Thematic Guide to British Poetry

By Ruth Glancy | Go to book overview

Love

Poetry is often called the language of love. More poems have been written on this theme than on any other, and many of the poems discussed under other themes in this survey—“Death,” “Time,” “Carpe Diem,” and “Beauty,” for example—are also love poems because poets are often concerned with these ideas because they love someone. Love, of course, is central to the Family Relations theme. The poems discussed in this section, however, are all expressions of what is often referred to as “romantic love,” a theme that in British poetry has been strongly influenced by the erotic poetry of the Roman poet Ovid, the sonnets to Laura of the Italian poet Petrarch, and the courtly love tradition that began in eleventh-century France. In courtly love poems, a knight idealizes—in fact, worships—a beautiful but unattainable woman. He fights his battles as much to win her favor as to serve his king; he sees himself as her servant or slave, and he suffers agonies of body and soul (the “lovesick” hero) in his unrequited love for her. In contrast to centuries of marriage, where the husband was legally his wife's master, courtly love poems introduced the notion that the lover was slave to his mistress. Many love poems and songs follow such conventions, but others, especially in the last two centuries, have offered complex and powerful responses to “the battle of the sexes.”


SEDUCTION POEMS

Poetry and song have traditionally been in the arsenal of the young man wanting to attract the attention of his intended. The language of poetry is often the language of seduction, glossing over the harsh realities of passion and steeping the man's intentions in the rosy glow of flattery and artifice. Sir John Suckling's “Why so pale and wan” (1638)

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Thematic Guide to British Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Anthologies of British Poetry and Abbreviations Used xi
  • Active and Contemplative Lives 1
  • Art, Imagination, and Inspiration 15
  • Beauty 31
  • Carpe Diem 43
  • Christmas Poems 47
  • Death 53
  • Death of the Young 65
  • Duty 77
  • Fame and Ambition 81
  • Family Relations 85
  • Freedom and Captivity 89
  • The Golden Mean 93
  • Immortality 97
  • Industrialism and the City 105
  • Innocence and Experience 111
  • Love 119
  • Marriage 141
  • Music 153
  • Nature and Country Life 159
  • Old Age 187
  • Patriotism 193
  • Politics and Human Rights 197
  • Pride and Vanity 205
  • Rebellion and Conformity 215
  • Regret, Consolation, and Melancholy 221
  • Religion 229
  • Sleep 243
  • Time and Change 251
  • War 257
  • Biographical Sketches 269
  • Further Reading 293
  • Index 295
  • About the Author 305
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