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Realism in Love

Satisfactory Essays
Both the narrators in "How Do I Love Thee?" (786-787) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and in "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" (787-788) by W.H. Auden express the deepest love for the subjects portrayed in the poems but diverge over the effect that death has on that love. Browning's poem shows an innocent side to love, while Auden portrays what might be considered the harsh realities of love. Both delve into delusions of grandeur concerning the poems' subjects. Yet, Browning's poem is decidedly dramatic and Auden's tends to be everyday with his metaphors. In death, the narrators opposing views become more evident as Browning's puts her faith in God, while Auden's mourns her lover.

Both poems are about the love each narrator feels, and both strive to express how intense this love is. Yet, each author comes from a different angle with the hope of explaining this love. Browning uses soft imagery with terms like, "ideal grace", "Most quiet need", and "purely" to show her narrator's love. These soft, feminine terms give the reader images of a pure, untainted love. Conversely, Auden's poem uses much darker, modern language, and instead of mentioning death only at the end of the poem, all but three lines concern death. This use of language and focus causes Auden's poem to be very negative, while Browning's remains positive, even in light of death.

Both narrators are deeply in love with the men that the poems are about. The narrator in Auden's poem conveys what this man means to her by comparing him to impossible things, such as "my North, my South, my East and West" (line 9). Browning's narrator also expresses this sentiment by saying "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach" (lines 2-3). Here the authors part in their use of language. Auden's narrator continues to compare her love to natural, everyday things, i.e. "My working week and my Sunday rest, / My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song" (10-11). Browning's narrator goes on to compare her love to the idealism of government, "I love thee freely, as men strive for right." and to religion, "I love thee with a love I seemed to lose / With my lost saints" (7, 11-12). While Browning's comparisons are obviously positive, Auden's lend themselves more to interpretation.
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