Essay on Images of Love Expressed in the Poetry of Browning and Tennyson

Essay on Images of Love Expressed in the Poetry of Browning and Tennyson

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Perhaps no other sentiment is so prevalent in poetry, as that of love. The mere word brings to mind images of romantic affection, lovers entangled in each other’s arms, stolen sidelong glances, whispered words of endearment, and an all-encompassing emotion that transcends the physical, an emotion that is experienced within all realms of being. However, in both life and poetry, the more joyous sentiments of love are often accompanied by images of loss and heartache, a contrast which heightens the imagery experience. The fact that love exists more on a spiritual level than a physical one serves only to heighten the difficult task of describing it adequately, for how can one articulate each facet of such a wonderfully vague human emotion? Further complicating the development of this imagery is that for each reader, the experience of love, and the images that the lines create, are based in personal interpretation, and are likely at least partially rooted in one’s own subjective experience of that sentiment. That this one emotion can encompass such broad ranges of feelings ranging from pleasure, to physical attraction, to romantic intimacy, to the emotional bonds of platonic and familial love, only add to the complexity of consistently defining love as compared to other emotional states. In this essay, I will contrast the images of love as created, and thus defined, by Alfred lord Tennyson in “The Lady of Shalott” and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in “How do I Love Thee.”
In Browning’s “How do I Love Thee”, her very existence seems to be defined by her love for the unnamed “thee”. The image of love as a joyous transcendental metaphysical experience is created as she attempts to give words to this feeling. She begins with a rhet...


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...s rooted in joy and beauty. In regards to an emotion that is thought to be enduring, powerful, and joyous, Browning appears to articulate the image far more effectively than Tennyson.




Works Cited

Browning, Elizabeth. “Sonnets from Portuguese 43: How do I Love Thee?” Poems: Elizabeth
Barrett Browning. 4th ed. 3 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1856. Representative
Poetry Online. Ed. Ian Lancashire. U of Toronto Libraries. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.
Nelson, Elizabeth. “The Embowered Woman: Pictorial Interpretations of The Lady of Shallot.”
Victorian Web: Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria. VictorianWeb.org. n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “The Lady of Shalott.” Alfred lord Tennyson, In Memoriam. London: E.
Moxon, 1850. Representative Poetry Online. Ed. Ian Lancashire. U of Toronto Libraries.
Web. 21 Mar. 2012

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