Love is possibly the most talked about subject of all time but unfortunately it has not always been as fair, free or co-equal as we like to believe it is today. Pre-twentieth century poems clearly show us that love was very male dominated. This was often the faults of the woman’s fathers who set up arranged marriages and tried to find the best financial proposition for the daughter. Some of these poems include “A Woman to her Lover” by Christina Walsh, “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning and two sonnets “Remember” by Christina Rossetti and “How do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
All these writers try to bring across their view which is love was not fair. Of these four poems only one was written by a man “My last Duchess”. Elizabeth Barrett, an English poet of the Romantic Movement, was born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. While saddling a pony when she was fifteen, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish.
Throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church. Elizabeth and Robert, who was six years her junior, exchanged 574 letters over twenty months. In 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy, where Elizabeth’s health improved and she bore a son, Robert Wideman Browning. Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence on June 29, 1861.
Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished pianist and his father, who worked as a bank clerk, was also an artist, scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection of more than 6,000 volumes included works in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. After reading Elizabeth Barrett’s Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Browning met her in 1845. They were married in 1846, against the wishes of Barrett’s father. Christina Rossetti was born in London, one of four children of Italian parents.
Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti; her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti also became a poet and a painter. Rossetti is best known for her ballads and her mystic religious lyrics. Her poetry is marked by symbolism and intense feeling. As much as I have searched for Christina Walsh I have been unable to find any information on her life or on any of her poems. Rhetorical Questions always play an important role in poetry but in these poems they are especially important. In “A Woman to her Lover” it immediately starts with a rhetorical question. This just shows how angry and desperate she is to get out what she has to say.
On the other hand you have Browning talking to another man and saying “Will’t please you sit and look at her”, this therefore forcing the servant to sit. This just goes to show the importance of power and money in the eighteenth century. “How do I Love Thee? ” (Written by the wife of Mr Browning) writes a poem in reply to a question. This poem shows that in the eighteenth century there was a chance for co-equal love. However in Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning’s case they eloped to Italy thus getting away from society in England and getting away from the parents.
I have drawn for you but I”, the personal pronoun I in “My Last Duchess” not only shows how important the Duke believes he is but also as a whole shows how important he believes the male feature in society is. In “How do I Love Thee” Elizabeth Barrett Browning uses parallel structure with “I Love Thee” although this is a personal pronoun she refers to her love being his love. This just goes to show how woman pre-twentieth century wished that love was co-equal and believed that one day it would be.
In “A Woman to her Lover” Christina Walsh uses personal pronoun to show once again how she believes that the woman deserved more control over their love and romance. Repetition and parallel structure is widely used in “How do I Love Thee” and “A Woman to her Lover”. In both they use it to show how their list is possibly endless and will be hard to match up to. In “How do I Love Thee” Ms Browning talks about how powerful her love is, while in “A Woman to her Lover” Ms Walsh talks about how her lover must improver herself to comply with her needs this was not what society was used to in the nineteenth centaury.
In “A Woman to her Lover” Ms Walsh uses four stanzas to answer the apparent not so simple question ‘Will You Marry Me? ‘ She also rejects traditional poetry rules and does not use any rhyme scheme. This gives her freedom in poetry which she wishes all woman had pre-twentieth century. Ms Rossetti uses a petrarchan sonnet this reflects the deep thought and care she must have taken to write this poem. Also alongside Mr Browning she uses iambic pentameter, this gives the poems a natural rhythm that sounds like the human heart and implies that this is a poem of love.
Overall, these four prime examples of great poetry show just how much love and romance has changed over the last two hundred years. We see today woman who chose who they want to be with unlike all those years ago. We see relationships where the woman has more control than the man. And even after two hundred years we still see some cases where the marriage is controlled by the parents, society and money.