First Love – Clare, My Last Duchess – Browning

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This poem is about someone experiencing love for the first time. “I ne’er was struck before that hour With love so sudden and so sweet.”

The poet compares the face of the woman to a flower “Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower.” He describes how the feeling of love affects him physically “my face turned pale…my legs refused to walk away.” He describes his life as “turned to clay.”

The word ‘heart’ is used several times in the poem. In line 4 he talks of his heart being stolen, in line 14 his words came from his heart, and in line 23 he talks about how his heart will never be the same again.

He uses the images of nature e.g. trees, bushes and flowers to describe how the love he feels changes his views “The trees and bushes round the place seemed midnight at noonday.”

First Love is split into 3 stanzas each with 8 lines alternating in rhyme.

Each stanza represents a different state of mind. The first stanza represents the physical impact the woman has on him. In the second stanza he continues the theme of the physical impact but his mood becomes darker. In the last stanza he contrasts his mood with winter and talks about how he feels changed forever.

My Last Duchess – Browning

The content of this poem is a dramatic monologue of the Duke speaking to a servant of the Count.

In this poem the Duke is describing to the servant how he killed ‘My Last Duchess.’ “But who passed without much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands as if alive.” In it he tries to justify his behaviour by blaming the duchess. He describes her flirtatious character, how she enjoyed flattery and how she was “too easily impressed.”

The Duke killed the Duchess because of his immense jealousy of her attention to other men.

The content of the poem is more about the character of the Duke. He shows his possessiveness of the Duchess even in his death. He still continues to keep her portrait covered up and chooses who to let look at it “the depth and passion of that earnest glance, but to myself they turned (since none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I)”

The Duke keeps the Duchess as a work of art with the rest of his collection.

The duke’s style is very cold. The language his uses is arrogant “I choose never to stoop.” When describing her death “All smiles stopped together.” You can sense how powerful and in control he feels.

‘My Last Duchess’ is a single stanza poem with rhyming couplets as the rhyme pattern.

To His Coy Mistress – Marvell

Marvell, in “To His Coy Mistress”, through clever use of language, attempts to win over the love of his Coy Lady.

In the first sentence he refers to not enough time for her to play “coy” and then he continues to declare his love for her since time began “I would love you ten years before the Flood, and you should, if you please refuse, till the conversion of the Jews.”

He uses ‘space’ to describe how strong and deep his love is for her.

References to the bible are used satirically to show his love. He assures her that he would wait if there were enough time and that she deserves the very best.

In the second stanza the language changes and he tries to convince her that the time left they have together could not be long and they will have regrets when it is too late. He uses strong language to try and scare her. He talks about death and graves “then worms will try that long preserved virginity, and your quaint honour turn to dust.”

In the last stanza, Marvell is back in the present tense to conclude how he feels. In the first sentence he is asking her to return his love while they are still young.

Marvell hopes, that by being positive in the last stanza he will convince his Lady that their time is now and they should not wait “Now let us sport us while we may, and now like amorous birds of prey, rather at once our time devour, than languish in his slow-chapt power.”

The overall structure of the poem is like a clever argument put together to win over the love of his lady. Marvell was a politician and uses this argumentative style as though he were in parliament arguing a case. In this poem he hopes that he will win his lady by his witty argument.

The final couplet in each stanza declares his love in a powerful way and reassures his lady that she deserves the best.

Shall I compare thee? – Shakespeare

In the sonnet, Shakespeare is declaring his love and comparing it to an image more lovely than a summer’s day.

He wants his love to be thought of as immortal and he believes that the words he uses to describe the love he feels will last forever.

‘Shall I Compare thee?’ has a similar theme to many of Shakespeare’s sonnets. He thinks of time as cruel and that by recording his love in a poem, they will last forever even if the love he feels dies “but thy eternal Summer shall not fade, nor loose possession of that faire thou ow’st.”

Throughout this sonnet he uses the image of the seasons and weather to compare with his feelings. “Summer”, “Temperate”, “rough windes”, “Maie” and “Natures changing course” are all words used to describe his state of mind.

Although Shakespeare was writing in the 16th century, his thoughts are similar to ours in this century.

The language Shakespeare uses convinces you to agree with him. It is very persuasive. The style of the sonnet is put together in quatrains, which are blocks of four lines. They are then made up of rhyming lines (a couplet). The last two lines reinforce Shakespeare’s main theme of this sonnet. They are a kind of answer to a problem, which the reader may have…

“So long as men can breath or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

The Flea – Donne

The situation in this poem is Donne comparing two people becoming one through their love. The flea describes the poet’s attempts to seduce his mistress. Donne has a clever use of language and has a natural wit and intelligence and uses these skills to persuade his mistress to become his lover. His mistress is reluctant but Donne sets out to woo her by his clever use of argument. In the first stanza he convinces her that to loose her virginity would not be shameful or a sin:

“Thou know’st that this cannot be said

A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead.”

The flea is an unusual comparison to make to love. A flea is an unattractive image and not one that would be thought of in thoughts of romance and love.

Donne was ordained to the church and a religious influence is seen in the first two stanzas of “The Flea.” He talks of marriage as a temple and the lives of the lovers cloistered.

Donne blackmails his mistress in the second stanza and talks of death of all three of them if she does not give in to him…

“Though use make you apt to kill me,

Let not to that, self murder added be,

And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.”

Porphyria’s Lover – Browning

This monologue sets the scene with the description of a stormy night “tore the elm-tops down for spite.” Browning is grieving for his lover. When Porphyria enters the room, his mood lightens – she makes up the fire and shuts out the storm. It immediately lightens his attitude.

He describes in great detail as she removes her wet clothes and lets her hair down to dry. She sits down beside him and her hair covers her cheek. Then as she is telling him she loves him, something seems to snap and he strangles her with her own hair. It is important to him that she feels no pain. He holds her and opens her eyes and unties the hair from her neck. He continues to describe how her cheeks are blushing again as they did after he kissed her.

He then describes how he sits with her drooping head upon his shoulder all night long.

“Passion sometimes would prevail” gives us a clue as to why Browning decides to kill his lover. Their love is a secret love and his wish is for it to come out in the open.

His possessiveness is shown throughout his use of the word “mine” which appears several times “that moment she was mine, mine, fair, perfectly pure and good.”

There is obvious doubt in his mind that she is faithful to him.

This moment when Porphyria belongs to him only, is one that Browning wants to preserve. His way of immortalising the moment of love is to kill her and remember her as exclusively his.

He uses a beautiful image of a flower holding a bee to describe the terrible moment when he opens his dead love’s eyes. “As a shut bud that holds a bee, I warily oped her lids…”

When he sees her blue eyes still smiling he believed she died happy. Browning believes that Porphyria never wanted to leave him and he wants to make sure that this never happens. Death will make sure this happens.

The state of his mind is very disturbed as all night long he sits holding his dead lover.

The style of this monologue is very dramatic and succeeds in setting the scene very well.

I found Porphyria’s lover the most effective and memorable poem because I thought the dramatic monologue helped a lot to set the scene.

I think this poem is particularly strong as a love poem as it describes how intense the author’s love is for his lover. It is very dramatic that to preserve their love he is willing to kill her. I think the language used is fairly simple but effective compared to the other poems. It makes me think what a strange kind of love these two people shared.

In his life, browning had a true romance with his wife Elizabeth who he saved from her tyrannical father. They ran away and married and had a passionate love until her death. Elizabeth Barrett was also a great love poet and I think this poem shows a great understanding of a passionate, obsessive love.

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