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“First Love” by John Clare, “When We Two Parted” by Lord Byron and “A Woman To Her Lover” by Christina Walsh

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  • Category: Love

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Poets have written about love in many, possibly countless ways, each of them emphasising different aspects of an emotion which is at once both wide and deep. The romantic poets, who were part of a movement, beginning in the late eighteenth century, reacting against the conventions of classicism, saw the emotions and the senses as being more important than the reason and intellect that had been typical attributes of classicism and used their poetry as a means of expressing the power of the human imagination.

I have studied many love and loss poems including, “First Love” by John Clare, “When We Two Parted” by Lord Byron and “A Woman To Her Lover” by Christina Walsh. In “First Love” by John Clare, we see two main types of love, obsessive love and physical love. We can see physical love as the poet talks about and describes his lovers face. “Her face it bloomed like a sweet fire”, this shows how the poet sees the girl. The poet later says “I never saw a face so sweet”. The word “sweet” is repeated a few times in this poem, by which the idea of “sweet” is made stronger, and therefore shows obsessive love.

The very personal view of love and its impact on the individual that we see in “First Love” can be contrasted with Christina Rosetti’s “Remember”, where the beloved is urged to find a new love when the poet is dead – “Better by far you should forget and smile”, rather than to remain true and alone – “than that you should remember and be sad”. Rossetti’s vision is of an unselfish love whereas Clare’s is obsessive and selfish in the sense that the focus is on the poet rather than on the beloved. John Clare also writes about love by using musical imagery “Words from my eyes did start;/ They spoke as chords do from the string”.

Here shows a metaphor of words and even music springing from the intensity of his look. The poet also uses alliteration “And blood burnt around my heart”. This means his heart was on fire with desire. The alliteration “blood burnt” makes the poem sound more effective. Clare sees this love as something which is completely different from all that has gone before, “My life and all seemed turned to clay” – All his previous experience is seen as being dull and unexciting, like clay. “When We two Parted” by Lord Byron, one of the great romantics, is different to “First Love”. We see unrequited love rather than obsessive and physical love.

We can see this from the title “When We Two Parted” suggesting a loss, from a split between two people. The poem also deals with loss rather than love. The poet deals with three different times. The first time is when Byron is looking back at their time of parting, “when we two parted” The second part shows how it is now, in the present, which can be associated with sorrow. The final time is in the future when he writes about the potential sadness of a future meeting, “How should I greet thee”. Like “First Love”, Byron also uses repetition to make the poem more effective and so that it sounds with more emphasis, “Long, long shall I rue thee”.

Here is an example where the “long” has more emphasis due to the repeat. Both poems show personification of the heart “That thy heart could forget” this personification shows the heart being written about as if it was a person. The heart is the traditional symbol of love and this can be seen in both of the poems. “A Woman To Her Lover” by Christina Walsh is a poem, which is like a prenuptial agreement. The poem uses romantic love just like “A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti, which uses extreme feeling and emotion.

It also includes such things as a singing bird, an apple tree and a rainbow, which links to romantic love. “My heart is like a rainbow shell”. Romantic love is also seen in Edith Nesbit’s “Villegiature”, which is the French for a holiday or long break. In this poem Nesbit imagines her partner as being more romantic than he really is. “Your ghost last night climbed uninvited” this can be linked with the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare, as Romeo climbs the wall and is often portrayed climbing a tree to the balcony of Juliet’s window.

Also the word “ghost” demonstrates that it is not real, it did not really happen, it is a fantasy. Like, “First Love” and “When We Two Parted” Walsh also uses repetition. She repeats the word “your” illustrating she is not a possession and is against being his. Also the repetition makes it more effective. Later on in the poem, Walsh uses another form of repetition, parallel structure. It is a form of repetition, where it is not the actual words but the ideas that follow that are important, “To live and work, to love and die”.

A third type of repetition can be found almost at the very end of the fourth stanza, where successive lines commence “And”, almost like a drum beat emphasising the ideas that follow – for example “And our co-equal love”. Therefore, from the examples I have discussed from above, we can see how different romantic poets have given expression to different aspects of love – for example Clare’s obsessive love and Byron’s unrequited love and yet have used the same techniques such as alliteration, repetition and imagery to express the Romantic view of the power and intensity of emotion.

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