In the six pre-1914 poems I have been studying, I can see that they all have the same theme of love, but it is displayed in different ways. For example, In the poem Remember, and In the Mile End Road, the themes are love, death, and grief, however one is about a woman who is terminally ill and is going to die, and she is pleading with her husband not to grieve when she dies, whereas In the Mile End Road it is about a person who is grieving for a loss of a loved one.
Also the two poems, His coy mistress and The Sun rising are both about sexual love yet shown in two completely different lights. His coy mistress is about seduction, adultery and flattery, but the Rising sun shows this theme in a much more pleasant way where a couple are so much in love they don’t want to leave the bedroom. The Sick Rose and Sonnet 138 both have themes of love and ambiguity, however The sick rose shows this in a far more sinister way I will continue to explore these ideas in greater detail.
The Sun rising is about a couple who are in a sexual relationship, and believe their love is the most important thing in the world. This becomes apparent as the poet says,
‘This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere’
This suggests that the couple love each other so much, they are unconnected from the outside world, and nothing else matters apart from them. It also gives us the idea that the world revolves around them, the word ‘sphere’ reminds us of the planet earth and how everything orbits the sun, and the sun is central to everything we know. This also links in with the idea that the man feels their love is even more important than the sun. We know this because the man apostrophises the sun when he is bothered by it.
‘Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus, through windows and through curtains call on us?’
This shows the man takes on a defiant tone, addressing the sun as if he has been disturbed by it, also the man appears to by shocked how something he has no control over dare disturb him and his wife, it seems as though the man thinks him and his wife are the only beings on earth, and nothing else matters, although the sun rises everyday.
This poem is a celebration of sexual love.
‘Thou, Sun, art half happy as we’
Again, the reference to the sun suggests, the man and woman feel central to everything, therefore being more important than everyone because their love is so strong. The fact that the man compares themselves to such a great thing as the sun, shows he is very confident in this relationship, and their love blocks out the rest of the world.
However, In the poem To his coy mistress, the theme of sexual love is show in a much more negative way. In this poem, all the way through there is a feeling of deceitfulness. For example, the title ‘To his coy mistress’ shows that man and woman aren’t married and this relationship would be adulterous if they slept together, therefore the relationship shouldn’t really be happening to start with and the man should not be trying to be unfaithful to his wife.
In this poem, the man is trying to persuade his mistress to sleep with him by flattery.
‘For,Lady, you deserve this state; Nor would I love at lower rate’
Here he is saying that he would never settle for less, and she is the best. The fact that he is trying to entice her into bed using flattery suggests he is desperate, and he will go to any measures. It also shows us that if he has to plead and use such flattery maybe he already knows she doesn’t want to sleep with him. If this is the case, and if he really did love her he wouldn’t try to pressure her into doing anything she didn’t want to.
He says he loves her in this poem, however he shows he doesn’t.
‘And your quaint honour turn to dust;
And into ashes all my lust.’
He says that he has loved her, and will for eternity, yet he contradicts himself by saying if she doesn’t accept his offer soon, his lust will disappear. The word ‘lust’ makes us realise that he doesn’t actually love her, he lusts after her. And if one did love someone they would be prepared to wait, and would carry on loving them no matter what.
The use of enjambment in this poem gives us a sense that this man is ambiguous.
‘An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze’
The lack of punctuation makes the reader feel like this poem is an out-pouring of emotions, and is pre-contrived. Which then leads the reader to feel that this man is false and he only has one thing on his mind, and that is to sleep with this woman. This displays love in a bad way, because as we know sex should only be between two people who love each other, but when someone is false and dishonest sex is a bad thing. Sex should be a symbol of love, and one should not be pressured into having a sexual relationship.
In The sick Rose by William Blake we see another example of how love and sex can be portrayed in a bad way. This is a metaphysical poem about love, sex and the unknown. The poet has chosen a natural symbol, the rose, as a metaphor for a woman. We know this poem is about sexual love because Blake uses such words as, ‘bed’, ‘crimson’ and ‘love’.
The word ‘crimson’ gives us this belief because crimson, or deep red is a colour that symbolises passion and love.
From this poem we also get the idea that this particular relationship isn’t a happy one.
‘O rose, thou art sick!’
The word ‘sick’ isn’t usually associated with good things or well-being, it is associated with vomit, or being physically or mentally unwell. Also this word sometimes implies sadistic and morbid acts. The thought that the word ‘sick’ could refer to sadistic and morbid actions carries on throughout the poem.
‘The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm’
The words ‘invisible’ and ‘night’ give us the sense that something is unknown, and that ‘The rose’ is unaware of this thing. The word ‘Night’, makes us immediately think of darkness, which some people are scared of. Also people can be concealed in darkness if they’re doing things that are wrong or they don’t want people to know about. Therefore we believe that the goings on that Blake tells us about are immoral.
With the beliefs that this relationship isn’t a happy one, the poem is about immoral actions and sex, we could conclude that this occurrence that the poet is referring to could be rape or another sexual assault.
‘And his dark secret love,
Does thy life destroy’
The use of ‘his’ suggests that the love that Blake refers to is not mutual and that it is only the man who is in love with the woman ‘rose’. Blake describes his love as ‘dark’ and ‘secret’. This must mean that nobody knows about it, hence the love not being mutual. The word ‘dark’ suggests it is bad and hidden.
This poem has no regular rhythm. This is because the poet tries to emphasise that love follows no regular pattern, and is unpredictable. This also makes us read through the poem quickly and emphasises the first and last word. In this case the last word is ‘destroy’, Blake puts emphasis on this word because it is a powerful word. Also it highlights one of the main themes of this poem. It tells us that this poem isn’t about happiness, but destruction. This also links in with my idea of sexual assault. The word ‘destroy’ makes us think that something had been ruined, or spoiled, which then immediately leads to think that the word ‘destroy’ is referring to the loss of virginity and purity. We know that this poem is from ‘The songs of innocence and experience’, which is about moving from innocence to experience. So then the reader believes that this poem is about a woman, who was innocent, which we know links to virginity, but changes to being experienced, which links to loss of naivety and purity.
Sonnet 138 by Shakespeare is about dishonesty, and how a couple’s relationship is built on lies.
‘When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,’
When we first read this poem we believe that it is about a couple who lie to on another, just to flatter each other.
‘Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in out faults by lies we flatter’d be.’
However, Shakespeare says ‘I lie with her’. The use of the word ‘with’ suggests that the word ‘lie’ doesn’t mean being untruthful, but lying down with her, as in having a sexual relationship, because we don’t normally say that we lie with one and other, we lie to one and other. Shakespeare uses this pun to make us think, and work out what the poem is actually about. Therefore I think Shakespeare deliberately said this to give the poem a double meaning. Another reason why we believe this is,
‘That she might think me of some untutor’d youth,
‘Untutor’d youth’ suggests naivety. It suggests this because the word ‘youth’ means young, which is generally associated with children, which are naï¿½ve and are not worldly wise. Also ‘untutor’d’ implies this also, as it means the man isn’t educated in the ways of the world, like a child.
‘Unlearned in the world false subtleties’
Again, ‘unlearned’ suggests naivety. Shakespeare chose to use the words ‘worlds false subtleties’. I believe he did this because this poem is about a woman who swears she is a virgin, but actually isn’t. I am lead to believe this because this phrase suggests something much more serious than just white lies, for example something that isn’t accepted in society or isn’t politically correct. People who are unaware of these going on are referred to as being ‘naï¿½ve’ which links in with my previous idea.
The theme of love in this poem is portrayed in a good way. We think this because although the couple lie to one and other, they still are in love.
‘Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
In our faults by lies, we flatter’d be’
This couplet at the end of the poem is used by Shakespeare to tell the reader that they are happy. The use of the couplet is strong, and over confident, as if to say , ‘so what? we love each other’ This is strong because as we read this poem we begin to wonder why the couple are together because they are so dishonest, but the two lines at the end clarify that they do love each other, and are happy.
The fact that they are still in love shows us that love can survive most things. People say that trust is the most important factor in a relationship, but this poem proves otherwise. The couple cannot possibly trust each other if they’re dishonest and both partners know the other is lying, The repetition of the word ‘truth’ and the repetition of questions show us that they do not trust each other, and they have questions that need answering. However the couple get through this and show that an element of mystery doesn’t have to destroy a relationship.
The poem Remember by Cristina Rossetti, is about love and grief. It is about a woman who is terminally ill and telling her love not to grieve for her when she has died.
‘Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far into the silent land’
We know that this poem is about this because the writer uses the phrase ‘silent land’ which immediately leads us to think of heaven, because the word silent links with the idea of tranquillity, which we associate with heaven. Also she says,
‘Remember me when I am gone away’,
This make us think that the woman is going to die because one wouldn’t make a point of asking someone to remember them if they were moving house for example, because they could still be in touch. However when someone dies the only way one can see the person who has passed away is by memories.
The theme of love in this poem is shown in a way in which we can all relate in some way. Most people have experienced the loss of a loved one at some point. The way that the woman in the poem is asking someone not to grieve for her, which for anyone who reads the poem who has lost a loved one knows that it is impossible not to grieve.
‘Better by far you should forget and smile’
From this we know the ill woman must really love the person she is talking to. This is because if one knows they’re going to die, the idea that they would be forgotten is not one that most people would like to happen. However because the woman cares so much for the person she is talking to, she would rather her forget her, than remember her and have to grieve.
The structure of the poem reflects the themes.
‘Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve.
The use of caesura emphasises ‘do not grieve’. When reading this, because that phrase is centralised, it seems that it is an order. That this person must not grieve for the woman. The idea that the woman is giving out orders suggests she feels strongly about what happens after her death because she loves this person so much, this adds to the emotional value of the poem.
The poem In the Mile End Road, by Amy levy is also about love and grief. This poem is about a woman who is grieving for the loss of her loved one, and she is going through the typical grieving process.
‘How like her! But ’tis she herself’
Here, the woman thinks she has seen her love, however her love is dead. Therefore this woman must be going through the denial stage of grief. The woman mush have a doubt in her mind that her love is still alive, otherwise she wouldn’t think she has seen her. This is common in people who are grieving; where they cant accept that they have lost a person who is close to them.
Throughout this poem the woman is asking herself questions.
‘Whose else that motion and that mien?
Whose else that airy tread?
Because of this, the reader is beginning to believe that this woman has seen her love walking down the street, although the reader is then shocked,
‘For one strange moment I forgot
My only love was dead.’
Until the last line, the reader has no idea that the woman is referring to her love that has passed- away, we think she has just seen her partner in the street. When we get to the last line we see that her love is in fact dead and that the idea that she has seen her love in the street must be her imagination, or this woman is not accepting the loss. This shocks us, but then makes us realise that this woman has serious conflicts in her mind. This is backed up by the poets repeated use of questions which shows us that the person in the poem is unsure.
The poet uses enjambment before the final line,
My only love was dead’
The lack of punctuation here makes the reader read through this poem quicker. By doing so the last line has more impact. This is good because the last line is the most important line in the poem, because at this point we know what the themes of this poem are.
The theme of love is shown through this, that when one loves someone so much its hard to forget them, and put them to the back of your mind. This is similar to the way love is portrayed in the poem Remember, where someone is asking a loved one not to grieve.
The structure of this poem reinforces these ideas. The poem is in two quatrains
Which is typical of many poems. This shows us that grief is a process that many people go through, and a lot of people go through this in the same ways and there is a typical grieving pattern, like there are typical patterns within poem. However, the use of lots of punctuation in this poem breaks up the rhythm. This reflects in the themes of the poems because people cope with grief differently, also it takes longer for some people to get over a loss. Therefore the way the poem is broken up suggests that there is no universal grieving pattern, like there is no regular rhythm of the poem.
From reading and analysing six poems on the same theme of love. We can come to the conclusion that love can be explored in many different ways. Love is a broad subject, and these poems prove that there are many different aspects of love that one can write about, using different methods of expressing them.