As you may already have known, the date 1914 relates back to the beginning of the First World War. Therefore, the poetry in this essay will be from the years preceding the war. Before World War One, all poetry had a tight structure and used the traditional verse forms. Pre 1914 poets also had the skill to carefully craft and pattern their poems to perfection as well as usually adding rhyme to the poem.
During the years before the war, women in the society had a very hard life. Women were expected to stay at home to cook, clean and look after the children. To add to that, women also did not have many rights. Women were unable to get divorces unless the man wanted a divorce and women were also not allowed to vote. Only a minority of women actually got high paid jobs as women were thought to be right at the bottom of the social hierarchy. However, looking back in hindsight, World War One changed many of the publics’ views towards women as women worked tirelessly to complete the jobs of the men who had gone to war.
The three poems which I am going to go into detail with during the essay are; ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, by John Keats, ‘To His Coy Mistress’, by Andrew Marvell and finally ‘The Beggar Women’ by William King.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a very romantic poem and shows a man having respect for the woman and her needs, which is very unusual as many men disrespected women during the years before the war. The poem has got a strong link to seduction as the man in the poem tries his best to persuade the woman in the poem that he loves her and that the two should make love before it is too late. ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is different to the Andrew Marvell poem as the poem gets straight to the point.
The poem seems top be very reminiscent as the knight is looking back on the time he had with this woman and how she managed to change him, and use him. The knight seems to be very happy on his own as that way his heart will not get broken. ‘The Beggar Woman’ takes a completely different viewpoint as it seems that the man is nice, kind and gentle whereas the woman is very threatening and not like normal women. Each poem has got a different view on the theme of love and romance.
‘La Bell Dame Sans Merci’ was written by John Keats and when translated into English, the title means ‘The beautiful Woman without Mercy’. From the title, I think the poem consists of a beautiful woman who seduced men with her looks and used them for any possessions they may have. The poem is actually about a knight who was not like normal knights. The knight is very fragile, unlucky and seemed to be troubled. This is shown in the first three verses as they all talk negatively about the knight.
However, whilst walking near the meads with no purpose, the knight meets a beautiful woman. The knight really falls for this woman and loves everything about her and also loves the company, as he has been alone for a very long time. The woman the knight met actually ends up using him and leaving him whilst he was asleep. To conclude the story of the poem, the knight talks about why he prefers to be alone, and this is because he is not going to have his heart broken whilst he is in his own company.
The poem is about love and seduction as well as romance, as these were themes that were common throughout the poem, especially when the knight began to fall for the woman. Another theme in the poem is loneliness, as the knight seems to be on his own throughout and also seems to have become wiser after the experience, as the knight prefers to be on his own so he won’t get hurt. The tone of the poem is very sad, as the knight was a really changed man when he was with the woman as he was full of life and very happy. However, the woman got rid of the joy the knight had and he returned to when he was troubled, fragile and very unlucky.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ was written by Andrew Marvell. As the title uses the word ‘his’ it suggests that the coy mistress belongs to the man. The poem is about a man trying to seduce a woman into making love with him. During the first stanza the man talks about how he would do things with her if he had all the time in the world. The second stanza talks about how the two of them do not have all the time in the world. The third stanza talks about how the two must act upon the moment as they are getting old.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ is about love, romance, seduction and time. The love, romance, time and seduction are common throughout as the man uses these themes to win over the woman. The tone of this poem is happy but also serious. The tone is happy as the two people share a genuine love for each other and are happy when they are together, but the tone can be quite serious as the man wants to have sex in the near future and does his best to try and get the woman to his way of thinking.
‘The beggar Woman’ was written by William King and is about a man who takes a prostitute into the woods to have sex. However, when this prostitute arrives, she has got a little baby with her. The prostitute then explains to the man that she has got a baby that cannot be left on his own, so the man offers to have the baby on his back. After having sex, the woman walks off and leaves the baby with the man. As a result of giving the baby to the man, the prostitute can now continue with her job without having the burden of a child.
Seduction is a common theme during the poem as the woman seduces the man into having sex with her and having the baby on his back. The tone of the poem is sad, as the woman has got no care for her child as she leaves the baby with a stranger.
‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ consists of twelve stanzas, each containing four lines. I think the poet has chosen this structure as it allows him to talk about different things as there are so many stanzas. If there had been 2 stanzas, the poet would have had to focus on two things, but as John Keats decided to have more stanzas, it allows him to be freer with his views. Rhyme has also been used during the poem and is effective as it keeps the poem flowing, brings the poem to life as well as providing the poem with a beat. The rhythmic structure of this poem is ABCB with the second and fourth line in each stanza rhyming.
‘I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever due
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast witherith too.’
As you can see from the stanza above, the poet has included rhythm to good effect as it brings the poem to life and also stresses certain words in the stanza.
The rhythmic pattern of ‘Sonnet XVIII’ by William Shakespeare is very similar to that of ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ as it contains rhyming couplets on alternate lines.
‘Shall I compare thee to a summers day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summers lease hath all too short a date:’
The extract above contains a rhythmic structure of ABAB, which is very similar to the rhythmic structure of ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ and also very similar to the rhythmic structure of most pre 1914 poems.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ has got 3 structures which contain a varying number of lines. Stanza one consists of twenty lines, stanza two consists of twelve lines and stanza three consists of fourteen lines. This line structure is very unusual for a pre 1914 poem as the poems usually consisted of a very tight structure. However, the advantage of not sticking to a tight structure is that you can be freer in your views.
The rhythmic structure of the poem is AABBCC and rhyme has been used during the poem to bring the poem to life, make it easier to read and also help with the flow of the poem.
‘Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness lady were no crime.’
This poem contains rhyming couplets and these are very effective as it provides the poem with an upbeat tone. Each line in the poem also contains approximately eight syllables which was very common for pre 1914 poetry. Keeping the same amount of syllables per line is very effective as it also helps in bringing the poem to life as each line is roughly of same length.
‘The Beggar Woman’ contains one verse which has got forty six lines. This is very unusual considering the time when it was written and I believe William King has chosen this structure, as it allows him to be free in his views as he does not have to stick to a tight structure. The rhyme scheme of this poem is AABB and this shows that the poem is very similar to pre 1914 poems.
‘He let his company the hare pursue,
For he himself had other game in view:’
This shows how the poem has a tight rhythmic structure and is brought to life as a result of rhythm. The rhyme scheme also makes the poem easier to read as the poem contains a beat to read the poem to.
During ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ there are a lot of images portrayed by John Keats. One of the images portrayed is the image of death and splitting up.
‘The sedge has wither’d from the lake.’
This extract gives the idea of the sedge and lake splitting up and this resembles the knight and how he is alone and away from other humans. The word ‘wither’d also suggests something has died and in this case, it is the inside of the knight. The knight seems to have no role in life and just wonders aimlessly without a sole through nature. In this case, the knight is being compared to nature, which is unusual as knights are seen as heroes and noble men. This suggests that this knight is not like normal knights.
To add to that, there is also the image of ‘no birds sing’ which is unusual as it is usually birds chirping which make people happy when they are sad and so if no birds are singing it suggests a dark and bad atmosphere and releases negative vibes. I think the poet used this image to suggest that the environment around the knight is abnormal which gives the idea that the knight is not normal.
To add to that, John Keats also uses the image of death during the poem as he wrote;
‘I see a lily on thy brow…’
This suggests death as the lily is the flower associated with death. The fact that the lily is on the knights eyebrow is bringing across the idea that the knight is dying as he has a lily on him. I think that John Keats used this image in order to tell the reader the knight is dying.
Another image used by the author is of a fairy’s child when the knight first views the woman he loves.
‘…full beautiful – a faery’s child…’
This suggests the woman he has seen is beautiful and one of the most beautiful people he has ever seen. This is a contrast from the knight himself, as the knight was ‘haggard’ and close to death, whereas the woman is beautiful and elegant. I believe the author used the image of the woman being ‘a faery’s child’ John Keats wanted to show how different the two people were.
John Keats also uses pathetic fallacy as he talks about how the seasons have changed.
‘And the harvest’s done.’
This gives the idea of winter as the harvest has already been complete. The fact that it is winter fits in well, as the knight is very much like the winter as he is cold, but when the woman arrives he is filled with warmth and changes.
Another language technique used by John Keats during the poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is a rhetorical question.
‘Alone and palely loitering?’
This rhetorical question is effective as it gets the reader thinking about why the knight is alone and why he is palely loitering. It also exercises the mind and makes you think beyond what is written in the poem.
John Keats also uses repetition, which is a very effective language technique. John Keats describes the woman as having ‘wild wild eyes’. The repetition is used to emphasise the fact that the woman’s eyes are very wild. The woman’s eyes may be wild as they are reflecting the wildlife where she is situated. The author also uses repetition as he repeats the first verse in the last verse.
‘Alone and palely loitering?
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.’
During the first verse, it is the narrator asking the question to the knight of why he is also in a place were no birds sing. However, in the final verse, the knight replies to the question by saying he stays all alone in a place were no birds sing as his heart will not get broken as long as he is alone. The repetition helps to effectively emphasise this point.
During ‘To His Coy Mistress’ Andrew Marvell creates many different images. Andrew Marvell creates the image of time catching up with the man and woman and they will eventually die.
‘Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.’
This brings the time to life and suggests that time is catching up and so you must make the most of the time you have got. I believe the author produced this image as he wanted to show that the man and woman should make the most of the time they have together as time can catch you up and you may lose the moment.
Andrew Marvell also portrays a very negative image as he wrote;
‘…Then worms shall try,
That long preserved virginity.’
This image is very negative as it is about worms eating away at the woman once she is dead. I believe the author chose this image as he wanted to show that the man and woman should make the most of the time they have and not wait until it is too late.
Another image portrayed in ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is the image of love and unity.
‘Our sweetness up into one ball…’
This shows an image of unity as they are together in one ball and can also give the idea of making love as they are interlocked. This is a very positive image, whereas the previous two images were very negative.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ also uses nature as part of its imagery, ‘by the Ganges’ and also natural elements such as ‘rubies’. This is effective as it involves nature and shows how natural this love these two people have for each other is.
To His Coy Mistress’ also uses hyperbole as a language technique. Andrew Marvell uses hyperbole when he wrote ‘two hundred to adore each breast’. This brings exaggeration into play as the man is suggesting he will spend two hundred years to adore each breast of the woman if he had all the time in the world, which is very unlikely.
Another language technique used is enjambment, which allows the poem to flow.
‘We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.’
As you can see the two lines flow well together and keeps the poem moving, making it easier to read. It also gives the effect of the day flowing by slowly and peacefully, as the two lines flow. As the two lines flow onto each other, it makes it seem as though when the two of them are together, everything is fine and runs smoothly. This is a good example of what love can do.
Andrew Marvell also uses a simile in the third stanza to good effect.
‘…Like amorous birds of prey,’
This simile is effective as it allows the reader to make a comparison, making it easier for the reader to make an image in their head. During the poem, the amorous birds of prey are compared to the man and woman, therefore the simile is suggesting that the man and woman have got similar characteristics to amorous birds of prey.
Pathetic fallacy is another technique used by Andrew Marvell during ‘To His Coy Mistress’ as the sun is used.
‘Thus, thou we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run’.
This uses pathetic fallacy as it uses the sun to show that nature will not stop for the man and woman and so and so they might as well make the most of the time they have got. Toad to that, the extract contains personification .
‘…Sun stand still…’
This uses personification as it brings the sun to life and makes it have human characteristics as it is standing. This is effective as it allows the reader to conjure up an image in their head, making the poem easier to understand.
‘Sonnet XVIII’ by William Shakespeare also uses pathetic fallacy and the sun in particular.
‘Shall I compare thee to a summers day?
Thou art more lovelky and more temperate.’
This again uses the sun, which is a good piece of nature to use as it symbolises happiness and positive feelings. Pathetic fallacy is effective, as it allows the reader use a piece of nature to refer to the poem and help them create an image in their head. As this person is compared to summer, it gives you the impression that this person is warm inside and nice to around.
‘The Beggar Woman’ by William King contains different types of images. One image used during the poem is;
‘A gentleman in hunting rode astray’
This gives the image of a rich, posh man as there is a gentle man who is hunting. It also gives the image of royalty as the man is hunting. This gives off appositive image which is suggesting that the man is a good person.
Another image portrayed during the poem is that of purity;
‘… Her cheeks fresh, and linen clean.’
This gives the image of purity as the women has fresh cheeks which suggests that the woman does put make up on. To add to that, the extract also gives the idea of purity as the woman had clean linen. This gave across the idea that the woman had not lost her virginity.
A language technique used during ‘The Beggar Woman’ is a rhetorical question.
‘Retire a little way into the wood?’
Rhetorical questions are very effective as they keep the reader thinking and exercise their mind. A rhetorical question is a question which is not meant to be answered, but thought about.
This language technique is also common in ‘Sonnet XVIII’ by William Shakespeare.
‘Shall I compare thee to a summers day?’
This rhetorical question is used to have the same effect as the one above, which is to keep the reader thinking. The rhetorical question also makes the reader want to read on in order to find the answer to the question. A rhetorical question is a god technique to use to enthral the reader and make them want to read on.
Enjambment is also another language technique used during ‘The Beggar Woman’.
‘He often asked her to expose: but she
Still feared the coming of his company.’
Enjambment has been used in order to allow one line to flow onto another line. This gives a good effect as it allows the poem to flow and keeps the poem moving. To add to that, enjambment is an effective linguistic device as it makes the poem easier to read.
Enjambment was very common in pre 1914 poetry and was used in ‘A Woman to her Lover’ by Christina Walsh.
‘To bear you children wearing out my life
In drudgery and silence.’
Enjambment has been used by Christina Walsh in order to give the same effect that the author of ‘The Beggar Woman’ wanted to portray.
‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ portrays the theme of love from an unusual viewpoint. During the poem, love changed the knight from being negative and dull to being positive and full of light. Once the knight had fallen in love he began to show emotions and feelings and was a changed man. However, during the poem love is portrayed as something that hurts people, as the woman did not share the love the knight had for her and used him. John Keats shows love as a wonderful feeling that changes people, but can also be the worst feeling in the world.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell has got a different take on the theme of love. Andrew Marvell links love to time and writes about how love should not be something that waits, but is an on the spot decision which has to be taken. Andrew Marvell portrays love as something that should not be wasted, but taken advantage of.
‘The Beggar Woman’ by William King portrays love as being meaningless, as the woman leaves her child with a stranger. This shows she has got no love for her child which is very unusual. William King portrays love as being worthless.
I believe ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is the most powerful poem as it shows the two effects love can have on a person. The poem gives the view of how love can change people for the better, but also shows the other side in which love hurts people, as the man was just used by the woman he loved. Overall, this is my favourite poem of the three, although all poems are well written and portray the theme of love in interesting and different ways.