There are many different techniques that help us to make a good love poem. Throughout many of the poems that I have studied from the past five centuries, many of them use verbal cleverness mixed with original language to try and convey their own ideas of love. One such poem is William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 in which he uses over-elaborate language to talk about his love.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
This is a rhetorical question that is going to be answered throughout the rest of the poem. William Shakespeare is asking himself if his love is like a summer’s day with all of the beauty and splendour of a summer’s day. The summer’s day is expressing the idea that their love has no doubts, and everything is happy and optimistic like a summer’s day is.Order now
Throughout the duration of Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare uses vibrant language that helps to describe the love that he is feeling.
“Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines”
Shakespeare feels as though he is in ‘heaven’ at this point in his relationship. The eye of heaven represents the sun, and his love is bright and is shining and nothing is getting in the way. Shakespeare repeats the phrase ‘eternal’ and he has a reoccurring theme of ‘summer’ in this sonnet. He is implying that love will last for eternity. Shakespeare uses a positive viewpoint to show his undivided love.
“But thy eternal summer shall not fade”
His love for her will not fade even throughout the years and will never cease.
“Birthday” by Christina Rossetti is a very good example for the use of bright and colourful language in love poems. This poem compares love to many positive images such as bright colours, flowers and fruit. This creates a view for the reader that Christina Rossetti is very happy and confident about their love.
“Peacocks with a hundred eyes; work it in gold and silver grapes, in leaves, and silver fleur-de-lys”
Christina Rossetti compares love to a range of colours and shows her feelings about her love in an optimistic manner. A peacock has many colours and shades on its tail. In “Birthday”, there are a variety if images that portray Christina Rossetti’s feelings in an upbeat way. Use of words such as “rainbow” show that she is going through a wide range of happy emotions with her life “because the birthday of my life is come, my love is come to me”. It feels to Christina Rossetti that all of her birthdays have come all at once. She is so happy that she compares her happiness to all her birthday’s coming at once.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare uses a lot of original language and many language techniques to convey the love that he has. He is saying that even though looks and beauty do not last, marriage and love are an “ever-fixed mark” and do not stop. During sonnet 116, William Shakespeare personifies love and says that no matter how long your marriage lasts; love is always there and continues to do so until death.
“Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom”
Love lasts until death unlike the material things but in “How do I love thee…” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning she says: “I shall but love thee better after death”.
She is saying here that love continues after death but it will be a different type of love, while Shakespeare seems to imply that, after death, not only will the marriage stop but the love will stop as well. Shakespeare is admitting that human love is limited because there is so little time, and at death, love is lost.
“Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come”
Looks do not last. The ‘rosy lips and cheeks’ go away with age but love lasts until death.
Some of the poems, that I have studied, take an unusual viewpoint to compare their love to. John Donne’s “Lecture Upon a Shadow” compares love to the time of the day and the length of the shadows at particular parts of the day. At the start of the day shadows are long and there are some doubts in the relationship but as the day progresses, their inhibitions decrease and so do the shadows. By midday their love is blossoming and love is at its peak. There are no difficulties or problems and their love (and the sun) is at it’s most intense. But as the middy passes, the sun starts to get less and less, and their love starts to set and fade away.
“But oh, love’s day is short, if love decay. Love is a growing, or full constant light; and his first minute after noon, is night”
John Donne is saying here that love does not last very long and you have to take the opportunity to love, and be loved, when it comes your way. As soon as the intense love has passed, the love slowly decays.
In Christopher Marlow’s poem: “The Passionate Sheepheard To His Love” another unusual viewpoint for a love poem is seen. The shepherd is very involved with his work and wants his love to enjoy the delights of his work as he does.
“And wee will sit upon the Rocks, seeing the Sheepheards feede theyr flocks, by shallow rivers, to whose falls, melodious birds sings Madgrigalls”
It is unusual for a love poem to be asking whether their lover will want to be with them when shepherds are feeing their flocks but for Christopher Marlow, his idea of love will involve the flocks and sheep and the fields that he works in.
William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 has chosen a very different viewpoint from the usual love poems we see, because William Shakespeare is saying that his love is not necessarily the best looking or the nicest smell, but they are in love and nothing can get between true love.
“I love to hear her speak, yet I well know that music hath a far more pleasing sound”
William Shakespeare knows that her voice is not the sweetest compared to others but these things are immaterial when it comes to love. Usual love poems will talk at length about the beauty of their love even though it may not be the case, and although William Shakespeare, in this poem, has a more negative viewpoint about his love, the essence of his feelings remains the same: they are in love, and lack of beauty does not take this away.
“And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare as any she belied with false compare”
The comparisons that are being made between her beauty and other’s beauty for example are false because William Shakespeare’s love is special and his lover is unique and like no other, and cannot be compared to others.
Andrew Marvell’s poem: “To His Coy Mistress”, is also different to a typical love poem as it is more like a piece of persuasive writing than a love poem. Andrew Marvell does not talk about his lover’s beauty like a normal love poem would, but he is trying to persuade his love to go to bed with him.
“Let us roll all our strength, and all our sweetness up into one ball”
Andrew Marvell is saying that they should share their love now while they have the chance because if they wait too long, their looks will have gone and they may even be dead, and once they are in the grave, they will never be able to share their love. Andrew Marvell is more upfront about the love he has rather than expressing his feelings like in stereotypical love poetry.
Truth / Accuracy
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem: “How Do I Love Thee…” is accurate because she is conveying her love in ways that everyone can understand and is not trying to over-elaborate her language and complicate her true feelings, and hide her true feeling in over-complicated language.
“I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!”
She loves with very part of her life: the good times and the bad times, and no matter what is happening in her life, she is forever loving with all she has. Elizabeth Barrett Browning is saying in this poem that she is in love.
“To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell is more truthful than many love poems because Andrew Marvell looks at the facts of life to base his love on, and not love itself. This poem is also less like the ideal of love, but the harsh reality of life: beauty not lasting for example.
“But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near; and yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found.”
I believe that Andrew Marvell is saying that beauty will not last forever, and once you are dead, your love will be gone. Andrew Marvell is saying that death will come round very quickly because life is very short, and they should take their opportunity of life while they have it, or they may lose out on happiness together.
“Then worms shall try that long preserved virginity, and your quaint honour into dust, and into ashes all my lust: The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace”
Once you are dead the worms will try and take your virginity away, and the chance of sharing your love will be gone forever, and you cannot make amends, so Andrew Marvell is trying to persuade his lover to go to bed with him while they are still alive.
A good example of truth and accuracy in a love poem is in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. In this poem, William Shakespeare does not use many flattering comments at all, and does not portray his love in a positive light.
“If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, but no such roses see I in her cheeks, and in some perfumes is there more delight than in the breath that from my mistress reeks”
William Shakespeare has not flattered her lover like many love poets do, and for a love poem, the language used seems to be too truthful for what he actually means to say. His message that his love is unique is being swamped by the claims that she is not very beautiful and her breath smells. William Shakespeare’s language may be extremely accurate and truthful, but love poems generally are not about truth or real life, but the ideals of love, and what love means to them.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet: “How Do I Love Thee” shows true personal feelings throughout because of the repetition of the main message of the poem:
“How do I love thee?…”
By including this phrase, Elizabeth Barrett Browning shows her true feelings clearly and without any doubts. Her language is clear and unambiguous like her feelings about her love in real life. She loves with everything in her life.
“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height”
This statement is also very clear to her and the reader; because it shows her true feelings in a way that everyone can understand. She loves in everyway possible and this is Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s personal feelings coming out and the reader and the author are both confident about the love she has and the personal feelings she portrays in this poem.
William Shakespeare shows his true feelings and ideas about love in Sonnet 116 because he feels that that for love to be a permanent you must be faithful to your partner, and if one person is not faithful in a relationship, it will never last.
“If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved”
William Shakespeare is saying here that if he is wrong about love, no man has ever loved before, because he believes that he is in love. However, I believe that there is an element of doubt in this statement because he highlights the fact that what he has written could be wrong, and this seems to the reader that he is not totally sure whether he is in love.
Another of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets that I have looked at is Sonnet 130. This also draws attention to his personal feelings because he shows his true feelings about his lover’s beauty and personality. He shows the fact that he feels she is no better than many other women and has many faults.
“I grant I never saw a goddess go – my mistress when she walks tread on the ground”
William Shakespeare is admitting here that she is not an ideal woman (“goddess”), but he is explaining that she is unique and that love is greater than beauty. Typical love poems would say the exact opposite to this statement but William Shakespeare is trying to point out that his love is much more important to him than looks, and is saying that, even though she is not the prettiest or has the best voice, because they are in love, it does not matter to him.
Insights / Lessons from experience
William Shakespeare’s shows he is writing from experience in Sonnet 116 because he knows that they are not just marrying each others bodies but they are marrying each others mind and spirit as well.
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments”
This is the opening line of the poem, and it is the line to a part of the wedding service when the priest or vicar asks if there is any reason why they should not be married. This is the part of the service when they agree to be faithful. William Shakespeare knows from experience that for a marriage to work, they must be married in mind, body and soul, not just body. Love is about being married to what they are like as a person, not just what they look like on the outside.
Because of his experience of relationships, John Donne, in his poem: “Lecture Upon a Shadow”, knows that there are different spells in a relationship that mirror the time of day and the length of the shadows. Through his own experiences, he knows that a relationship fades and dies down after the most passionate parts of a relationship.
“The morning shadows wear away, but these grow longer all the day, but oh, loves day is short, if love decay”
From the lessons he has gained from his own life, John Donne knows what is going to happen. He is showing that love often changes, and can change quickly. After the passionate midday, John Donne expects his relationship to die down, and in due course, he is proved right.
Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare is a good example of a poem written from the author’s own experience. In this poem, William Shakespeare recognises that, from his own insights, looks do not last and he acknowledges the brevity of beauty. William Shakespeare is rejecting hyperbole, and instead explains the true facts that he has gained from his experiences.
“Coral is far more red than her lip’s red; if snow be white, why then her breasts are dun”
These are not the conventional ideas of beauty, because he knows from his own life, that love is rare, but beauty is irrelevant, and recognises this from his own experiences of relationships and the importance of the love compared to beauty.