Realism in Love

Realism in Love

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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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Realism in Love Essay

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Nature is not ruled by man, it is unstable. A love that is one's North is forever but is also unattainable. The metaphors that Auden chooses to express his narrator's love with expose that love as impossibly grand, yet exceedingly unstable.

The innocent devotion Browning's narrator feels causes her to be naively trusting in her love. The narrator's faith is exposed in the last lines when she states that "if God choose / I shall but love thee better after death" (Browning 13-14). It is Browning's narrator's faith that enables her to be unscathed by the prospect of her love's death. Auden's narrator has no apparent faith, and so her love turns into hate for everything, as grief consumes her. The closing line, "For nothing now can ever come to any good." (Auden 16), exemplifies the torment the narrator faces when she must give up her "everything."

While Browning's narrator insists that her love is also all consuming, the thought of death does not faze her due to her faith; though she claims to have "lost saints", she lets "God choose", and thus, lets death roll off her shoulders without another thought. This is a very idealistic and ironic view; that love could replace her God, yet it is her faith that keeps her safe in the event that her love should perish. Auden's outlook is much more realistic. His narrator's plight is the one people will recognize as the harsh reality of the world we live in. Yet both serve their purpose, Browning's as a sweet reminder of the perfect love found in fairy tales, and Auden's as reminder of the pain that always comes with happiness.

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