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PAPER #2: POETRY For thousands of years, love has been the muse and focus of great poets and their greatest poems. Poetry is often considered one of the most beautiful and powerful forms of self- expression. Yet to create such passionate works requires great skill with use of language and many literary techniques. The use of powerful imagery is definitely essential in a great poem and it is not easy to master. William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are both respected for their talent in writing great poems, especially in sonnet form. Sonnets are synonymous with grand exclamations of love or other powerful emotions. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 of her Sonnets From The Portuguese are two classic love poems. Both poets objectify and idolize their lovers and both address the concepts of death and time. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Browning’s Sonnet 43 display their skillful use of imagery to express the extent of their intense, romantic loves- a true attempt to describe the indescribable. The poems both share common themes of love beyond death and love that is immortalized through verse. Their poems have successfully given life to their works after hundreds of years and remain popular and relevant to lovers today. Sonnet 18 begins with a question: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The first quatrain focuses on describing how Shakespeare’s lover is so beautiful. Yet to compare his lover to a summer day, normally a conventional and flattering image would not suffice. “Thou art more lovely and more temperate” Using “temperate” to mean gentle, he then incorporates it into another metaphor about weather: “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.” From here on he begins to criticize summer and support his outrageous claim that his lover is the epitome of perfection. Summer winds blow through the flowers, while his lover retains a calm and gentle disposition. He continues, “summer’s lease hath all to short a date,” which refers to the legal
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term of leasing. Summer is in a sense bound by some natural contract to start and finish at a certain time. Its entire duration lasts for a few months. Time is important to him because it is fleeting- he will only be satisfied by making a comparison with something that represents more permanence. The second quatrain continues to critique summer’s flaws. He notes that at times, “too hot the eye of heaven shines,/ And often is his gold complexion dimmed.” The “eye of heaven” imagery represents the sun’s ‘imperfections’: sometimes it can get too hot or get blocked and hidden behind passing clouds. The sun is another image that many have used to compare with beauty, and Shakespeare cleverly associates it with heaven to prove that it is sacred to him, too. Yet Shakespeare’s overanalyzing of the sun expresses how passionate he is about his lover’s
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