Using a selection of pre-twentieth century verse, compare and contrast the ways in which different poets approach the themes of love and loss.

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Task: Using a selection of pre-twentieth century verse, compare and contrast the ways in which different poets approach the themes of love and loss.

“When We Two Parted” written by Lord Byron, “Remember” written by Christina Rossetti and “My Last Duchess” written by Robert Browning are three pre-twentieth century poems about the ups and downs of love. “When We Two Parted” is a poem about Lord Byron’s own secret relationship that failed secretly and tragically when he called it off, yet he feels heartbroken when she finds someone else, breaking their promise to wait for each other. “Remember” also describes how the plans of lovers can go wrong. Rossetti tries to prepare her lover for her impending death. She asks only that he “remembers” her. Likewise, “My Last Duchess” includes the theme of death, as a paranoid Duke tells the story of how and why he killed his wife. While the poems vary in terms of style and techniques, all three poets tackle the issue of love and loss.

“When We Two Parted” is a first person narrated poem written for a specific audience. Byron uses the poem as a means by which to send his ex-lover a message in secret. In the poem he reflects upon the break up as he speaks in the past tense.  He tells us that they met in “secret”, which could mean there relationship was ethically unacceptable; this is what may have caused the break up. Byron says that their separation left both parties “Half broken-hearted” suggesting that they had promised each other to reunite at a more convenient time, most likely for him, which would have been a selfish request. Even though it was his selfishness that caused her to leave him, he still feels betrayed and as if her “vows are all broken”. He is upset to hear her “name spoken” in gossip as rumours of her seeing another man are spread. These unwanted rumours may have also caused Byron to give up any chance they might have had of getting back together. He would not want his reputation to be tarnished by hers.

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Byron uses symbolism to convey his emotional grief. He uses the word “cold” to express the unwillingness of his former lover to split up. “Colder thy kiss” illustrates how upset the woman was about the break up and how she was against it, suggesting Byron was the one who called it off. Even after her “cold” departure, he still feels the “chill” of the separation. Looking back at Lord Byron’s life leads us to believe that this poem is autobiographical, as he was known to have both secret and socially inappropriate relationships. What the poem does not look at is ...

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This is a very articulate, comparative essay, which provides interesting parallels and contrasts between the poems. With more attention to quotation and closer observation of poetic techniques, it would have achieved the highest rating. ****