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How does the feeling of loss exist in all four of these poems?

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Introduction

How does the feeling of loss exist in all four of these poems? I am comparing "On my first Sonne" by Ben Jonson (a pre-1914 piece of poetry, written in 1616), "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning (a pre-1914 piece of poetry, written in 1845), "Mid-Term Break" by Seamus Heaney (a piece of poetry from the Heaney bank) and "Cold Knap Lake" by Gillian Clarke (a piece of poetry from the Clarke bank). The poem, "On my first Sonne" is about the loss of a close family member, Ben Jonson's first son, who died at the age of seven. The poem is about the poet coming to terms with the truth, that his first son had died and he would never see him again. In the poem, the poet goes through different stages of grief and he is very emotional about his loss. The poem opens on an emotional note, "Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy; My sinne was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy." Even though, in the 1600's, the death of a child was very common, the poet expresses deep sorrow for his loss. He talks about how he committed a sin: of loving his son too much when his son was lent to him, and he paid the price (his son died). "Seven yeeres tho'wert lent to me, and I thee pay, Exacted by thy fate, on the just day." ...read more.

Middle

Although it is the shortest poem of the four, it is a powerful poem full of love and emotion. A closer look at the poem "My Last Duchess" shows that it is also written as a monologue, but the speaker in the poem is not the poet but The Duke. The Duke is probably an imaginary character as are the other characters in the poem: The Duchess, the painter and the visitor. The main device in the poem is ambiguity. The reader does not know for sure how the Duchess died although one assumes she did. In a similar way, the reader does not know what the painter said to the Duchess. "Sir, 'twas not Her husband's presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess' cheek." When the Duke tells us that the Duchess "liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere," we have to try to guess what he means. The poem begins with the Duke showing his visitor the painting of his late wife. At the end of the poem, the Duke shows his visitor another piece of art, a large statue "Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me." In between, there is a terrifying story of power, death and honour which the reader does not fully understand. "My Last Duchess" is the longest poem of the four which I am comparing. It contains fifty-six lines composed of 28 rhyming couplets. ...read more.

Conclusion

Clarke compares memory and the loss of memory to Cold Knap Lake after the surface of the lake is disturbed by "the treading, heavy webs of swans." In the final two lines, a rhyming couplet, the poet concludes that, "All lost things lie under closing water in that lake with the poor man's daughter." Like the loss of memory over time, the near-death of the girl in the lake remains slightly mysterious. The structure of "Cold Knap Lake" is a pattern of a four-line stanza followed by a six-line stanza which is repeated once. Again, like the poem "Mid-Term Break," this poem is a 22-line poem ending with a powerful rhyming couplet. Clarke tells the story in her own words, but the language changes in stanza four to become quite descriptive and less straight-forward. Although the child survives her accident, the poem "Cold Knap Lake" ends with a strong sense of loss. In conclusion, all of the poems I compared deal with the theme of loss, although each poet approaches the subject in a different way. In the poem "On my first Sonne," Jonson opens the poem on a very emotional note. This is the only poem that actually uses the word love: "lov'd boy." The poet expresses his strong Christian faith and his distress at his son's death is very apparent to the reader. In contrast to the emotions expressed in Jonson's poem, the poem "My Last Duchess" displays a lack of emotive language. The reader does not know what Browning's attitudes or feelings toward the Duke, the Duchess, or their situation actually were. ...read more.

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