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Sonnet 43 and So, We’ll Go No More A-Roving

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Sonnet 43 is a petrarchan sonnet written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the Victorian age. Through this sonnet she expresses her intense love for her husband, Robert Browning. Her love is shown sensual as well as emotional. It also appears to us that the Elizabeth Browning is reading this poem to her husband who is very sad at the moment. The poem starts with a rhetorical question, “How do I Love thee? ” and the theme of love is replete in the poem. The word ‘love’ is used ten times in the sonnet. The sonnet is written with the rhyme scheme A B B A, A B B A, C D C, D C D. It is written in iambic pentameter.

She briefly talks about the grief of her husband due to the death of his mother, as well as her own grief of leaving her father while eloping with her husband. She repeats the phrase “I love thee” eight times in the sonnet out of which thrice is one after the other (anaphora or repetition) and this phrase can be given the title of the poem. This sonnet was published under the title ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’. Her love for her husband is eternal, as she will love him even after her death and her love also shows her faith in the Christian ideology in the immortality of the soul.

She says that her love for her husband is so deep that it is rendered immeasurable. Her love cannot be weighed and measured in physical quantities; it is eternal and immortal. In the first line we find a mark of exclamation. This mark shows how she is lost in the contemplation of her love and how she is in a state of stupor. She has used a number of similes, metaphors, enjambment and visual imageries of sun and candlelight to make her claims more emotional and stronger. The images of sun and candlelight show that her love has given her the embers and sparks of life.

After the sestet (a Volta), she says that she loves him with the same intensity with which man craves for his rights. If her love is passionate, it is also as spiritual as those of the people who return from the church. She has matured and lost her faith in the dreams of childhood but her love is as strong as the faith of a child that is beyond any restrains and constraints. With the passage of time, she has given up many things in her life such as her childhood memories, her life at her parents’ house etc. But her love cannot be limited even by the concepts of time and space.

This poem is remarkable for the biblical imagery. She explains her love for her husband in three-dimensional terms, just like the Israelites who loved god despite their not having seen him. Just like the Israelites she also seems to worship her husband. In the line, “For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace”, the capitalization of the letters B, I and G, she asserts that her love is divine and that she is living for her love only. With the help of this line “I love thee… Praise”, she claims that her love not just emotional, but also religious, spiritual and metaphysical.

She personifies her love as an angel who is both humble and righteous. In the line “In my old griefs… faith”, she says that she suffers from the same passion as that of the Christ during crucifixion. By childhood faith she means that her love is blind, as well as poor. “With my lost saints” by lost saints she means that she loves her husband with the same intensity with which she loved her saints, her mother and her mother. George Gordon, Lord Byron’s poem was written in 1817 by him to Thomas Moore. This great romantic poem is also called a ballad.

Like the romantics, Byron has freely used the object of nature such as night, day, and moon. The poem starts with the conjunction soul, which means that Byron will conclude his ideas at the end of the poem. More than telling others, Byron is trying to convince himself that he will bring an end to his reveling and partying instincts. The poem is written in tetrameter and the rhyme scheme is A B A B, C D C D, E F E F. In the second stanza, Byron wants to convince himself psychologically that there is an end to everything. It is time he gave up his drunken orgies.

He says that everything is mortal in nature and one day even the soul gives up the body. Things come to such a pass that the sword wants to be aloof from the scabbard (Byron makes a sexual undertone by using the words sword and sheath). The lines “For… Sheath” and “And… breast” are beautiful for symbolic and figurative imagery. In the second stanza he goes to the extent that the heart must pause to breathe. The word ‘breathe’ refers to drinking and merry making. The stanza also portrays the battle raging between his heart and mind.

He wants to follow the laws of nature but his human nature pulls him towards carousing. In the third stanza, we again find a coordinating conjunction ‘though’. This conjunction again brings him away from reality and truth. For a moment we find Byron’s parabolic flight to a world where wine and women are the order of the day. Byron puts a constraint on his sensuality by uttering the word ‘day’ that refers to soberness and cleansing. The word ‘too’ again shows that Byron is again in a fix. The abyss between his heart and mind broadens, as he is not able to reconcile to his decision.

The last line of the poem, “By the light of the moon”, again refers to the changeable and inconstant nature of the moon and the man. But he is successful in taking the final decision that he must give up the pleasures of wine, women and wealth. The theme of love in the two poems ……… The theme of love has been one of the most common ones on which the poets dwell at large with the help of figurative devices such as similes, metaphors, personifications etc. Love is a theme that can be written and expressed in many ways, using many different literary devices, such as metaphors, similes, personification, allusion, etc.

The poems, Sonnet 43 written by Elizabeth Barret Browning, and So we will go no more a-roving by Byron are both very different from each other as they both are conveying different messages. Byron talks about the reality of love which is it is difficult to stick to as unlike Shakespeare’s love, his love is not heavenly, whereas Sonnet 43 talks about how love is a necessity in life and how much one loves it. The poems are similar in that they deal with the theme of love but are very different from each other in terms of various kinds of love they portray.

They are similar in some other ways such as the type of literature and literary devices used. Uses of literary devices are crucial in poems, as they express the poets thought more in depth and give their readers a better view about what the poet is trying to convey to them. The love of Elizabeth is multi-dimensional: spiritual, passionate, metaphysical and emotional. If on one hand she feels the same passion for her husband as that of Christ during crucifixion, her love becomes abstract as well when she talks about its three dimensions. But Byron’s love is the exact opposite of what Elizabeth feels.

For Byron love is a commodity to be enjoyed with and eventually become cloyed with. It is not heavenly and immortal, but humane, as it has to follow the cycles of birth and death. But unlike him Elizabeth will love her husband even after she is dead (if god wills so). Both the poets stress that love is not a thing which is lying anywhere to be picked and absorbed. Love is inherent and instinctive in nature. And both the poets are similar when we see the autobiographical element in the journey of their life. Love was not easy, and the poets had to elope to Italy to give a flight of reality to their ambition and aspirations.

The poets convey different messages. Elizabeth says that love is the most essential goal of her life. Love is the eddying of her living soul. It is such a pure thing that cannot be attained by a sensual and proud man like Byron. On the other hand Byron too speaks about its significance but also of its destructive nature. Byron’s love was never complete as his love lacked spirituality. He shows the passionate nature of love, which proves deadly to him who bears it. Byron’s failed marriage and his affairs with his cousin and half sister show that love is only a temporary stage in the life of a man.

And just like childhood and youth, one had to reconcile to the fact that love like all the objects of nature is bound to die one day. The poems written in different ages show the different perceptions of the poets. Since love was considered divine and as an object of worship in the Victorian age, it is the altar of god for Elizabeth. But Byron as one of the leading poets of the romantic era shows its passionate and vulnerable side. The purpose of the writers while dealing with the theme of love is to show the readers the two contrary aspects of love.

It can be healing as well as destructive. Both the poems give us remarkable messages. If Elizabeth identifies her love as her redeemer as something which is her heart and soul, Byron is of the opinion that this love, once having become epicurean or cloyed, must give this awakening to a man that he has to move on with the journey of his life, leaving material things behind. Perhaps Byron too wants to say that he is fed up with materialistic things, and wants to go to the lap of nature to pause, to breathe and to meditate on the true meaning of love and his life.

The poets conclude their poems with a optimistic note Elizabeth is optimistic that she will attain the fullness of her love in the coming cycles of life (if any) Byron says that he has been able to give a new direction to his life where he has to forget his past and make a new beginning. The erratic and irrational behavior of Byron had sunk him to the depths of infamy and notoriety, and it is time he contemplated on the other meaning of love. The poets have used a number of figurative devices to express their sentiments such as similes, metaphors and visual imageries. The sonnet and the ballads have metaphors in the lines:

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace, lost saints, sword outwears its sheath, and the soul wears out the breast. Visual imagery in sun and candlelight, and bright moon. Although the poems were written in different ages both the poets have used the objects of nature to give a spontaneity to their feelings such as the sun, the moon, the faith of childhood etc. both feel the didactic feature of love as it elevates them to a higher status from that of an ordinary being. But if Elizabeth’s love is as constant as the North Star Byron’s is as inconstant as that of the phases of the moon.

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