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How do poets writing before the 20th Century Write about Love?

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How do poets writing before the 20th Century Write about Love? I have chosen three poems, 'My last Duchess', 'Porphyria's Lover' by Robert Browning and 'The Flea' by John Donne to look at the way love is written about, by these poets and through the poems. The poem 'My Last Duchess' by Browning shows a possessive and clingy love, and I think the poet writes about love in less attached and less emotion filled way than what we would expect of a love poem. Browning uses relatively short sentences and broken speech throughout the poem and this gives the whole poem less emotion. The male position in this poem is narrative and is told by the Duke, he feels that he needs to be the centre of the Duchess' affections, 'My favour at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the west,' This shows that he is bitter about the fact that she loves him as an everyday thing. Browning may be suggesting routine in love, he writes about it in a way that we can relate to, with pauses for atmosphere and feeling to be created. There is passion, and anger behind this phrase, that the Duke wants to command her actions, as she is not behaving in a way that pleases him. ...read more.


We can see, in 'Porphyria's Lover', that possessiveness in line 36, 'That moment she was mine, mine, fair...' The repeated words make it seem slightly aggressive and manic, and this phrasing gives us the feeling of being on edge, a victorious moment for the lover. I think this phrase has a slight tone of desperation, how he wants to capture her and keep her. He has this feeling of victory because he has her, and he is in possession of her. This is a bit like the feeling of having to conquer love in 'My Last Duchess'. Perhaps Browning is trying to suggest he feels love has to be conquered, and in order for love to be true or to have happiness in one part, then someone has to feel they have conquered the love or the person. This suggests that selfish and self-absorbed love like in 'My Last Duchess', in the way that the Duke always has to hold all the love for himself, and feel like he is the only person in the Duchess' life. This is a similarity in the way that love is portrayed. In this poem, Porphyria's Lover, the love is also earnest and intense, and Browning uses thick imagery to depict love and personification at the beginning of the poem 'It tore to elmtops down for spite,' This use of language helps the reader to identify with the emotion, and helps us see every detail of the scene. ...read more.


However, I think this also helps us to see how the man is trying to take control of the situation, and we also see that they are all pretty selfish in the poems, because they think of their own interests before their lovers. In 'Porphyria's Lover', for example he says that killing her is 'fair...' and 'yet God has not said a word!' This shows that he thinks he deserves to have her, and that no one has interrupted, so he is in the right. 'And I, its love, am gained instead!' We see the narrator's selfishness; he doesn't spare her feelings. The narrators can only think of what they want. The poets write about conduct in relationships, they show love through this conduct. The Duke showed his love by jealousy, 'Sir, 'twas not Her husband's presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess'. Porphyria's lover showed his love through death, 'Three times her little throat around, And strangled her.' In the Flea, love is shown through sexual persuasion, and how much he wants her. 'Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,' These all show some form of love, even if it isn't the traditional true love that we first assume would be concealed in these poems. The love shown in these poems isn't the usual type of 'true' love, and they have chosen strange situations and people to represent love. ...read more.

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