Colors in Poetry: I'm Your Portrait, Father: A Poem

Updated on October 30, 2018
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

Learning the significance of colors and their meanings can start with early exposure to religion and other social activities.
Learning the significance of colors and their meanings can start with early exposure to religion and other social activities. | Source

The Importance of Colors in Literature

Without question, poets and other writers may call upon various colors to help emphasize different points in their work. This tradition goes back to the founding of many religions and beyond, including cultural and societal perspectives. For example, in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, God makes a promise to Noah with a beautiful rainbow. In addition, in Hinduism, orange is a sacred color, representing part of the classification of mankind. Even “light workers” of today use colors to help people with their auras, assisting individuals with recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of energies related to these colors.

There are positive and negative characteristics associated with each color which authors may wish to convey. Below I've provided you with two such examples from brilliant authors, but meanings of an individual color can change somewhat depending on the desired intent of the text. For this reason, understanding some aspects of what different colors symbolize in literature can be helpful with reading a variety of novels and poetry. My poem is an offering to God for being the Author of my Life, allowing me to be a participant in His beautiful Painting of many Shades and Textures. If you enjoy this poem, please, feel free to comment. Thanks for reading: I'm Your Portrait, Father.


Two Examples of Writers effectively Using Colors in a Story

  1. The Masque of the Red Death – In this short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the progression of life is symbolized in seven colored rooms. A black and red room symbolizes death, green represents adolescence, and birth is portrayed as a blue room. The characters go through the rooms, leading to a chilling conclusion as only Poe could give his readers. Published in 1842, this is a brilliant example of how an author uses color to help tell a story.
  2. The Scarlet Letter - The first edition of this classic novel appeared in 1850 from the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The plot centers around the main character having to wear a red letter A. The red letter symbolizes sin and adultery,. But the main character in the novel, Hester Prynne, eventually stops accepting the Puritan perspectives as time passes. The color of the letter begin to mean something different over the course of the novel.

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We have been given a colorful existence to tell the stories in our lives, even when the picture is not clear.
We have been given a colorful existence to tell the stories in our lives, even when the picture is not clear. | Source

I'm Your Portrait, Father

Father, how did you know?

Worked for fishing firm,

Cobalt dimes last year.

Father, how did you know?

Poured violet sweat from pores,

To hide dried up tears.

Father, when did you know?

Cyan indentured term,

My crime was my fears.

Father, I’m glad you showed,

The heart with brushed stroke,

Soul canvas now cleared.

Darkness breeds sadness,

Brewed from our own madness,

Grilled black with illness,

A tart bitter gladness.

Light is savory,

Flavoring pink dishes,

Company abandoned,

I am one man He fishes.

Father, where will I go?

Orange rays cleansed my germs,
I can see now and hear.

Father, how will I know?

Lead me my faith white burns,

Lit with happy cheer.

Father, you I follow,

I know your hold is firm,

Stilling my concerns.

Father, the less traveled road,

Place in Glory I’ll earn,

I’ll paint golden my peers.

Darkness flees brightness,

Stirred enlightenment,

Healed with wellness,

A surrender sweet discernment.

Illumination,

A taste like sugar,

Brown table to dine,

Rainbows my dessert.

Knowing that God is with you can be as peaceful as a walk in the forest.
Knowing that God is with you can be as peaceful as a walk in the forest. | Source

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We may first associate colors and their meanings with religious figures.
We may first associate colors and their meanings with religious figures. | Source

Some Symbolic Meanings of Colors in Poetry and Novels

Below I’ve provided some basic information about what different colors may signify in literary works. This list is not complete because there are many shades of every color, and authors may be inventive in their selection and application of tones. After spending time with spiritual texts and conducting research over the years, these have been reoccurring themes I have found about the use of colors. The name of the color along with brief descriptions of their meaning in literary works is provided.

Different Colors and their Meanings in Writing

  • Black – Black is most often associated with death or disease in literature. Black is the color of mourning, too. In more modern times, we find black to be the color worn by various heroes as well.
  • Blue – Blue usually is used to show tranquility or peace. The color is most frequently related to male traits in literature. However, blue can signal a gradual transition to sadness, such as related to the music style of the “blues.” In Christianity, blue is frequently associated with the Virgin Mary.
  • Brown – This color in literature is related to being humble. It also suggests seasonal changes in characters or events, such as the “winter of someone’s life.” Brown symbolizes home, foundational perspectives, and a low status.

  • Gold and Silver – The color gold can be used to demonstrate wealth or greed in a novel. Gold and silver together can symbolize power and influence. Silver may be used to show fortune, but it is also an indication of something ancient.
  • Green – This color can symbolize healing. It may also represent birth or indicates there is hope coming for the character. Because the color is versatile in literature, green can be used to show jealousy within a character or a venomous situation.
  • Purple – Purple is synonymous with royalty. Purple may be used to show agony going on for a character as well. Used in its lighter shade, violet, this color tends to indicate “clear-mindedness” in literature.

  • Orange – This color in literature is associated with spiritual powers or vitality. Orange may also indicate some seductive ability of a character, place, or event. The color orange is also used to show an awakening.
  • Red – Red most often represents a need for a rest or stopping of an action, emotion, or thought going on within the literary work. The color also represents passion, danger, or anger. Red can be used to show sacrifice in literature, too.
  • White and pink –White usually indicates purity or innocence. In some works, white is associated with holiness or enlightenment. Similarly, pink may indicate innocence, but it is also associated with feminine traits and/or friendship in literature.
  • Yellow – This color may be a signal that caution is a good course of action for the character in a novel or poem. Yellow can also symbolize old age or decay. This color can represent a potential for fire in literature.

Everyday is a portrait we are given by God.
Everyday is a portrait we are given by God. | Source

References

The Masque of the Red Death – Wikipedia. Retrieved October 30, 2018, From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masque_of_the_Red_Death

The Scarlet Letter – Wikipedia. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Letter

Comments

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    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      4 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Thomas,

      I appreciate a comment from a poet such as yourself.

      You are correct: I did play around with these colors to demonstrate the eventual blossoming rainbow which is a part of all of us.

      Thanks, I truly enjoy your creative works as well.

      You keep me motivated.

      To a talented, thought provoking, and polite author,

      May your day be colorful and bright.

      Much respect and admiration,

      Tim

    • Thomas Hooker profile image

      Thomas Hooker 

      4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      Brilliant article/ poem. It is interesting that colours sometimes rather arbitrarily and inescapably invoke certain connotations. In literature and when I myself write, colours having associated meanings, in my opinion, is both a blessing and curse because the reader has certain expectations and preconceptions of what a colour represents. But then again there is always room to play around with those expectations and I think you have in your poem i.e. using specific shades.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      5 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Betty A F for dropping by.

      I'm a big Twain fan and I love the works of Poe. You were blessed to find those works.

      Reading your articles, I know you were joking about being "green" with envy, but I can share that joke with you: I'm green about you finding antique works of these wonderful authors. Poe loved dark colors in his works, and Twain always seemed to place beautiful "happy" colors in his novels for the most part.

      I cherish purple too because it is a powerful reminder of who we are as a species.

      In nature, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Purple is a combination of red and blue. (Light has a slightly different structure with regard to the primary colors.)

      Purple reminds me to have a calm longing (blue) passion (red) for someday returning to where we originated with the Father. Curiously enough, scientists have determined that overall, the color of our universe is beige, a shade of brown, the color signifying home. I smile thinking about how He always wants us to know we are always at home with Him.

      Thank you for your visit. I appreciate your comment.

      Much respect and admiration,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Annkf profile image

      Betty A F 

      5 weeks ago from Florida

      I so enjoyed reading this article. I love poetry, however, I'm not much of a poet. You certainly are, and I'm a little "green," with envy.

      My favorite color is purple, and I love how you used it in your poem. The bible says that we are a "royal, priesthood..."

      I actually recently picked up an Edgar Allan Poe book at a thrift shop, along with a few antique Mark Twain books. You've motivated me to crack them open!

      Have a great week ahead!

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Flourish,

      Even though I don't know the specific details of what you are enduring, I understand that you are dealing with a stressful situation which causes grief for you. I will be sending prayers your way until you give me some idea that things are getting better. My contact link is always available for you.

      One thing I like to do when feeling overwhelmed is to surround myself with shades of blue. (A visit to the ocean, spending time staring at the blue sky, etc.) Blue is a calming color.

      I also listen to the "blues." (Not recommended for many people.) My emotional logic with that is: "Hey, I thought I had it bad! Listen to this poor fellow or lady!" B.B. King or Robert Cray certainly help raise my spirit.

      Usually, I laugh because I know it's just a song and the performer is having a great time trying to make me feel worse than he is pretending to feel in his performance.

      Much respect and love,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 weeks ago from USA

      Tim,

      You have no idea how much I needed such a positive message right now. I'm flourishing but someone I care for is not, and it causes anguish. I've had to be a source of steadiness, strength, and guidance for them so they don't make irreversible and life-altering decisions that impact many people. Thank you for your positivity. It goes further than you know, dear friend.

      Love to you and yours, Flourish

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Flourish,

      Knowing you from your articles, I suspect you were really being who you are: a spark of good light. Don't forget, my friend, during certain times of the day, the sun can be a big orange ball in the sky. (Red plus yellow equals orange).

      I suspect you were drawing on your passion for life (red) coupled with a caution learned from experience (yellow) to see an awakening in your soul (orange.)

      Yellow is a preferred primary color by many because it is a "buffering" vibration from what I've learned from my spiritual research. Purple is a healing color as well as a color representing pain and royalty.

      You are a daughter of the King, Flourish who needed some healing(purple).

      Thank you for dropping by because you are a light of warmth and kindness.

      Much respect, sending you and the ones you love a rainbow,

      Tim

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hello, Lora,

      Thank you for visiting my poem and leaving a positive comment.

      From my research, I learned that Shakespeare was another skilled master of weaving colors into his plays, much like the authors I mentioned. I read the play "Macbeth" is a superb example of how Shakespeare used black to foreshadow death in the story.

      It's interesting you mentioned those particular titles, Lora, because I was going to add those to the two listed above. I discovered that Nathaniel Hawthorne was an admirer of poe.

      I appreciate your comments always, Lora.

      Much respect and admiration,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      6 weeks ago

      Great article Tim on the use of color by authors in their stories and in poetry. I learned a lot about the meaning of different colors that I had no knowledge of prior to reading your very informative article. I also loved the way that you weaved color into your poem symbolizing a person who goes through a spiritual transformation and reaches enlightenment. Color adds texture and depth to writing much as it does in painting. Thank you for giving us more tools to work with Tim and in enhancing our craft as we work to improve our skills. Also thank you for your inspiring poem!

      Your exceptional article on color also makes me think of two more great stories with color taking on a special significance: “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane and "The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 weeks ago from USA

      I enjoyed your colorful poem and all of the color meanings. I’m a lover of purple. When I was ill years ago I had my husband paint our family room a perky yellow. All the other items are neutral with some spots of color so as not to overwhelm but it has always been a reminder of sunlight and happiness. Now I’m wondering if on some level I was thinking illness, yellow, and decay. Hmmmm.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks Pam for visiting my poem and leaving an encouraging comment. I'm glad to know you enjoy poetry, but that's no surprise, you are a gifted story teller and positive person who creates wonderful works.

      Much respect and admiration,

      Tim

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, Mark,

      You are another person who inspires me to be more creative in your verse and your always thoughtful and encouraging comments.

      Outside is beautiful right now; autumn certainly brings colors and we are quite fortunate.

      Much respect and admiration for a creative, talented, kind and encouraging author,

      May your day be peaceful.

      Tim

    • Pam Morris profile image

      Pam Morris 

      6 weeks ago from Atlanta Georgia

      Tim, A job well done. This article is well put together and I am a poetry fan.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 

      6 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Tim, your poem and commentary hit the spot this morning. I will be more aware of the colors as I venture out today. Peace, and thanks.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Hello, Brother Sean,

      We who want to emphasize the virtues of love and kindness will not let the prism of division break down His Glorious colors of Unity and Love. This is a theme you repeatedly share in your insightful writing and in the supportive comments you are always offering to fellow writers.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this poem, Sean. It means much to hear that from you.

      We always send our best for your family, friends, and others you know.

      You are an encouraging soul on HP, and I'm glad to have encountered your work.

      Much respect for a creative, informative, kind, and caring writer,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Pamela,

      You have always shown your true colors, a spectrum of thoughtfulness and consideration to your fellow creative souls. I'm glad this reach you on a personal level because in today's world, we are so caught up on the color of things and beings that we forget He made every shade.

      He is the Master Painter, Artist, even Cartoonist when we need a laugh. We are His portrait in everything we do, see, and hear.

      Thank you for your wonderful comment which means a lot to me.

      Much respect from me to a brilliant, kind, informative, and caring fellow writer,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 

      6 weeks ago from Greece, Almyros

      The Light of your Heart is full of all God's colors, my beloved Brother! I am proud of you for writing an amazing and powerful prayer! Thank you for your colors, we need them so much those black and white days we live.

      My prayers embrace you and your beloved ones!

      Sean

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      Tim, I really enjoyed this article as I love the use of color in literature, songs, etc. I think the use of color add a nice extra deminision to writing.

      Your poetry was excellent in my opinion, and as a person with strong Christian beliefs the poem spoke to me on a personal level.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Truzy 

      6 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Interesting, Nell. Lori, my wife, has synesthesia. It's really cool to run across another person who has this particular strength in their lives.

      I enjoy colors, Nell, because we can grasp a sense of a person by what they like. I've been able to understand some people better by their color preferences.

      I'm so glad you were able to visit my article and provide a wonderful comment.

      As always, I have much respect and admiration for a prolific, talented, and informative creative soul as yourself,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 weeks ago from England

      I am totally a colour person Tim. I have synesthesia, in other words when I say a word or hear music it turns into a colour. Nell for example is blue, rose is red. certain music shows purple and so on. so to read a poem which was awesome by the way, that shows colour is amazing!

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