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Poetry Of Love

Updated on October 31, 2008

Poetry is a form of literature which can be characterized by rhythm. Poetry may be short or may be long. There is no limit to themes that a poet may use for their poem. A poem can be about animals, nature, and a common theme, love. The two poems that will be discussed in the paper have a common theme of love. While one poem speaks of love for a woman, the other explains what love is in general. Theses two poems are "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats, and "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds" by no other than William Shakespeare.

In our first poem, "When You Are Old," Yeats uses his aesthetic language to rhyme about the love of a woman whom he addresses. He begins his poem by telling her that when she is "old and grey and full of sleep" and sitting by a fireplace, reading a book, she'll dream of the "soft look her eyes once had" as a younger woman. (Yeats 600) He continues by expressing how many men had loved her in her "moments of glad grace" which a youthful woman may possess. (Yeats 600) There were men who looked beyond her beauty and expressed true love and there were those who did not look at her inner beauty but the outer beauty with "love false." (Yeats 600) But there is one man, William Butler Yeats, who loved the questing, "pilgrim soul in [her]," and embraced and "loved the sorrows of [her] changing face "as she loses her youthful beauty. (600) As Yeats concludes his poem and the woman is by the "glowing bars," the fire place, she "murmurs, a little sadly," how love has escaped her and "hid his face amid a crowd of stars," which are always beautiful to look at. (600) Men's love for her will fade parallel to her beauty.

As mentioned before, this poem was written for a woman he loved. She was beautiful and all men loved her for her beauty. William Butler Yeats might have been one of the few that admired her beauty as well as her inner being. Like what many men go through, Yeats was rejected by this woman. This poetry is a result of that and may be a rather sweet vindication of her rejection.

William Shakespeare in his sonnet 116: "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds" explains what true love is. He opens his sonnet saying that he will not come in between the order of matrimony of "true minds" who also hold true love.(Shakespeare 616) For love is not truly love if it amends "when it alteration finds." (Shakespeare 616) A person who does not love anymore because of a change in his or her spouse did not possess true love. Love does not undertake divorce with the "remover to remove." (Shakespeare 616) Love is an "ever-fixed mark" that cannot be removed or erased or even shaken by storms. (Shakespeare 616) It is constant. Love is the star or guide for "every wandering bark." (Shakespeare 616) This may symbolize a marriage that may set assail and needs love to guide them. People who take the "height" of love but do not really know it's "worth," nature or meaning hence take love for granted. (Shakespeare 616) Love is not contingent on time and nor is it time's slave. But "rosy lips and cheeks" are "time's fool" which may last for a while and then slowly wither until time's "sickle's compass come." (Shakespeare 616) Time here is compared to death, because as death is a threat to us, time is a threat to love. Love is not like a silly crush or infatuation that may last for a day, a week or a month. Love distends and "bears it out even to the edge of doom," which is known as the Last Judgment where the fate of man's soul shall be determined. (Shakespeare 616) Shakespeare, in his sonnet, concludes that if his meaning of love "be error" and can be proved as erroneous belief, he had never written nor has he or any other individual "ever loved." (616) Since Shakespeare has written and man has loved, what Shakespeare writes in this sonnet must be true and love is an "ever-fixèd mark." (616)

The order of matrimony today has used references from this sonnet, "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds." The preacher asks the congregation looking upon the couple if they "know of any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it." (616) Shakespeare uses metaphors in his sonnet to describe love. He says love is "an ever fixèd mark", "the star to every wand' ring bark." (616)

Both poems are similar in terms of their theme, which is love. Both poems also reflect the changing of time and its effect on something. Time changes your youthful beauty and your "rosy lips and cheeks." (Shakespeare 616) Both poems also illustrate that true love does not change over time. Yeats love did not change for this woman as her beauty withered as time passed and Shakespeare explains that time does not hold on to love. Love is also used in both poems as a proper noun, capitalized, and therefore is personified. "When You Are Old" could be a direct example of Shakespeare's sonnet about what true love is. In sonnet 116, it states that "Love is not love which alters when it alterations finds." (Shakespeare 616) In Yeats' poem, men love the woman's beauty but do not express true love because as her beauty alters, their feeling about her alters. Yeats expresses true love for her because he says in his poem that he is the one man that will still love her through the alterations. This also reflects the idea that love "alters not with his brief hours and weeks." (Shakespeare 616) Personification is when an abstract or non-human object takes on a human characteristic. In "When You Are Old," love flees paces and takes on a face which love hides. A reason for this personification could be to put more emphasis on the importance of love. It also lends to the powerful meaning of love. Both have a similar rhyme scheme of c d c d, e f e f. The only difference is the concluding couplet which is ever so common in Shakespearean sonnets and the first stanza of "When You Are Old" which has rhyming a b b a. "sickle's compass come," (Shakespeare 616) and "moments of glad grace" (Yeats 600) are quotations from both poems that contains alliteration, a repetition of consonants at the beginning of words. The stars are also used in both poems. Both have a different meaning in each poem. In "When You Are Old," the stars, I believe, represent beauty and in "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds," the star is used as a guide for love. Though it is interesting how both love poems use this star for symbolism. Symbolism is also presented in the love poems. The reader can imagine an old and grey woman sitting by a fire, nodding while she's reading a book or a crowd of stars. In the sonnet, there's not as much imagery, but one can visualize "rosy lips and cheeks." (Shakespeare 616)

Reading both poems gives me a better idea of what love is, but many will never understand what love really is. Love is a timeless and universal theme that is used for poems and is different for each individual person. Though, as one reads different love poems, a comparison, besides the obvious theme of love, can be found amongst them, like the two poems discussed. I found that love poems are easier to interpret, but the theme is difficult to understand.


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    • urbanbutterfly09 profile image

      urbanbutterfly09 8 years ago from

      This is good!