The two poems are both in the Italian sonnet form, which for many years has provided a tight structure in which poets can explore their ideas. The two poems have both similarities and differences. “How do I love thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, explores the ideas of the greatness of love, yet “Remember” by Christina Rossetti explores the ideas of love, loss and grief altogether. Both these poems are from the 19th century, though are still widely read and used for different occasions today. Though both these poems, for the majority, talk about love in a different way from each other, they still show some similarities.
They both have a very prominent use of the Italian sonnet form. The first poem “How do I love thee? ” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning shares good use of the sonnet form. She has clearly defined contrast between the octet and sestet. The poems opens with dramatic effects of a rhetorical question, “How do I love thee? ” This sets the theme of the poem in keeping with the traditional sonnet (love). The whole poem has the use of sonnet form. Firstly she uses a clear contrast, the first line of the sestet “… The passion put to use” is very different imagery from the octet.
The octet shows imagery about the greatness of her love whereas the sestet goes on to describe more innocent love. “… With my childhood’s faith”, this seems like a smaller image than, “my soul can reach” for example. The octet does show another contrast by the fact that it shows darker images of love, although still talking about the greatness. An example is at the end when Elizabeth Barrett Browning begins to touch the subject of death. Browning shows a good use of repetition in her poem. After “How do I love thee… ” she keeps using “I love thee… ” at the beginning of each new image.
This gives great effect to the poem, it reminds the reader throughout of the subject of the poem and gives a sort of rhythm to the poem, which keeps it constant. Another great effect is that it gives a simple message, although the poem is about how she loves, the repetition gives the most important thing: she does love. Overall this is quite dramatic, it shows the most important thing to have the poem. The repetition is also very important for setting out the purpose for the poem. Elizabeth Barrett Browning has a clear purpose of writing down how she loves.
Her purpose of using the Italian sonnet form is to do the same. The Italian sonnet gives a good format for any poets to explore their own ideas. In this particular poem Browning shows her ideas of love, the sonnet allows her to have a big contrast in which to show different images of love. Browning uses sonnet form well; she shows a big contrast, repetitions and has a clear purpose. Browning explores her main ideas about love through the dramatic images she uses. These are wide in range. They go from the dimensions and greatness of love to touching on grief and death.
After the famous opening line, Browning uses a very dramatic image of love, which at points sounds spiritual. “… To the death and breadth and height” this shows that she is trying to talk about the whole dimension of her love. After this “my soul can reach” these two quotes together show that her love is nothing that can be simply measured, which gives a sense of infinite love. This is a very good argument to show that and how she does love. Love is never ending so she can never stop feeling the way she does. Later on this image: “feeling out of sight…. ideal grace”.
This sounds very spiritual and almost religious, she is reaching for and loving something that she cannot see. “Ideal grace” adds to the image of a kind of innocent spiritual feeling. This image as a whole gives a great effect to the poem. It makes it begin with an argument of the sheer greatness of her love. “Most quiet need by sun and candlelight”, this is part of Browning’s next argument used. She loves as much as she needs all the things in life to survive; food, water etc.
This is very effective as it shows to a degree almost she loves him as much as the human instinct and will to survive. By sun and candlelight” shows that scale does not really have much meaning compared with the greatness of her love. She may love a lot but any other scale in context with her love is meaningless. This image and argument shows she loves him as much as her own life, which gives the effect of being very powerful. At the end of the octet Browning uses an image, which shows power and partly some of human nature.
“… Freely as men strive for right” this is another example of an effective and powerful image. In the sestet she says “I shall but love thee better after death. . This is the most effective argument she uses. Death is a very powerful thing but she is willing to say that her love is more powerful. This is very effective and shows that Browning’s idea of love is that it is as important as life itself. A very big contrast in the way love is addressed is the poem “Remember” by Christina Rossetti. This poem is similar to “How do I love thee? ” in some aspects though there are clear differences especially with the idea of love. It has a similar use of an obvious change and contrast between the octet and sestet.
The title word of this poem is repeated several times, which gives a dramatic feel. This repetition gives the reader a clear point to remember something giving the idea that something will soon be lost. The repetition gives a very different idea of love to the other poem, “How do I love thee? “, where it keeps trying to convince something of the writers feeling. Whereas, Rossetti gives the idea that, rather convincing the reader of her feeling, she wants the reader to feel. The octet of “Remember” really is very commanding the reader to remember as it opens with “Remember me when I am gone away”.
This is very dramatic and gives a whole subdued feeling to the octet as a euphemism of death. “Remember me” is repeated three times in the octet, which gives an effect of almost forcing upon the reader. “How do I love thee? ” does have a dramatic octet like the poem “remember” but it has amore positive outlook on love. The contrast between the octet and the sestet by Rossetti is a lot more dramatic and clear to “How do I love thee? “. It begins with “Yet”, which clearly shows a change in the sort of idea Rossetti is expressing about love. This sestet goes to a more positive outlook from the rather more depressing octet.
Her feelings in this poem show a complete change. It has been moved away from imperatives, which shows that after thinking she may not drastically care as much about how or whether she is remembered. “… Forget me for a while… and after a while remember, do not grieve. “. Here she talks about how, if she is forgotten for a while, the person that does forget must not feel guilt, for she would rather they did not. Rossetti talks along the lines of this for most of the sestet. It is different to “How do I love thee? ” which only has a difference in the way exactly the same point is expressed.
The form of the Italian sonnet is used well in both poems, though repetition and form is used to a more harsh effect in “Remember”. The arguments of “Remember” are clearly and vividly put across in the images Rossetti uses. The images used make a good comparison to the one’s that are used in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee? “, including similarities and differences. The first image used by Rossetti speaks of the “silent land”, which sets the tone. This euphemism for death gives the poem a slightly gentler feel, rather than going directly into saying just death, though still in keeping with being serious.
It starts off an idea of if you truly love someone you should never forget them. “… Can no more hold me by the hand” this shows an image that her loved one will have to let her go, there is no changing it, This is very dramatic in making the reader remember that even strong love cannot keep people together away from death and separation. This idea of love is more negative to Browning’s that is more on a grand scale, “every days most quiet need”. This is a similar sort of image in the way it talks of human survival, love is as strong as a need to live.
Whereas Rossetti points out the negative, that love cannot hold or prevent from death. “… It will be late then to counsel or pray”, is also a similar image concerning death. In the octet Rossetti is trying to get the point across that the only way love can survive is if she and her love is remembered. Whereas Browning tries to get across the grand scale of her love, nothing can stop it. “… Darkness and corruption leave a vestige of the thought that once I had”, this image goes on to say that she will be gone but if forgotten she will not mind. “Better… orget and smile… than remember and be sad”. This ends the poem with a positive.
Her idea of love, she is trying to say, is not to make people depressed but to make them feel the love they once new. Browning ends on a positive but dramatic argument, “I shall but love thee better after death. “. This is similar to Rossetti’s poem in talking about death. It shows very much that they both have different ideas of love and explore them in different ways. Rossetti gives a gentle but serious feeling of death can separate love and the only way of keeping it is through remembering.
Browning explores the idea that her love is so strong it will carry on even after death. The language that both these poets use very much adds to the effect of all the images in the poems. Simple and ordinary language is used to effect on the lines that are not big images. Such as “hold me by the hand” in “remember”, this is very simple. It gives the effect that it is just simple, it is what she is saying and asking. A simple language line similar to this is given in “How do I love thee? ” is “let me count the ways”, which is simply making a statement.
Both of these sorts of phrases of the poems are used to give an effect. They give big contrasts to all the many dramatic images that are used in the poems. These lines give the effect of simplicity and give the reader a feel of the poet really wanting to get a point across. In this way and other language used in the poems are quite similar. They both want to get their point across, which are their ideas of love. In conclusion, both poets show they have a great passion for love. They believe in it as a deep human experience.
They both have very different ideas and ways of exploring them in their Italian sonnets. They use form to its full effect including dramatic images and big contrasts between the octet and sestet. Browning talks of the scale of her love using the sonnet in a positive way. Rossetti talks of remembering and a more subdued kind of love. The one thing that differs very much in these poems is the way the subject of love and death is addressed. Browning explores the idea that love can be strengthened after death, whereas Rossetti has the idea that love can only carry on through remembering love that has been.