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The Essence of a Love Poem

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The Essence of a Love Poem

What is a love poem? Many believe that a love poem is supposed to be sweet and romantic. That is the basic tone of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “How Do I Love Thee?” However, William Shakespeare’s “My mistress‘ eyes are nothing like the sun” takes a much different approach to the typical love poem. Both poems are noticeably love poems, but they respond to the ideal in different ways. Browning describes her love as enormous and wonderful, but it is somewhat too ideal, to the point of being unrealistic. However, Shakespeare’s description of his lover is not flattering, and occasionally insulting, yet much more realistic and therefore more ideal. The subjects and themes of the poems are very similar; however, the tone, voice and settings are quite opposite.

Browning’s description of the love she feels is portrayed as amazing, almost to the point of being unrealistic. She uses metaphors to show that her love is like a bird soaring into the heavens, powerful and unstoppable. However, it is also depicted as soft and gentle, which is shown by her reference to “candlelight”(line 6). When children love, they love with every part of themselves because they don’t understand what heartache feels like.

This pure and unquestionable form of love is what Browning’s referring to when she claims to love “with my childhood’s faith”(line 10). She also believes that her love cannot be stopped, even by death; which is evident in line 14 when she states “I shall but love thee better after death.” The tone of the poem is romantic, which is typical of a traditional love poem. However, her description of the love she feels is so articulate and sincere that the reader can almost feel her emotions. Th...

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... when one loves someone from afar, his or her impression of that person is usually idealistic. Therefore, he wouldn’t refer to her in such a cynical form. He would probably believe that she is the most beautiful and charming woman he’s ever known. It is this realistic aspect that makes Shakespeare’s poem a much better love poem than that of Browning’s.

Although both are considered to be love poems, Shakespeare and Browning take two very different approaches to the idea of love. Browning’s poem depicts a more ideal love, the kind that most people strive for; however, Shakespeare’s poem describes a more realistic type of love, the kind that most people can achieve. Personally, I would prefer the love portrayed in Shakespeare’s sonnet because that is the kind of love that lasts. The type of love illustrated in Browning’s poem is often fleeting and unattainable.
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