Compare two Victorian poems

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The two poems – Elizabeth Barret Browning’s Sonnet and Christina Rosetti’s Remember do not differ in type and genre. However, everything else about them is definitely different. The titles have many differences Barret Browning’s poem is quick and to the point. It is very simple and shows right from the beginning, the simplicity of the message in her poem. Rosetti however has a rather ambiguous title in many ways. There is no real clue to what the sonnet is going to be about. Remembering can be happy and sad, depending on the context.

Perhaps it makes you as a reader want to read but for me it made me feel puzzled and I worried what the poem would be like. The poems don’t differ that much in titles, as they are both very vague and do not give the reader that much of a clue as to what the poem will be about. However, although they titles do not differ that much there is the fact, that one seems very forthright and carefree whereas the other you get an impression of a tense atmosphere. Who are the writers? They are very similar in their upbringings.

They both well educated women. Both had religious backgrounds. However, Barret Browning gives off the very simple impression of a quick decisive bold and brave woman, whereas Rosetti gives of the dominated and shy woman who was living her life In 1800s when this poem was set. Christina gives us the impression of the idea that she uses this poem as a vent for her anger writing down every single last thing that has annoyed since she has been near this man “the future that you planned” is a good example of these annoyances she stresses the word you.

I am not saying Rosetti does not love her man; just that he has a few bad points. However they are in the same position both in a relationship. Both well educated woman, both about to make big choices in their lives. However, part of me says that Barret Browning will make the right choice and Rosetti will turn from her ideas and be dominated once more. What therefore I am trying to say is that although the authors may be different the meaning and after effects of the poem are very different. The settings are total opposites there are no similarities what so ever.

Barret Browning’s Sonnet is tranquil, physical and worldly and shows how much she wants to prove her love for this (mystery) man, whereas Christina Rosetti’s Remember is more contradictory in the area of love almost showing her lack of freedom “when no more day by day” shows lack of freedom everyday for her is the same she has no different routine. Her poem is much less physical and worldly words like “pray” and “smile” are part of everyday life. She fears of the love that this man is showing her “darkness and corruption” its almost giving us an insight into his mind.

The main difference is the different type of love each author is showing. Barrett Browning shows physical “depth and breadth and height” undying “I shall but love thee better after death” love, whereas Rosetti shows shy , insecure “yet if you should forget me” love. The tone of the poems again shows a distinct lack of similarities. There is only one I could see and that is that there is obviously and extent of devotion but perhaps Rosetti’s devotion has changed and doesn’t want to devote her love to him anymore. This shows there has obviously been a change in her love, love interest, or maybe her life itself.

Barrett Browning however, uses a tender, passionate and romantic tone throughout the poem, by using the repetition of “I love thee” nine time shows this passion. However I do think that Barret Browning’s man is very idealistic, she worships him like her dead family “I love thee with a love a seemed to lose with my lost saints”. He seems almost flawless. This is almost impossible as everyone has his or her flaws. The tone of each poem is very ambiguous it is for anyone to interpret, for me it is far too idealistic but the words she chooses are passionate and each one has some kind of symbolism.

For example she uses historic symbolism take the phrase “turn from praise” at the time there were was and men were murdering and breaking god’s laws so were “turning from praise” to God. Again, it shows religious imagery and her religious background/upbringing. She also uses political imagery “strive for right” at the time the poem was set men were striving for the right to vote without having to pay. This shows when the poem was set and the way she was brought up. On the other side of each poem’s imagery, Rosetti’s has much more depressing imagery.

She uses death, as a main theme and every so often she will the more morbid side to religion. Almost as if she was planning her funeral. This is where the two show there true differences and the very two different types of love they are both experiencing. Barrett Browning is experiencing the idealistic my love will last forever. Whereas Rosetti is experiencing controlled abused and unsatisfied love. The two poems have totally different imagery which gives off a certain showing of the difference of meanings.

There is a difference between Rosetti’s sad religious mix emotions and Barrett-Browning’s showing of definite love, tender, passionate and flawless love imagery. One hand there is happiness of love and on the other there is a depressing and the real story of what love was like in those days in the eyes of a woman forced to love a man so controlling a woman has no say in the future plans – “the future that you planned” the words that mean so much. It shows her bitterness and it sets the tone of bitterness throughout the rest of the poem. “You” not we not I, why? She is so controlled yet how is it she is so clever to realise it?

She has to use the poem as a vent for her feelings. She does not hate him but she has lost her love. The two poems languages are very odd they have similarities as they are both set at the same time, there is no colloquial language, everything is written down in proper English. The words used however, in the two poems are, very different. Elizabeth Barrett-Browning used loving words, passionate phrases “I love thee purely”, but Christina Rosetti uses ambiguous words in her poem. Phrases like “silent land” does it mean death, war zone, sleep or maybe a new life.

What does it mean? No one can be sure it is open for interpretation for me, I feel the theme of morbid and death plays a huge part. Is this “silent land” a place her to rest? Suicide? Is she that unhappy in this controlling relationship? Or does she just want to leave? “Gone away” does she want to vanish? Elizabeth Barrett-Browning uses the repetition on “I love thee” to show how much her love is worth. It shows the reader the pureness of her love.

There are also many “S” words such as “smiles and tears” also “P” words such as “purely” and “praise”. S” sounds also appear in Rosetti’s poem words such as “silent” and “darkness” these words soften the tone of the poem and give it a more flowing feeling. The Volta is non existent in Elizabeth-Browning’s Sonnet there is no change of mood there always the constant love. However, Rosetti has put a Volta in. Why? There’s a change in the mood in the first sextet it is all about remembering the bad things and to not forget her, but in the octet she talks about him remembering the good things and to not remember her. The Volta symbolises this change in mood, but there is not a tonal change. The vocabularies of the poems are very similar.

The words are simple and straightforward the only difference is that Elizabeth Barrett-Browning uses passionate vocabulary whereas, Rosetti, uses discordant, sour words like ” corruption” and “grieve” the words show the seriousness of the poem and the seriousness of the message. Elizabeth Barrett-Browning enumerates the way she loves by using words from the spiritual and human worlds. Her words are warm and affectionate with a lot of religious imagery. Words like “soul” and “saints”. Both poems are standard sonnets. Except in Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s case she uses eleven syllables in line five.

Both poems use enjambments and both, give the same effect, the effect of draw out the line. They both signal an impression of multi-meanings. Words like “smile” with “sad” and words like “sight” with “ideal grace”. Barrett-Browning’s sonnet gives a sense of continuity. Both Sonnets’ use Iambic Pentameter, Barrett-Browning uses it and gives of the effect of a clear and simple poem just like her clear and simple message. The speed of each line is very different from the next in Elizabeth Barret-Browning’s sonnet. She switches from n-stops and enjambement. The “P” sounds and the “E” sounds elongate the lines. The lines then become slower.

The same thing happens when the sad parts appear in Rosetti’s sonnet however; in her poem the sextet is more flowing and faster than the octet, this is because the theme has a more flowing feel and the use of elongating lines via enjambement makes the poem longer and flowing. Both messages are very different. Elizabeth’s sonnet is a true statement of love, but Christina is hiding her odium behind ardour. Her phrases and poem is ambiguous it is complex and reveals her true grieves and anxieties within her relationship. Two very different women wrote these poems. Their backgrounds may be similar but their love lives are very different.

Barrett-Browning appears less experienced in love. She has been struck my cupid’s fatal arrow for the first time, and loves every moment of it. Rosetti however, is more mature and is not there for love, but because she has been forced to comply. The two men in these sonnets are just as different as the writers. You get no inkling into what Barrett-Browning’s man looks like only the fact that there is a returning love, otherwise why write the poem? Whereas, Rosetti’s man is a conventional nineteenth century male, who believes he rules the household and that a woman’s place is in the home.

I felt happiness and a sustaining portrait of love when I read Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s sonnet. Yet when I read Christina Rosetti’s I felt melancholy and of darkness of love in the nineteenth century. I was intrigued to find out why anyone could put themselves through that anguish. Then I realised if she left him she would be a disgrace. Her family would not accept her and she would have to resort to something much worse. The constant reminder in her poem of forgetting made me think maybe she feels he is forgetting her.

The poem is sarcastic and bitter yet to a great extent saddening. Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s poem was heart warming and it felt too good to be true as though there was a catch. Both poems show the nature of love the two types of love. The two ways of love changing and how people change. One forced and one loving relationship. Every person is devoted in some way or another. In Barrett-Browning’s case there is devotion to each other but in Rosetti’s case there is the devotion to please the man and the man mentioned to be a devoted conventional man of the Victorian period.

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