Representations of Romantic Love in Poetry Across the Periods

1480 Words Oct 9th, 2008 6 Pages
Romantic love has been the subject of endless contemplation for poets of all periods. Intangible and complex, love is the highest manifestation of humanity. No topic in poetry has received more attention than romantic love. Conversely, the ultimate expression of love is through poetry. In each poetic period, the representation of romantic love has been informed by the social and cultural values of the time. Thus, across time, attitudes towards romantic love have shifted with changing values and beliefs. ‘Sonnet 130’ by William Shakespeare from the Elizabethan period, ‘Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ by John Donne from the metaphysical period, and ‘Lullaby’ by W.H. Auden from the modern period are three poems that clearly reflect the …show more content…
John Donne’s ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ exemplifies the representation of love in metaphysical poetry.

‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ is one of Donne’s later poems, and reflects his reputation as the greatest poet of the metaphysical period. It was written to his wife Anne before he left for a long trip. The poem begins quietly, at the passing away of a ‘virtuous man’. Donne movingly uses this imagery to suggest that the parting of lovers is like death. Yet, when love is virtuous, lovers should part with quiet dignity, and with ‘no teare-floods, nor sigh-tempests move’. Donne distinguishes their love from the purely sensual love of the common people, which ‘cannot admit/ Absence, because it doth remove/ Those things which elemented it’. Their love is the union of their minds and souls, and therefore, cannot be broken by physical separation. Donne draws on his vast knowledge of astronomy, alchemy, and mathematics to create three unlikely, yet poignant conceits to support this argument. The lovers are likened to the planetary bodies, who are sustained in their own universe and are not affected by the disasters caused by the ‘moving of th’earth’. This elevates their love above the ordinary ‘harmes and feares’ of superficial love. Secondly, their love is compared to refined gold, pure, noble and when stretched apart, ‘endure not yet/ A breach, but an expansion’. The compass is Donne’s most

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