“A Woman to Her Lover” by Christina Walsh, “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelly, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats, “A Birthday” and “Remember” both by Christina Rossetti are five poems dealing with the common theme of love. How do the poets manage to express their ideas concerning love?
“A Birthday” and “Remember” are two different pieces by Christina Rossetti. The first is a celebration of love, the author is overjoyed, brimming with emotion and she shares them with the reader. On the other hand, “Remember” deals with the question of ‘love after death’, and of nostalgia. She knows that she will soon be gone but doesn’t want her departure to be a source of pain for her lover.Order now
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is the John Keats’ tale of a young knight who is seduced by a beautiful enchantress, and then deceived, cursed to “… sojourn here/Alone and palely loitering,” a victim of the enthralling power of love. The author was probably inspired by his deep and even obsessive love for Fanny Brawne.
“Love’s Philosophy” is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s attempt to ‘get the girl’. Throughout the poem, he uses flattery and logic in order to convince the woman and to achieve his goal: sex . The author’s arguments are often based on nature, a theme of the Romantic Era.
In “A Woman to Her Lover”, Christina Walsh is establishing a contract, a pact. She clearly states her expectations, the manner in which she must by treated by her lover. The poet is rejecting tradition and the conventional Victorian concept of a woman: inferior, meek, obedient and dutiful, belonging to her male counterpart, and replacing it with a more contemporary concept, where the woman is considered and equal, a “comrade, friend, and mate”. This attitude can be explained by the fact that Christina Walsh was a possible Suffragette, fighting for women’s rights.
Although all the poems deal with the ideas and expectations concerning love, each poem has a different atmosphere and tone. “A Woman to Her Lover” ‘s tone is divided into two distinct sections. In the first three stanzas, the tone is hard, rebellious, confrontational, and bold, “No servant will I be/ If that be what you ask, O Lover I refuse you!”. However, in the last few verses, Walsh seems to calm down, relenting, accepting her lover as long as he respects her.
“Love’s Philosophy” is relatively straightforward and bold. Shelley remains polite and flattering. The tone is calm, considered but with a touch of insolence as he insinuates what he wants.”All things by law divine/ In one another’s being mingle-“.
In “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” the poor knight is haunted by his memory of the seductress. It is fitting that the tone be melancholic, mournful and woeful as the man is doomed, lost “on the cold hill’s side “where no birds sing”.
There is a stark contrast between the tone in “Remember” and ” A birthday”. The latter’s atmosphere is celebratory, even dreamy. The narrator is love-smitten, she is ” gladder than all these/ Because my love has come to me”. Bliss. However, the tone in “Remember” is quiet, subdued, sedated and measured. The woman has accepted the fact that she will depart. In addition, a feeling of detachment only lends to the creation of atmosphere.
The structure of the poems also translates the authors’ feelings about love, especially in “A Woman to Her Lover”. The poem is composed of four irregular stanzas. There is no clearly defined rhyming pattern. These elements are representative of freeverse and translate Walsh’s rebellious nature, rejecting the norm, unstructured but also unlimited.
“Love’s Philosophy” is a lyrical poem and consists of an octet and two quatrains. The poem is fluid and rapid, and every eight lines there is a rhetorical question: ” Why not I with thine?”, ” If thou not kissed me?”. These are meant to be left unanswered, underlining the narrator’s logic, and leaving no reason to be refused.
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is a classic ballad. It comprises twelve quatrains, each having an ‘a-b-c-b’ rhyme scheme. The poem is regular. However, the young knight’s sorrow and despair could also be translated in the poems form, as the length of the piece could be described as a “ramble”, expressing his sense of loss and confusion.
“A Birthday” and ” Remember” are two sonnets. “A Birthday” has 16 verses and could be broken down into two octets or four quatrains. It also employs a complex rhyming pattern. “Remember” is a 14 lined poem with a steady rhythm.
Nevertheless, language remains the most effective means to express the theme of love. “A Woman to Her Lover” uses figurative language to a considerable degree “So you come to me to bend me to your will/ As conqueror to the vanquished”. Walsh uses words sharing a common bond; that of submission, inferiority: “vanquished”, ” bondslave”, “servant”,” doll”. She also refers to the person she is addressing as “conqueror”,” lover” and “fool”. It is also interesting to note the general lack of punctuation, which could be another of expression of the poet’s freedom.
In “Love’s Philosophy”, there is a massive use of literary devices. For example, Shelley employs personification: “And the sunlight clasps the earth”. In addition there is much imagery, usually pertaining to nature “see the mountain’s kiss high heave” or “the moonbeams kiss the sea”. These are all vivid, clear, easy to visualize images, enabling us to understand their suggestive meanings. There are also several references to religion ( “divine”, ” heaven”), maybe because the poet is using it as an argument, that God would approve of their act.
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” is, contrastingly, somber, dark with a fairy tale touch. There is a relatively high level of language, enabling vivid descriptions of the knight’s emotions, “wither’d”, “haggard”, “woe-begone”. In addition Keats makes use of figures of speech “I see a lilly on thy brow”. A romantic poet, John Keats set the poem in natural surroundings ( “meads”, ” lake”, “rose”, “harvest”, “roots”). In the eleventh stanza we fall upon an even darker description: “I saw their starved lips in the gloam/ With horrid warning gaped wide”. This brings us even closer to the knight’s distress. Moreover there is a use of repetition with “pale” “palely” evoked several times. The first and last stanzas are also identical. (” O, what can ail thee, knights-at-arms,/Alone and palely loitering/ The sedge has wither’d from the lake/ And no birds sing.”)
In “Remember” the language used is soft, diminishing and gentle. One can easily imagine hearing the words being said in a melodious and calm and tender, echoing voice, gently breaking the news of imminent death. Indeed, throughout the poem there are allusions to death although it is never explicitly stated, “silent land, “future”, “remember me”.
“A Birthday”‘s first six lines are similes, comparing a loving narrator to a “singing bird”, an ” apple-tree”, a ” rainbow shell”, etc. There are also references to birds (” doves”, ” peacocks”) fruit,” apple”, ” pomegranate”, “grapes” in addition to luxury and splendor : “dais of silk and down”, ” vair”, ” gold and silver”, etc. These comparisons to objects of beauty further express the theme of love. In addition, the precise and minute detail and descriptions “halcyon sea”, “apple-trees/ whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit” link Rossetti to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
In effect, all of the poems are effective in expressing their ideas concerning the theme of love. Nevertheless, each is original and unique, with different ingredients, reflecting the poet’s style as well as the period in which it was written. We clearly understand each author’s opinion on love. Christina Walsh longs for male-female equality, Percy Bysshe Shelley has a rather flippant perspective on love, John Keats is a truly miserable victim of love, and Christina Rossetti is overjoyed and elated in ” A Birthday” and considering love a sacred bond in ” Remember”.