The details of ‘love and loss’ poems
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19th Century poets tend to express their feelings about love and loss by using images from nature. The poem ‘Birthday’ written by Christina Rossetti portrays the idea of real love. She uses a lot of nature symbolism, and natural imagery suggests the intimacy and intensity of love. Christina Rossetti is most probably describing the love from her own experience with the man she once loved, called John Brett. In the first line she describes her ‘heart is like a singing bird’ that rests inside him, and because of that line the tone becomes much more happy.
The singing bird also attracts a mate. The ‘thickness fruit’ indicates a sense of fertility. She describes her self as the tree that carries him in her heart. There are images of doves, which can be symbols of peace, marriage and love, which brings up the tone a lot in the poem as these are all positive images. She says ‘peacock with a hundred eyes,’ a peacock is a proud animal with beauty, so it can show a sign of her love as beauty, and also of attracting mates (with their feathers). ‘Work it in gold and silver grapes’ is associated with prosperity and sexual imagery.
When she says ‘my heart is a gladder than all these, because my love is come to me,’ means she is clearly gratified for her love, she believes she is in real love. A halcyon is a bird that breeds in a nest that floats at sea, it charms the wind and the wave to calm, and it is beautiful shell swimming on a perfect joyous sea. She mentions this in the line, and ‘My heart is like a rainbow shell that paddles in a halcyon sea. ‘ There is also use of expressiveness and use of beautiful material, this is proven in the line, ‘Raise me a days of silk and down. ‘ She is feeling happy, and joyous.
It is a new life, with in a new love that she is describing. It is not a normal Birthday. It is a birthday for her new love. However, this is just one interpretation, there are other interpretations for example religious terms can indicate someone being born again to Christ. In the poem ‘Villagiature’ written by Edith Nesbit, which has the idea of love and loss. Bloom is mentioned in the poem, which is blossom, they are attractive and have the image of spring and brightness, however, they are brief and does not last long indicating the transient of love, which is why it is repeated in the verses.
She uses the colour white as for the curtains so the audience has the feeling of pure and innocence during the first verse. ‘Shone and softly lighted’ means she has a warm and happy feeling with her love. Also a ghost is mentioned so there is an atmosphere of atmospheric and eternal feeling. However as you read on the second verse you find out that the man is very boring and does not interest her, ‘Your real solid self’ he is ‘deep in her books’ makes you think that he hardly misses her and is hardly away.
Edith mentions the traditional Romeo and Juliet, which gives you the idea of love and loss, the setting in the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, which is romantic, ‘ through the blossom, you climbed and kissed me’. She again mentions blossoms in the second verse, which is a contrast in the stanza between real and unreal, solid and light. You realise that even though she does not love him she still has the idea of romance in her head, ‘I listen to you till the dawn. ‘ This person who is a bit boring and dull keeps preying in her mind. The tone of the poem keeps changing, there are some moments of hate and others to do with love.
However the poem builds up until the last two sentences ‘I did not – till your ghost had fled – remember how you always bore me! ‘, which means the memory has gone, she forgot how he had bored her so much. It has a very big sign of negative feelings towards him. In the poem ‘up-hill,’ ‘night’ is repeatedly mention, which gives you the idea of death and dark hours, which gives the sense of loneliness. In the poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ written by John Keats there is natural imagery. In the first verse he mentions ‘no birds singing’ which suggests he is lonely and desperate, he is in an atmosphere of a lonely place.
In the third verse he specifies seeing a ‘lilly on thy brow’ which is an imagery of death and dying. Also a ‘fading rose’ withered dying rose like the landscape. The colour has been drained out of his face, he is full of grief and darkness. He mentions this lady he meets as being full and beautiful – a fairy’s child’ he meets this lady on the meadow describing her as a fairy. ‘Her eyes were wild’ she is exotic. He is in a fever and very depressed, and so, this fairy girl comes and enchants him not only visually, but also sexually.
She has poisoned him. I made a garland for her head” is an imagery for flowers, luscious which smells sweet. He was so in love with her that he did not see anything else the whole day apart from her. She seduces him with natural things for example honey, sweet, mamma dew. Then later on in the poem she leaves him, he has a dram of a cold- hillside, which is a wintry landscape, this is an element of loneliness reposition. He saw ‘pale kings’ in his dream, which means noble people crying which is symbolic for death. He then wakes ups and finds himself in an old hill- side. He again becomes lonely and depressed.
In the last verse he echoes the first verse, this means that he is back to where he started and the reader feels a sense of circle, always returning to where he started. He can be suggesting that when you fall in love you will always end up in the exact same place. In the poem ‘How do I love thee’ written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning there is not much imagery, because she believes that if you love someone so much how can you compare it to anything when it is greater than anything else. 19th Century poets frequently used religious words and symbolism in their work.
Some readers tend to think that the poem ‘Birthday’ written by Christina Rossetti, is a celebration of her ‘love’ for Christ by using similes which compare to non-living things. Rossettie uses natural symbolism to describe religious feeling, the love of her life is for Jesus. This reflects a view on that time that in the presence of nature man considered himself closer to God. ‘Peacocks’, ‘Fleur de lys’, ‘doves’ ‘purple’, are all a part of an alter. During the Victorian period the large majority of people were very religious and people assumed that if they respected and cared for nature then they would be more attached to God.
People of the time use religious words and ideas in their work. This poem is a contrast to her other poems that Rossetti wrote in the past as it applies to happier times unlike her other poems which are mostly about sadness and death. She mentions ‘nest’, which are images of new life and birth. In the poem ‘How do I love Thee,’ written by Elizabeth Browing, she shows everlasting and the unity of love. When you first read the poem it is as if she is reading the poem out to you and you are the listener.
There are many religious words used in the poem for example ‘Grace’, which can mean Gods loving and mercy towards mankind. Praise’ which means to honour God in words. ‘Right’ means morally good in accordance with justice. All these word can mean that it takes her and her lover beyond human extremities, it is much more than love. She says ‘I love thee to depth and breath and height’, which can relate that everything she is inside of her is of love to him, she loves him to the fullest. The expansive imagery beyond earth celebrates together and the eternal nature of love. “I love the purely”, other people maybe turning away from God but she loves him purely.
This poem can be related to her personal life, Elizabeth Brownings father did love her, but he did not love her freely (did not give her freedom). She once loved called Robert, so the poem maybe dedicated to him and now she is able to love him freely, ‘I love thee freely. ‘ ‘I love thee with the passion put to use, in my old grief’s, and with my childhood faith’ indicates she has transformed the grief and anger into passion, which she gives to her lover. She had faith in love, but she had to hide it within her, now she can let that love be free.
She mentions the ‘sun, and ‘candlelight’ this is because people usually need light to extend she needs his love ‘everyday’ making it a normal everyday life. People believe that if you pray to saints they are suppose to help you and take you out of your troubles or worries, when Elizabeth Browning when she was younger prayed but nothing ever happened, so she thought she lost her faith in God, however when love came later on in her life her faith came to God, there is evidence of this in the line ‘I love thee with passion of this put to use in my old greifs, and with my childhood’s faith’.
In the last line ‘I shall but love thee better after death’, goes beyond the marriage vow. If God allows she will carry on loving him. This same technique was used in the poem ‘A Women To Her Lover,’ written by Christina Walsh where in the last line she states ‘until we reach the very heart of God,’ which indicates that love has no limits, there is a sanctity about co-equal, they are both not afraid of love. Both poems have the idea of sanctity of marriage. It shows that religion has a lot to do with marriage, love was beyond the marriage and love is eternal beyond the grave, and it is everlasting.
There are many religious words that Christina Walsh uses in her poem, ‘heaven’ and ‘worship’ the expansive imagery (beyond the earth) celebrates togetherness and the eternal nature of love. If man married the woman in the Victorian era and he did not be dominant he would treat his wife as a God or an angle. Christina Walsh does not want to be recognised as a physical person, but as a whole she expresses this feeling in the line, ‘A wingless angle that can do no wrong. ‘ In the 19th Century poets would link ideas of love and loss to physical suffering and death.
During the Victorian period, death was intensely common and is typical in the Victorian subject. The poem ‘Remember’ written by Christina Rossetti has imagery of physical suffering and death. This poem was written in 1849 in the middle of her engagement to James Colinson so we can assume that this poem is addressed to him. When you read the first line of the poem it is as though she is giving instructions to somebody. She mentions metaphorically ‘gone away’ which is a sign of death and also the ‘silent land’ which is a euphemism of death. In the poem she feels rather anxious not to be forgotten.
She has a whole idea that death is a journey to another place. However, the word ‘death’ is not mentioned in the poem, which means the readers have to make this assumption themselves. There are many words related to death in the poem, for example ‘darkness’. In the poem there is a tight structure because she is very secure and straight with her feelings and does not want her lover to feel sad. In the poem she realises that she is facing death however wants her lover not to become worried over the situation; ‘afterwards remember do not grieve. ‘
Another poem also written by Rossetti named ‘Up-hill’ written in 1858 during the time when Rossetti was visiting her friends at the age of 28. Rossetti’s poem also considers death to be a journey to another world. There are also words, which demonstrates the word of death for example “night”, “dark hours” however again not mentioning it. Her poems make you wonder if there is something beyond death. The poem explains whether or not life will be easier one day, she is talking about not having a ‘sleeping place’, and whether there will be hope. The poet’s life is going up-hill however she wants it to go downhill.
The entire poem is a metaphor for life, going to heaven and having a thought that there is something beyond death. The total poem is based on questions and answers, questions which, Rossetti asks through out the journey of her life. A guide is speaking, and he is guiding questioner. There are struggles for the problems that lie ahead. For example does life go on, “does the road wind up-hill all the way”, or will there be a place for everyone ‘will there be beds for me and all who seek. ‘ The discretion of ‘bed’ can be the term for eternal peace to the grave.
The poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ (A beautiful women without merci) written by John Keats has a connection between love and death, in the poem he evaluates that in the end if you love too much, then, you are not free. Love becomes haunting, it becomes and emotional effect for you. In the poem love has distrusted him. Love has engrossed him, love takes over your being. At the start of the poem he is full of grief, ‘no singing birds. ‘ Then he notices a ‘Lilly on thy braw’ this is an imagery of nature to describe death and dying. As he saw the beautiful lady he transformed.
The poem has a ghostly feeling. He chooses cold choice of words, ‘Withered Lake,’ ‘fading rose. ‘ It is as if he has been taken away to an after land to see what is going to happen, however, he comes back weaker then before. Some people in the 19th century poets explore the joys and problems of relationships by channelling view about marriage and the society in their time. In the Victorian era many men treated their wives as slaves and men were of thought as masters. As soon as the woman was to get married all her possessions belonged to the man.
The poem ‘A women to her lover’, is written by Christina Walsh in 1899. In the poem, Walsh refuses and rejects the Victorian attitude. She has obviously experienced this so she has a good idea of what she is interpreting in this poem. She opposes the slavery of women and the way in which, their husbands treat them. You relies that she mentions her lover as being dominative ‘bond slave’. She is very strong in her language as she says ‘If you want to treat me as a bond slave then I will refuse you no servant should I be. She gives a very negative approach in the first verse. She is not interested in a male dominative marriage.
If a man were not to be dominative I the Victorian times then the other approach would be to treat his wife as a God or a angle, and Christina Rossetti does not want to be recognised as ‘wingless angel’ who can do no wrong’ she does not want to be put on a pedal stroll and be worshipped. She does not want to be known as a physical person or as an idol, but as a whole person. She is challenging the Victorian views. I am no doll to dress’ she uses very strong use words. She interprets that she not a possession.
Walsh speaks about the only type of relationship she expects. This poem is based on Christina’s desire of Co. -equal love. She refuses the traditional servant and master of the relationship. The title is also interesting, this is because she is treating the lover as a possession by pronouncing it as ‘her’ lover. Therefor, there is a level of role reversal In the third verse she discusses more about lust, ‘clamorous desire’, ‘creature’ this is defining annular lust.
This is disagreeing marriage, she believes she is only seen for lust and the physical aspects and not for love. Walsh explains the only type of relationship she will expect. She talks about the passion part of the ideal relationship, ‘I shall be your comrade, friend and mate. ‘ In the last verse there is a great sense of togetherness, the last verse becomes more of a positive attitude. The tone changed during the poem.
She remarks the ideas of pure natural love, ‘together we may no the purity and height of passion and of joy and sorrow. She believes that the traditional thoughts of treating the wife is unacceptable and does not show true compassion of the love for one another. Walsh uses stylistic devices; reprition etc. The last sentence of the poem reflects religious ideas about God, this can reflect on the last sentence to the poem ‘How do I love thee. ‘ She states that love has no limits, love is beyond marriage and is eternal, and both poems have the idea of sanctity of marriage. She believes love is beyond the grave and ever lasting or transcendent ‘I am yours forever. ‘
In conclusion, it can be said that each writer has used various methods and techniques in order to express their love. This includes using euphemism and natural imagery to portray different feelings. I realised that one effective way is by describing a certain theme without actually mentioning it. This technique was shown by Christina Rossetti as death was a main theme in her poem. However, the word ‘death’ was not mentioned at all. In summary she does not believe that women should not be known or treated as slaves or beautiful objects, but as equal as everyone else should.