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    A Comparison of Two Love Poems, ‘First Love’ by John Clare and ‘Shall I compare thee’ by William Shakespeare Essay

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    ‘First Love’ by John Clare and ‘Shall I compare thee…? ‘ by William Shakespeare are two romantic love poems, the first about how it feels to be in love and the second about the durability of the poet’s love’s beauty. The first poem, ‘First love’, is a love lyric written in the first person to the reader about a woman that the poet has fallen head long in love with. It has a rhyming pattern of ABAB CDCD, this is to keep the poem flowing and it adds to the romantic atmosphere. The second poem ‘Shall I compare thee…? ‘ by William Shakespeare was written in the 16th century this poem is a sonnet one of a cycle to his mysterious lover.

    It contains three quatrains rhyming ABAB CDCD EFEF and one couplet rhyming GG, all written in iambic pentameter. This makes the poem very steady, easy flowing and even. There are ten syllables per line. The kind of love that is addressed in this poem is fairly romantic; we can tell this from the title. The first poem that I will write about is called ‘First love’ is a romantic love poem written by John Clare in the nineteenth century. This poem deals with a poet that has been struck down with love for the first time, we can tell this from the first line, ‘I ne’er was struck before that hour, with love so sudden and sweet’.

    This implies he is experiencing love for the first time; he also uses sibilance for emphasis ‘so sudden and so sweet’. In the third line the poet begins to describe the woman that has struck him down so hopelessly in love and stolen his heart by using some traditional similes, ‘Her face bloomed like a sweet flower’. ‘My face turned pale, as deadly pale’, in this line the repetition of pale suggest the confusion of the poet in this love trance that he has fallen into. Even though love is affecting him mentally, it also starts to affect him physically, we can see in line six, ‘my legs refused to walk away.

    This gives the reader this idea of the love causing death symptoms, striking him in such a way that he can’t do anything about it. ‘My life and all seemed turned to clay. ‘ this example of reification suggests a corpse entering the soil. In verse two there is still a romantic atmosphere, we can see that there are more physical affects the poet is experiencing, ‘And then blood rushed to my face’. This suggests that the poet is starting to blush; this again is a physical reaction to love. The poet also gives brief description of the surroundings, ‘The trees and bushes round place’, This adds to the romantic atmosphere.

    Half way through the second verse it is made clear by the poet that he is beginning to lose all sense of time, ‘Seemed midnight at noonday’. This demonstrates that the poet is has lost all awareness of everything but this woman he is so madly in love with, ‘I could not see a single thing. ‘ In the next three lines the poet describes his word towards the young woman as ‘from my heart’ and he uses a simile to compare his words to the music of love. He also makes it clear that it is very passionate and heated in the last line of that verse, ‘blood burnt around my heart’.

    In verse three the poet starts the verse with, ‘Are flowers the winters choice? Is loves bed always snow? ‘ These are rhetorical questions that are in other words saying, why is love so physically cruel? As we can see the atmosphere is less romantic and starts to get far more depressing. He also realises that as hard as he tries, he will not get her. ‘She seemed to hear my silent voice and loves appeal to know,’ this suggests that words are not needed because due to social reasons it would be impossible for them to fall in love with each other.

    My heart has left its dwelling place and can return no more,’ he is saying that his heart left him for her and this use of personification giving his heart human qualities. The second poem I studied is called, ‘Shall I compare thee’ by Shakespeare. The first line, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? ‘ implies that he is talking about his lover in a romantic manner, because summer is usually associated with and lovely weather and generally a better time of the year.

    We can also see that the first line is a rhetorical question. This would also make the reader question himself. In the second line Shakespeare actually starts to describe the woman, ‘Thou are more lovely and more temperate’. This portrays to us that the author thinks of the woman as more beautiful than a summer’s day. The following lines, ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of maie and summers lease hath all to short to date’ indicates to the reader that even though summer has its beauty there are some bad points to summer.

    For example, summer has wind, summer is too hot and summer is too short. This is all to make the woman seem greater than summer. ‘Sommer shall not fade’, here Shakespeare uses a metaphor to imply that her beauty will never fade, unlike summer which is seasonal. ‘Nor shall death brag though wandr’st in his shade’, the poet expresses here, that she is so amazingly beautiful that not even death would be able to conquer her. He also gives death human characteristics’ saying that it would, ‘Brag’ which shows use of personification.

    As we approach the end of the poem, Shakespeare ends it by, saying, ‘So long as men breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this gives life 2 thee’. This tells the reader that as long men are here to witness her, it will give life to her beauty as her beauty is nurtured by the glances of men. In conclusion there are many differences and similarities betweens the two poems that I had studied. They were quite similar in many ways. For example in both the poems the love that is expressed I feel has a hint of an unrequited nature especially in John Clare’s ‘First Love’.

    Also both poems refer back to nature and both used rhetorical questions, which added affect to their poems. They also differ in many ways with Shakespeare in his poem seeming to appear less desperate, almost as if he had found his true love whereas Clare in his poem seemed desperately in love with a woman that could not return that love. Also the English that is used in Shakespeare’s poem is far more different to that of Clare’s poem, maybe because Shakespeare’s was written in the 1500s, whereas Clare’s poem was written during the nineteenth century.

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    A Comparison of Two Love Poems, ‘First Love’ by John Clare and ‘Shall I compare thee’ by William Shakespeare Essay. (2017, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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