A reader of a love poem has a specific. Prejudiced view of love poetry. Generally, it is that love poetry is sentimental and flattering. It is supposed to talk about flowers and chocolates, romance and passion from one person to another. The reader expects imagery of harts and roses, and cliched similes and metaphors. An affectionate and caring tone should be used. The should be honest, sentimental and, above all, romantic. However, this is often not the case. Love can be portrayed as passionate and sexual, romantic and caring, destructive and heartbreaking, and, unfortunately, possessive and deadly.
The types of love in a poem can be reflected in many ways. One of these ways is the structuring of the poem. “To His Coy Mistress” has a syllogism structure, the first stanza is the ‘if’, from the ‘if, but, so’ syllogism argument. This is shown in the first line ‘Had we but world enough, and time’. This stanza also uses many hyperboles to emphasise the writers love for his mistress, such as ‘love you ten years before the flood’, meaning that he would love her forever, and then ten years. As the main theme of this poem is sex, many physical references are made, such as ‘two hundred to adore each breast’.
The main purpose of this stanza is to compliment the mistress to show how great it would be if they had enough time, as they could ‘walk and pass our long days/by the Indian Ganges side’. This is a very romantic scene, and the mistress would feel complimented by it. There are very few references to the personality and character of his mistress, ad this shows that Marvell is only interested in sex. However, like most of this poem, it can be taken another way. Marvell mocks romantic convention by using blatant double entendres such as ‘my vegetable love should grow’.
This can be taken romantically, about his love growing, or as a sexual phallic image. This also hints at his attitude towards women – that they are his, to be used for whatever he wishes. Things change a lot by the second stanza. It is the ‘but’ part of the syllogism. Marvell says that they do not have enough time for all of the romantic things in the first stanza, so they should go on ahead and have sex. To illustrate the point that he is running out of time, he personifies time ‘I always hear/times winged chariot hurrying near’. This verifies the fact that they will not be able to have sex soon, if they don’t do it now.
He says that ahead lie ‘deserts of vast eternity’, meaning that if she doesn’t have sex with him, she will have noting to look forward to, because she will no longer be desirable. The writer than goes on to say that if she doesn’t, she will die a virgin. He uses vulgar and insulting imagery to illustrate his point and try to shock her, such as ‘worms shall try/that long preserved virginity’. He is using a phallic image to show that if he doesn’t have sex with her, lesser man (the ‘worms’) will. Basically, he is trying to establish the fact that she cannot ‘win’ unless she has sex with him.
He sums up the ‘but’ part of the syllogism by saying ‘the graves a fine and private place/but none I think do there embrace’, urging her to have sex with him before its too late. The third and final stanza is the ‘if’ part of the syllogism. It begins with ‘now therefore’, which indicates that he thinks she now wants to have sex with him. He describes her as being young and beautiful by saying how ‘the youthful hue/sits on thy skin like morning dew’, and passionate – ‘at every pore with instant fire’. This shows that he wants her to realise that it would be great if they had sex.
There are numerous references to fun and games, such as ‘now let us sport while we may/and now like amorous birds of prey’. This reinforces the point that sex would be good. He also says how time would be beaten if they had sex – ‘stand still yet we will make him run’. This emphasises that all the things that would happen to her in the first stanza won’t happen if they have sex. “First Love”. However, is quite different, although it has many similarities. It describes how the writer sees a girl and immediately falls in love with her, and his depression when he cannot be with her.
It emphasises her beauty in the first stanza by using similes – ‘her face it bloomed like a sweet flower’. This stanza also emphasises his love for her, and how he is instantly love struck – ‘stole my heart away complete’. This shows that he has fallen in love with her on the spot, and thinks she is the only person he could ever love. He seems mesmerised by his love for her – his ‘legs refused to walk away’, and it seems that time slowed down for him, because his ‘life and all seemed turned to clay’. To show how mesmerised he is, repetition is also used, such as the use of pale – ‘pale as deathly pale’
In the second stanza, Clare depicts how much he loves her by using metaphors such as ‘words from my heart did start’, describing how his heart yearns for her. He also describes how ‘the trees and bushes around the place/seemed midnight at noonday’, which shows how his love for her has blinded and confused him. This is, of course, exaggerated, but reflects very well the feelings of the writer. The last stanza is extremely sad. The write uses rhetorical questions such as ‘Are flowers the winters choice’, which indicates that he is cold and lonely, like winter, and the girl he has fallen in love with is a flower.
He says that a flower cannot be with winter, which is very true. He says that he ‘never saw so sweet a face’, which exhibits his belief that he will never find someone else that he loves, and that ‘his heart has left its dwelling place/and can return no more’, meaning that he can never love again because the girl has taken all of his love. This part of the poem is depressing and as such gives the reader a good indication of the characters emotions. “First Love”‘s major difference with “To His Coy Mistress” is in the content of the poem.
Clare describes the girl as being extremely beautiful and it is clear that she has “stole my heart away complete” that he cares for her a great deal. However in “To His Coy Mistress” Marvell seems to have little concern for the emotions of his mistress, and we know this because he tries to scare her into bed in stanza 2. The imagery used is also very different. Clare’s imagery shows his own emotions such as “are flowers the winters choice”. On the other hand, in Marvell’s poem the writer mocks romantic scenes and later in the poem vulgar insulting imagery is used. However this is very effective in both poems.
Although there many similarities between the 2 poems, for instance the fact that neither of them include the lady’s point of view, or refer to her personality at all, except for the one line in “To His Coy Mistress” “and the last age show your heart”. The third poem I shall compare is “My Last Duchess” by Browning. This is a poem not so much about love, but about possessiveness. The Duke is showing a servant of his new wife a painting of his last wife. This in itself is symbolic as he says “since none puts by/ the curtain I have drawn for you but I”, meaning that he is the only person who can look at the painting.
This possessiveness of his wife is reinforced by his use of the word “my”, even in the opening line. This contrasts with “To His Coy Mistress” and “First Love” as in “To His Coy Mistress” he acts as if he doesn’t care about her or if he loses her. In “First Love”, since Clare indicates that the girl has his heart, she owns him rather than the other way around. Generally this poem is about control, and this is shown in its structure. It is an iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets, indicating that it is planned and thought through. It also uses dramatic monologue which shows that the duke is in control as he is doing all the talking.
This is similar to “To His Coy Mistress” but wildly different from “First Love”, because the writer indicates that his emotions are out of control. The behaviour and actions of the duke also indicate the fact that he is deeply possessive. He says how she was “too easily impressed”, and how she “ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody’s gift”. He is saying that she treats him as she would treat anyone, and she treats his gifts, which are doubtless more impressive than any other in the same she would treat a “bough of cherries”.
The anger over this point expresses his egotism. This is also shown in the way that he constantly drops names – “Frau Pandolf” and “Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me”. This shows that he is self centred, and this is exhibited in the way that he looks for compliments when he says “even had you skill/ in speech – (which I have not)” and he wants people to think he is better than they are. This also occurs in “To His Coy Mistress” when the writer indicates that he is better than other men when he says “worms shall try/ that long preserved virginity”.
But in “First Love”, the writer feels he is inadequate when he says “are flowers always the winters choice? “. The penultimate poem I will compare is “Shall I Compare Thee” by Shakespeare, which is quite different to all the other poems I have studied. It is a ‘traditional’ love poem’. It basically compliments Shakespeare’s wife/girlfriend/mistress by comparing her to a summers day. He then goes on to say why she is so much better than one. He explains this claim by highlighting the shortcomings of summer, such as “summers leave hath all to short a date”, meaning summer is too short, and she is great all the time.
He also personifies summer as in “Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines/and often is his gold complexion dim’d”. This personification of summer emphasises the fact that summer, like people, has its shortcomings. He says that summer is too hot, while she is mild, that it is often clouded, though she is always perfect, and that she is gentle rather than shaking “the darling buds of Maie”. The structure of the poem also shows love for the lady. Sonnet form is used, which is the traditional form of love poetry. The iambic pentameter resembles a heartbeat and the rhyme scheme of ABAB shows that it is organised and tightly structured.
This suggests that the poem is a careful and reasoned argument, and that he has put a lot of effort into complimenting her. This is the only poem so far to link up with the first impression of love poetry. It is different by a long shot to “My Last Duchess” because it shows that Shakespeare accepts the woman as a person and is happy to compliment her, unlike the duke, who would like to be complimented. It is quite similar to “First Love”, as it depicts the woman as someone of great beauty. “Porphyria’s Lover” is the last of the five poems. It is the most extreme of all the poems.
It begins by setting the scene with reference to the weather, such as “the sullen wind was soon awake”. These references, written in the romantic style, contrast with the next part of the poem. This gives an impression of unrest and foreboding. The main theme of the poem is obsession. This is shown in the structure of the poem – a dramatic monologue. The weather and contrast of Porphyria’s warmth is reinforced by the claim that “Porphyria worshipped me” and that she is “perfectly pure and good”. This indicated that he thinks that she is a good person and this makes his later actions more shocking.
When he kills her, he attempts to justify his actions to himself “I am quite sure she felt no pain”. This shows that he doesn’t not feel guilt over murdering his girlfriend, and is led to think she wanted to be killed. This could mean that he wants be with her always, dead or alive, or that he thinks that she wants to be with him, even if it means death. This is indicated by the words “the smiling little rosy head/so glad its has its utmost will”, giving the impression that she wanted to be killed. Another contrast in poem is that between innocence and guilt.
Porphyria is “smooth, white” indicating her innocence, and she is murdered by someone who feels no guilt. The obsessive love is also indicated by this as he says “thus we sit together now”, meaning that he thinks she wants to be with him, although she may have felt differently, had she been alive. The love in this poem is similar to that in “My Last Duchess”, as Porphyria’s lover is also extremely possessive. However in “My Last Duchess” the duke hates his wife, whereas in “Porphyria’s Lover” he is clearly devoted to her, as he gives an impression of respect and desire in his description of her.
The contrasts in this poem of Porphyria and the grimness of the atmosphere are also used in “Shall I Compare Thee” for the same purpose – to highlight the goodness of the fine woman in question. Overall there are 5 types of love in these poems. The first, in “To His Coy Mistress” is passionate, lustful and free, and this is similar to that in “First Love” as the writers talk only about looks and not personality. One of the other types of love is quite unique in these poems – the caring, affectionate love shown in “Shall I Compare Thee”.
It is perhaps the best expression of love that the reader gets and the only display of ‘true love’. The other two types of love are very different to all of these, the possessive types shown in “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover”. This is the worst form of love as in “My Last Duchess” the duke is so possessive of his wife that he treats her as an object whereas in “Porphyria’s Lover” he is so obsessed with her that he wants to kill her to be with her forever. The poem that displayed that displayed one type of love very well was “First Love”.
It shows how the boy is immediately taken by a girl he sees and his heartbreak when he cannot be with her. However the type of love most people would like to feel is that in “Shall I Compare Thee” which displays a staggering amount of compliments for the lady in the poem. Overall these poems are very different in their portrayal of love, but each manage to convey it to the reader exceedingly well through use of structure (such as the dramatic monologue form of “My Last Duchess” that shows his self centeredness and control), language (such as the complementary language used in “Shall I Compare Thee”).
Imagery is also used effectively (as in “First Love” when Clare describes himself as “winter” and girls as “flowers” to show that he does not comply with them). The actual content used is also very effective as in “To His Coy Mistress”, where the syllogism and the tactics of complements and frightening are used to, what is in my opinion, good effect.