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I have studied a range of poems on love and loss, the five poems I have chosen are; “First Love” by John Clare, “How Do I Love Thee? ” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning “A Birthday” and “Remember” by Christina Rosetti and finally “When We Two Parted” by George Gordon. All of these poems were written during the romantic period which was approximately 1770-1830, or the Victorian period which was approximately 1830-1900. During both these periods there were similar as well as different styles of poetry produced. Love and Loss poems were both important themes in Victorian and romantic poetry.
The word love has many meanings to it. To love someone it can mean to be emotionally or physically or even by both be attracted to another person. Love involves romance, which is the feeling felt for the person you love. Therefore a romantic poem is a poem that expresses very affectionate and sensitive emotions. The poems; “A Birthday”, “How Do I Love Thee” and “Remember” are all sonnets which are 14 line poems with a rhyming scheme of ABAB. The other two poems; “First Love” and “When We Two Parted” are not sonnets but they are both rhyming poems.
In “How Do I Love Thee” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s love is an endless permanent thing, “I shall but love thee better after death”. There is also the similar feel in “First Love” when John Clare talks about how he has lost his heart for her, “My heart has left its dwelling-place And can return no more”. The poem “How Do I Love Thee” is written about her love, possibly her husband but John Clare’s is about someone else, somebody he does not know, in this case it could be unrequited love, where she may not feel the same way about him.
Victorian Love Poems
Remember” compared to “How Do I Love Thee” and “First Love” is giving out a different message. Instead of saying that they will not forget their love even after they die, Christina Rosetti tells her love to forget about her after she dies because she does not want him to think of her and get upset, “Better by far you/ should forget and smile Than that you should remember me and be sad. ” She wants him to be happy when she is gone. In “First Love” the reaction to love is mainly stated through the physical actions, “My face turned pale as deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,” expressing love with this kind of language seems much exaggerated compared to how Elizabeth Barrett Browning does it in “How Do I Love Thee”, she just talks about how she feels within herself and her soul, “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach,” she does not say anything about how she is physically but just mentally. “Remember” once again is different form both of the other poems, it does not at all state anything about her love to her partner but only what he should do after she goes. First Love”, “How Do I Love Thee” and “A Birthday” are all typical romantic poems. “A Birthday” and “First Love” both have references to nature.
In “First Love” it says; “Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower”, John Clare uses these words to describe the beauty of his love; he is comparing her to a flower expressing that she has natural beauty. “A Birthday” describes love using reference to nature which portrays the theme of love, “My heart is like an apple tree Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit”, saying that her heart is abundant and fruitful to her love. First Love” and “A Birthday” both share another thing in common that make them typical romantic poems, they both have the reference to music. In “First Love” it says; “Words from my eyes did start They/ spoke as chords do from the string”, the love in his eyes were speaking for him, it was strong emotional music coming from within him. Imagery from nature is used within both poems to express the theme of love.
In “A Birthday”, it says; “My heart is like a/ singing bird”, this again is reference to nature as well as music; it is telling me that she is happy. First Love” uses music to express love through eyes and “A Birthday” uses music to express love from the heart. Both of these descriptions are very powerful as they are what a typical romantic poem consists of. However in “How Do I Love Thee” although it does not share the common descriptions “First love” and “A Birthday” have, the title of the poem tells the readers that it is a typical romantic poem. “How Do I Love Thee” and “A Birthday” are positive, in “How Do I Love Thee” it says, “I love thee with the passion” and in “A Birthday” it says “My heart is like a/ rainbow shell”.
Both these poems are typical. “Remember” on the other hand is negative as it does not say anything similar to what the other two poems say about their love and how the poems are written with a positive feel. This one is more about the loss of a loved one and the breakdown of a relationship, it uses words such as, “darkness”, “grieve”, “sad”, which add a negative effect on the poem. All the poems rhyme and use some kind of ‘flowery’ language (lyrical). in “First Love” there is the use of alliteration, “so sudden and so sweet”.
There is no alliteration present in the other two poems. However there is the use of repetition in both, in “How Do I Love Thee” the words “I love thee” are repeated many times through the poem. In “A Birthday” the words “My heart” are repeated a few times. The use of repetition is very effective as it puts emphasis on the poem making those few words stand out. My response to all the poems overall is that they are all very clear in expressing their feelings towards their love.
The image I got was that they are madly in love and taking there expressions to a great extent. The poems talk about love during and after death meaning their love is very important. The poem I liked best was “A Birthday”, this is because I found it easy to understand compared to the other poems and there is the positive feel towards it. I did not enjoy reading “How Do I Love Thee” and “Remember” as much as “A Birthday” because they were a bit difficult to understand at certain parts.