Most Tudor and Elizabethan poems have the content of love, but each looks upon love differently; some praising it, others despising it. Some discuss true, Neo-Platonic, Courtly love, whereas others talk of a false kind of love, simply sexually orientated. In any case, the type of love is portrayed by the form, tone, mood and voice of the poem; and the use of rhyme, rhythm and imagery.
‘Since There’s No Help’ appears to be a poem of love-parting and falling out of love in the beginning, with the speaker only wanting to be friends with the woman;
“Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows”.
However, by the end of the poem, following the volta at the last two lines, it is clear that the content of the poem is not about love-parting, but rather love-reconciliation and reunion. To create this twist, the author Michael Drayton ensures that the audience believes that the speaker is condemning love and that the poem is in fact about falling out of love, and uncertainty about love. To do this, he uses various literary techniques to create a certain tone and mood. The poetic voice of the poem, or the speaker, is probably Drayton himself, as there is a strong probability that the poem is about Anne Goodere, the daughter of Sir Henry Goodere, whom Drayton loved but could not have because she married another man. The fact that Drayton is the speaker sets a certain tone, which seems to be that of uncertainty, and perhaps even anger. There is little emotion, which is backed up by the lines;
“And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.”
Because of this tone of voice, the mood is also melancholy and the atmosphere is of sadness. The tone at the start of the poem is also set by the use of monosybyllic words to create a caesura effect. Combined with plain speaking, this creates the unemotional tone and makes love seem damaging. Use of repetition, metaphors, and excessive use of personification, eg. ‘Love’s latest breath’, makes the speaker sound confused and unsure of his feelings. He is trying to convince himself that he is happy without love, but because of the tone of the poem, he is undermined.
The form of the poem, a Shakespearean sonnet, means that there is a volta, or turning point, at the end of the poem. In this poem, after the volta, the poem conforms with the idea of Courtly love, with the speaker having hope that his love may recover. This means that the poem is in the end Neo-Platonic. This change from love being shallow to Neo-Platonic is created by the use of a paradox in the final line;
“From death to life though might’st him yet recover”.
This imagery of ‘death to life’ symbolises hope that love, which was dead, could come back to life for the speaker.
‘Since There’s No Help’ therefore portrays love in a Courtly and Neo-Platonic fashion in the end, after describing it in an unsure and unemotional way by use of a volta and paradox.
Sonnet 130 is similar to ‘Since There’s No Help’ in portraying Courtly love after a volta, whereas before the volta it appears to mock Courtly love. The poem begins with a speaker, probably not Shakespeare himself, thus fictional, describing an ‘unlovable woman’. It contains a series of opposite comparisons to mock Courtly love. If the poem were to conform to Courtly love, then it would depict and describe a perfect woman, who could only be loved because of her beauty, comparing her to the most beautiful things in the world. However, it does the opposite of this, by saying that the woman is nothing like these beautiful things.
Thus it is similar to ‘Since There’s No Help’ by appearing to be a poem about not loving rather than loving a woman. As in ‘Since There’s No Help’, the poem uses lots of metaphors and comparisons to describe the person. After a minor volta in line 9, the poem changes tone and stops completely criticising the woman and instead begins to praise her. After the major volta in line 13, the poem, like ‘Since There’s No Help’, conforms to Courtly love, as the speaker says that he loves the woman even if she is not perfect. However, this sudden change in tone leads the audience to challenge whether the poem is genuinely Courtly, or mocking Courtly love.
Thus the two poems ‘Since There’s No Help’ and Sonnet 130 are similar in the way in which they describe love by starting by not conforming to Courtly love ideas, and finishing by conforming.
Different to these two poems is ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’, which does not conform to Courtly love or neo-Platonism. Instead, it appears pastoral, the speaker offering a perfect natural world to a woman. It uses luxurious language to lure in his woman. However, it becomes suspicious when the speaker offers the woman luxurious clothes, which does not conform with pastoral ideas of shepherds – shepherds do not wear luxurious clothes. The speaker and the woman will therefore feel ‘above’ the shepherds, who would entertain them.
Therefore the poem is no longer pastoral because there would be no class in a pastoral world. Thus the poem is not trying to win a woman that the speaker would love divinely, ie. Platonically and Courtly. Instead it is trying to seduce a woman for sexual desire, by greed and vanity. Thus, oppositely to ‘Since There’s No Help’ and Sonnet 130, ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’ begins by sounding like a pastoral love poem, but ends by not conforming with pastoral, Platonic or Courtly ideas. The others of course, begin by not conforming and ending by conforming.
In conclusion, therefore, love is portrayed differently in Shakespearian and Tudor poems. The three poems that I have mentioned all use Courtly, pastoral and platonic ideas and use them to create a twist at the end of the poem but either suddenly conforming with the ideas after not conforming with them before (‘Since There’s No Help’ and ‘Sonnet 130’), and vice versa (‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’).