What Are Some Famous Uses of Allusion in Poetry?

Some famous uses of allusions in contemporary poetry include a reference to Eden in Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay," the mention of a laughing Ceres in Alexander Pope's "Epistles to Several Persons" and the naming of royal places of Germany in T.S. Eliot's "The Burial of the Dead." An allusion refers to something well-known outside of the poem for thematic or dramatic purposes.

Frost writes: "So Eden sank to grief, / So dawn goes down to day. / Nothing gold can stay." His allusion to the original paradise of the Book of Genesis reinforces the idea of the passing of time and the original fall of humans. This changes the perceptions of the images that follow. One of the purposes of an allusion is to strengthen the suggestive power of the entire poem.

Pope's allusion to the goddess of wheat and grain in his poem gives power to the idea that the place of his poem is one of renewal and bountiful change. Allusions to mythical figures are often used in this context. Eliot mentions two famous German royal palaces in his poem as the narrator watches a rain shower pass over and takes shelter under the colonnade of another one. The mention of the famous structures adds majesty to the otherwise common descriptions.