The disillusionment concerning romance in “Atlas” is contrasting to that of “Valentine”. “Atlas” also discusses a less welcome aspect of love, but it does it in a much less cynical manner. It deals with the ordinary support and “maintenance” needed by all relationships. However, it does not do this in a bitter tone. The idea that “maintenance” is only one facet of love helps to make love seem much better. This is stressed as it is “a kind of love”, and “the sensible side of love”.
Although it is only shown to be one area of love, its value is shown by the enormity of the job it does of “uphold…structures of living”. It reveals that a relationship cannot work without a pragmatic aspect, which must “store the WD40”. The comparison to “Atlas” as a classical figure is oddly appropriate, because he too was holding up a “suspect” structure due to necessity, although unwillingly. Love too must be held up by some unwanted chores otherwise the “ricketty elaborate structure” will collapse. The comparison to “Atlas” is a tribute to love, and highlights the importance given to it by Fanthorpe.Order now
Both Fanthorpe and Duffy choose to state the importance of seeing below the surface of love and the relationship. In “Valentine”, this is expressed through the metaphor of the layers in the onion. It emphasises the need for the “careful undressing of love”, saying that it is a “moon wrapped in brown paper”. Therefore one must get through the paper to see what it really has to offer. Fanthorpe conveys the importance of more deeply in a different way. She emphasises the need to know the other person really well, so that one can “laugh at dryrotten jokes” and “remember need for gloss and grouting”. In Fanthorpe’s mind, this attention to detail and depth of understanding is what “keeps suspect edifice upright in air”.
The style used by both writers is contrasting. Duffy uses free verse, with very short, emphatic lines. This makes the poem seem more dramatic and increases tension. She isolates certain words to create a more threatening tone. For example “like a lover” is on its own line, this adds power to it. Also, the single words such as “Here” or “Lethal” are impacting. The complete separation of “I am trying to be truthful” adds a feeling of desperation. This differs greatly form “Atlas”. Although the start of “Atlas” is split into couplets, there is a feeling of continuity throughout the poem. This is achieved through enjambment, even between different stanzas, “which upholds/ The permanently, ricketty”. The enjambment makes the poem seem less jerky and harsh. “Atlas” is written mostly in pairs of lines; however, the addition of “As Atlas did the sky” causes the last section to have an uneven number of lines. This adds impact on that line and on the subject of her metaphor.
Both of these poem look below the surface of love, trying to see what is “wrapped in brown paper”. However, what they find upon their “undressing of love” differs greatly. After reading “Valentine”, the reader is left with a rather cynical, yet realistic view of love, and all the potential dangers it brings. “Atlas”, on the other hand, portrays love as an essential part of life, even if it has a “sensible side” which is not so palatable. Therefore, although both these poets are being “truthful”, they are exposing two very different truths.