It has been portrayed through music, film and books with almost every story ever written having some sort of love story held within. However, one of the most prominent ways love has been portrayed for thousands of years is through poetry. I will be looking at two pre 1900 poems to explore this theme of love. I have chosen; ‘Ballad’, be Anon and ‘Shall I compare thee…?’ by William Shakespeare.
Ballad is a story written about a woman who was left by her lover when he discovered she was pregnant. It is written by the women in the first person, to her child, this enhances the poems meaning as it helps you to see her pain and hopelessness as well as her love for this man. The form of this poem is in 4 line stanzas, using rhyming couplets, to tell a story in a simple and easy to understand way. The agony this women is feeling is obvious throughout her story as she often refers to death and suicide as is this poem could be her suicide note, for example in line 16:
‘Oh when will green grass cover me?’
This rhetorical question shows her desperation and how much she seeks the comfort of death. . Her feeling of concern for her child is so strong because at this time is was shameful and looked down upon to be a mother and child without a husband to look after them. This would have been especially for the child as he got older because he would have been an outcast to society, as is shown in line 33:
‘I dread the gloom, of sorrows in this time to come
When thou without a friend shalt be
Weeping on a strangers knee.’
These ballads written be Anon at this time were passed from generation to generation be mouth and the original author would never have been identified. Most of these ballads would have been about unfaithful lovers.
The theme of love is represented when she tells her child about her affair as in line 2: ‘He stole my liberty’, and also when she discusses her broken heart that this man left her with as in line 29: ‘He has two hearts and I have none.’ It shows how love can transport a person from one feeling to the next so dramatically.
The poems meaning is deepened with her ability to hate this man who caused her this pain and regret for her child, for example in line 41:
‘ I wish, my child, thods’t never been born,’
This shows the pain that this one man has caused her to grieve with.
The poem reminds the reader of how easy it is to fall in love with get carried away without thinking about the consequences. The narrator’s tone is one of desperation, this helps the reader to appreciate the pain this women is suffering from this man’s actions. To sum up I would say that the poet feels sadness about her loss of love, she wants us to understand how desperate and miserable she feels for herself and her child, and the affect that this man had on her life.
‘Shall I compare thee…?’ is a sonnet written by William Shakespeare. It is addressed to someone of extreme importance to him, written in the first person to emphasise how personal this poem is to whomever it was written to. The form of the poem is 4,4,4,2 giving a dramatic finish with the final two lines.
The sonnet is about eternal beauty and how the women to whom he is writing to is extremely special in his eyes. His main theme is how she will never lose her beauty and it will live forever through this sonnet. He sees this poem as a way of keeping her beauty alive, as whoever will read it after she dies will bring it back to life again. The sonnet is extremely romantic and shows how love was so important to pre 1900 poets and how it was often their inspiration for their work.
William Shakespeare uses appropriate language to convey a feeling of love, for example in line2:
‘Thou art more lovely’ and in line 1: ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’
In line 5 Shakespeare uses the metaphor: ‘Eye of heaven shines’ to show how her beauty could never be too hot but the sun could be, ie; she is better than a summer’s day. The eye of heaven is what he relates to as the sun.
The poem reflects Shakespeare’s feelings of love and beauty, which reminds the reader to see how the poem draws attention for them to see the inner beauty of each person. It helps the reader to get a clear image of the affect that a person can have on another person, relating to the affect of love.
The poem’s tone is one of true love. This helps the reader to appreciate the beauty of this women and Shakespeare’s feelings toward her. To sum up I would say that Shakespeare feels overwhelmed by this amazing beauty. Shakespeare wants everyone who reads it to feel his love for this women and to understand how inner beauty will live forever no matter the appearance for example in line 8-9:
‘By chance, or natures changing course untrim’d:
But thy eternal Sommer shall not fade.’
From reading these poems I have learned how love can make one person extremely happy and another extremely sad. It shows how different affects of the feeling can have on different people and how it can change a person’s life so dramatically. Pre 1900 poets felt very strongly about the theme of love and it often shows through their work, as it seems clear that it was one of their main inspirations. From studying these poems it is clear to see that love was very important in this time and how so many things were reliant on it, just like today.