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A theme of love is one of the most popular choices made by poets of all times. A poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet and a poem “Stop All the Clocks” by W.H. Auden show how poets can use different motifs and expressive means for developing a similar theme of eternal love in their unique ways.
Main motifs of the poems
A theme of eternal love lasting longer then lovers’ lives is common for the two poems under analysis. Describing their exceptional feelings, the authors use different motifs for developing a similar idea that their love is not limited to the short period of their physical existence and can continue beyond the grave.
In her poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband” which can be regarded as one of her domestic poems, Anne Bradstreet honors her beloved husband when their relationship is not over yet. Narrating a story of her love, the poet shares her personal experience of marriage and devotion to her beloved husband, promoting the idea that the marriage ties and family relationships are extremely important (Hilliker 435; Campbell 73).
The motifs of exceptionality of her feeling and the value of its reciprocity are central to Bradstreet’s poem. Analyzing the structure of Bradstreet’s work, it can be stated that the confidence in her exquisite happiness and comparing it to material values are the main motifs intertwined in the poem for developing the main theme of eternal love.
Another approach is taken for developing a similar theme of sincere love lasting beyond the grave in the poem “Stop All the Clocks” by W.H. Auden. Auden uses the motifs of mourning and the loss of the sense of life after the lover’s death for representing the idea similar to that developed in Bradstreet’s poem (Grainger 119). Auden wrote his poem after the loss of his beloved person and drew his inspiration from the pain of loss.
Focusing on the relationships between love, devotion and death, the poem includes an implied motif of suicide (Ward 83). A motif of the interruption of life race due to the loss of a beloved person and the sense of existence takes an important place in Auden’s poem. According to Hillman and Phillips (2007), the poet’s intentions to stop the clocks and preventing dogs from barking are meant to convey the silence of death (14). Therefore, in contrast to Bradstreet’s work, the dominating mood of Auden’s poem is rather pessimistic.
Raising similar themes of eternal love, Bradstreet and Auden choose different motifs for expressing their ideas which change the dominating mood of the poems.
Metaphors, similes and symbols used by Bradstreet and Auden
Developing a theme of eternal love, Bradstreet and Auden used a variety of expressive means, including those of metaphors, similes and symbols for expressing their exquisite happiness and mourning respectively.
The poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband” contains a number of hyperboles which are used to convey exceptionality of her feeling and her confidence in its reciprocity. For example, the lines “If ever two were one, ten surely we/ If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee” (Booth and Mays 115).
The author emphasizes the exceptionality by almost denying the existence of similar feelings in other relationships. However, these hyperboles are explained with the overwhelming feeling dominating in the poem which can substitute the common sense and any logical reasoning.
The similes used by Bradstreet include the comparison of her husband’s feelings and the mines of gold and the riches of the east are meant to create contrasts between the material and spiritual values, demonstrating the importance of the latter. The metaphor of rivers which cannot quench the poet’s feeling is used to show the flame in her heart which cannot be suppressed due to external circumstances.
The metaphors used by Auden in “Stop All the Clocks” are used for expressing the pain of loss and wish to interrupt the race of life after the death of a beloved person. It is notable that most metaphors chosen by the poet are connected with sounds. By stopping the clock, preventing the dog from barking and silencing the piano, the author intends to hear the silence of death and lose the connection with reality which irritates him after the tragedy.
The importance of the contrasting motifs of sounds, music and silence can be seen in similes used by Auden for expressing his deep love and devotion to his lover. Auden compares his lover to a talk and song which means that after his death, the poet cannot see the sense in sounds and music.
Other symbols which are used for describing the sense of author’s existence include the stars, moon and sun which the poet offers to hide and dismantle. The final line of Auden’s poem is pessimistic and expresses an important motif of the loss of sense of life due to the departure of a beloved person.
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As it can be seen from the analysis of a poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet and a poem “Stop All the Clocks” by W.H. Auden, even selecting a similar theme of eternal love, poets can choose different motifs and expressive means for expressing their ideas and various shades of their feelings and emotions.
Booth, Alison and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature (Shorter Tenth Edition). Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Campbell, Helen. Anne Bradstreet and Her Time. Kessinger Publishing, 2010. Print.
Grainger, Roger. The Uses of Chaos. Peter Lang Publishers, 2010. Print.
Hilliker, Robert. “Engendering Identity: The Discourse of Familial Education in Anne Bradstreet and Marie de l’Incarnation”. Early American Literature 42.3 (2007): 435 – 452, Print.
Hillman, David and Adam Phillips. The Book of Interruptions. Peter Lang Publishers, 2007. Print.
Ward, Mary. The Literature of Love. Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.