what could be a green "fiddler" associated with the dawn. Not too complicated.

If it is the god you wish to describe through metaphor, making use of their symbols, you'd need to use symbols the reader is familiar with. If your poem is a stand-alone, rather than a part of a larger work set in a particular mythology, you'd need to provide the reader with enough information to figure out which mythology you're talking about in the first place. For example, "lord of thunder" can be quite a few different guys. "Hammer-wielding lord of thunder" is Thor.

Note also that your bit of verse is quite wrong in terms of how the grasshopper is associated with Eos. Grasshoppers do not appear out of the ocean. They welcome the rising sun with their "song", thus they are considered the dawn's companions. They are not the dawn herself. If you're using symbols to convey a meaning, you must use them correctly. If you say 'chair' when you mean 'table', you shouldn't be surprised that what you're saying stops making sense.

  • If the grasshopper doesn't symbolize her, but symbolizes her husband instead then why is it inside the symbol list? Feb 1 '19 at 23:16
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    @repomonster not her husband. Each god in the Greek mythology had "companion animals" - animals who would accompany the deity, act as the deity's messengers, commonly be depicted with the deity, etc. For example, it would be very uncommon for a deity to manifest to a human directly, but the same deity might send a message to a human by way of the companion animal. Feb 1 '19 at 23:34

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