The Language of Letters – Rush Analysis "Strength 10"

You have written a great melody with an interesting rhythmic structure and a catchy vocal melody. Now you need to write words to accompany your song. When I was a freshman in high school, I analyzed Rush’s “Force 10” from the album Hold Your Fire. In the process (with my Hold Your Fire T-shirt on and a poster of the three men I most admire hanging from the board), I gave a speech about the eight literary devices that make up poetry or well-written lyrics. They are onomatopoeia, alliteration, similes, hyperbole, personification, rhyme, assonance, and metaphors.

I chose “Force 10” because it contained all eight literary devices and therefore received additional credit for my speech. I will define these literary devices and give examples.

Onomatopoeia is the first literary device used in the introduction. Onomatopoeia is a word that mimics or suggests the source of the sound it describes. The opening ahh, an onomatopoeia, lasts about 15 seconds. Sets the tone of the song as a song that requires stamina. The second device featured is alliteration. Alliteration is a literary or rhetorical stylistic device that consists of repeating the same consonant sound at the beginning of several words in close succession. “Hard times call for tough conversations, they require tough hearts, they require tough songs …” The repetition of tough, demanding words emphasizes the need to take control of any undesirable situation and turn it around for a favorable outcome.

Neil Peart immediately asserts the fallibility of the human condition with “We can rise and fall like empires, flow in and out like the tide,” which is a simile. A simile is a way of speaking that compares two different things, often introduced with the word “like” or “like.” He is comparing our ability to achieve and fail to the collective effort of an empire and the intense force of Mother Nature. He continues his comparison with “Be vain and smart, humble and foolish, we can hit and miss like pride” to further emphasize how we can be “vain and smart” like the strength of empires at their peak or humble and foolish when destroyed. .

The next line, “We can go around like hurricanes” is an example of hyperbole. When used as a literary device, hyperbole is an exaggeration that, while not intended to be taken literally, describes a situation or image that is at least feasible or possible. This lyrics emphasizes how we, as humans, can be disorganized and chaotic like a storm that ravages and destroys at random. Or we can “Dance and dream like lovers” is the other side of the coin, which says that when we are happy; we express emotion with joy and creation. “Attacking the day is referred to as birds of prey” again to achieving tunnel vision no matter who might get hurt along the way. “Undercover scavengers” is the fear we feel when we cannot support ourselves and be autonomous.

After the first two verses, the chorus says “Look at the eye of the storm.” It is the first example of personification. Personification is an ontological metaphor in which a thing or abstraction is represented as a person. Storms do not literally have eyes, but they do have a focal point where their force is strongest, as looking someone in the eye is the most direct way to approach a person. “Beware of formless force.” The song goes on to warn us to be wary of our surroundings, “Look around you. At sight and sound, look in, look out, look around you.”

In the third verse, there are examples of both rhyme and assonance. A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words (most often at the end of the sentence) and is most often used in poetry and song. Assonance is a restriction of vowel sounds to create internal rhymes within a phrase or sentence.

“We can move with wild grace to the rhythm of the night

Cool and remote like ballerinas

In the heat of the rhythm and the lights “

This verse emphasizes how we can hide within our own introspection. Centered on the music of nature, the night rhymes with lights to contrast the natural rhythms of nature and the artificial lights of a closed club atmosphere. “In the heat of the beat” is an example of assonance. These rapidly sung lyrics with internal rhyme show an impulsive and emotional response to music.

The last verse compares “the rose of romance” with “an air of joie de vivre” or “the joie de vivre” as a metaphor. A metaphor is a way of speaking concisely expressed by comparing two things, saying that one is the other. This comparison is wrong, a flower associated with the love of the joy of life. Neil Peart delves into the comparison, “too tender hearts on our sleeves”, which means that to love is to make oneself vulnerable, and contrasts with the simile “skin as thick as thieves.”

The bridge is another example of hyperbole, “going up and down by force ten, we twist the world and ride the wind.” Force ten is exemplified as a force beyond our three-dimensional existence, as literally twisting the world would require a power beyond our current knowledge.

I have used these literary devices to write my own songs. It helps to know these techniques for writing big letters. In a case of writer’s block, literary devices are fun tools to play with. For example, another Rush song that is specifically a play on literary devices is “Anagram.” In this song, Neil cleverly wrote it to be a pun and the song is quite fluid. The chorus says: “There is no safe seat at the party, stab the beast as best you can, the night is turning thin, the saint is turning to sin.” The chorus only uses alliteration, metaphors, rhyme and personification … Neil Peart shows that the use of these devices will always appeal to the listener’s ear, so with all that said, let’s close with a thought … Let’s not be misfits in the mist of our attacks … Let us never ever challenge for an endless end and receive what we believe we can accomplish in our midst amidst the mist.