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Poetry Appreciation Essay

In this essay I am going to compare and contrast ‘When we two parted’ a poem of George Gordon, Lord Byron’s written in 1815 and Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s ‘Love’s last lesson’ written in c1838, both poets are British and of the romantic period. ‘When we two parted’ is an elegy of the loss of love, Byron is reflecting and analyzing a relationship that has already ended. His grief, anger and despair, intensifies his use of first person, which maintains a strong impact on the audience throughout. The poem is powerful, personal and unreserved, the emotion and passion is definitely felt through his writing. Byron’s message is ambiguous; so the reader is able to make their own assumption this is the beauty of the poem, it is subject to individual interpretation, making it inclusive and relatable to many different situations.

The structure of the poem is separated into four stanzas each one being an octet. Punctuation suggests that every two lines can be read as one, the metre of the poem is iambic pentameter, each line having 5 iambs and 10 syllables when two lines are read as one. The rhyming pattern in stanza one, two and four is ababcdcd but stanza three is ababacac. The poem mainly has a regular rhyming scheme but the ‘flow’ is disrupted in stanzas one and four lines five and six, I am not sure if this was intentional. I believe the poem can be interpreted in many different ways; the overall impression is the separation of two lovers, throughout the poem there are numerous references suggesting bereavement, loss and infidelity.

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In the first Stanza the metaphor ‘Pale grew thy cheek and cold, colder thy kiss;’ uses pale and cold in contrast with the rosy warm imagery of life, this could very well be an indication of death but could simply be an exaggeration of how he felt after the break up. On Line four the statement ‘To sever for years’ is ambiguous as it suggests a lengthy separation but can also mean cut in two therefore could be related to line three ‘Half broken- hearted’, another interesting point is that the Byron used the word years rather than eternity or forever, maybe there was a hope of being reunited again in the future. ‘Sorrow’ symbolizes the grief and mourning he feels, not necessarily for somebody who has passed away simply just a loss.

In stanza two ‘The dew of the morning, Sunk chill on my brow’ the dew is the cold wet, the image of rain could be an allegory of tears and signifying his misery. ‘Thy vows are all broken,’ implies his ‘lover’ was or is married or the promises she made to him were shattered, subsequently Byron speaks of feeling ashamed when he hears his/her name, possibly because their relationship was illicit . The following stanza uses a powerful expression ‘They name thee before me, A knell to mine ear; A shudder comes o’er me’ a knell is the sound of a depressing bell rung slowly at a funeral, his lover may have died or Byron could again be exaggerating his emotions, speaking as though his lover or ex lover has passed away.

On line twenty Lord Byron asks ‘Why wert thou so dear?’ why were you so special? Or why did I love you so much?, he is questioning and resenting these feelings, the poem then goes on to assert that nobody was aware of the relationship not even those that knew them both well, ‘Long, long shall I rue thee, too deeply to tell,’ Byron is clearly saying that he bitterly regrets the situation, wishing it had never occurred maybe even feeling guilty if his lover was married. Finally the fourth stanza confirms an affair of some sort ‘In secret we met- In silence I grieve, That thy heart could forget, Thy spirit deceive’, if his lover had died or merely returned to his/her partner, then he would still grieve in silence as the relationship was private, Byron feels betrayed and bitter about the relationship, the use of the word ‘spirit’ again gives the impression of death.

‘If I should meet thee, after long years, how should I greet thee! With silence and tears’, the last line of the poem is a reverberation of the second line; giving an impression of irresolution, whilst the exclamation mark puts the echoed line in a different context, when they meet again it will be with silence and tears however the silence will have a different meaning and the tears will not be ones of sorrow.

It is almost like each stanza represents the cycle of Byron’s emotions, stanza one is the initial breakup and the start of his grieving process, in stanza two Byron is still distressed and goes on to express his disappointment and embarrassment, by stanza three he is ashamed of himself, questioning the love and deeply regretting the situation finally in stanza four he is bitter and fantasising of how he would disregard her/him if they were to ever meet again.

Love’s last lesson’ is a soliloquy representing Landon’s frustration. My impression is that the character has fallen for somebody who hasn’t returned her love or wasn’t taking the ‘relationship’ as seriously as she was. The structure of the poem is free verse; it has neither regular metre nor rhyme In lines one to eight Landon expresses her anger and frustration towards her ex love, who has obviously moved on and forgotten their relationship with ease, she cannot comprehend how it is her that’s been dismissed as she feels she was the perfect companion. Landon uses words from a semantic field of religion ‘I who have worshipp’d thee, my god on earth’ is a strong statement but the metaphor emphasizes her absolute adoration for him.

‘Your last command, forget me, ‘she speaks about him as though he has control over her and she must obey him. ‘Will it not sink deeply down within my inmost soul?’ questioning herself for comfort the poet doesn’t think it’s possible to move on, ‘Forget thee! – ay, forgetfulness will be a mercy to me’ she genuinely wishes she could evade her emotions, it would cease her heartache. The hurt has taken control of her life to the extent of avoiding sleep in fear; she relives the agony in her nightmares ‘a dream had made me live my woes again’.

The dreams she has are in fact worse than reality, ‘Acting my wretchedness, without the hope my foolish heart still clings to,’ the only thing Landon can do now is ‘hope’ that there will be some progression even though she herself thinks it’s highly unlikely, her hope is the only positive thing she has left other than the heartache and sorrow, she uses the simile of hope being like a drug that calms her pain slightly until the realisation hits which makes it unbearable ‘double torture’.

Landon is isolated and spending her days alone feelings nervous and uneasy, ‘when a breath sent the crimson to my cheek, like the red gushing of a sudden wound; by all the careless looks and the careless words which have to me been like the scorpions stinging’ crimson and red flushing to the cheek gives an imagery of shame, this gave me the impression of defamation, Landon may have a history that she isn’t proud of and that is what she actually wants to forget, the way she is being disregarded is what is hurting more than anything as she said it was like a ‘scorpion stinging’ which is a simile for unspeakable pain. In this stanza Landon makes some powerful statements; her happiness has been destroyed forever, she’s deemed with perpetual misery, her feelings have been wasted, her health destroyed, her hopes have been crushed and her heart stole,

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