-Side note: the poems underlined are links to the poems, should you wish to read them first, before reading my analysis of them when I was 16. –
Women are commonly referred to as extremely ‘emotional creatures’. This stereotypical name tag given to women in general may not always be true. Some women do not express their emotions at all, whilst others are attention seeking-drama queens. However, a woman does have emotions; we all do (yes, even the men), and thus their display of emotion, or lack thereof, cannot and should not be held against them. Hence, I have chosen to base the choice of my poems on this particular theme; the ways in which a woman expresses her feelings.
These are not only romantic sentiments as found in the poem Remember by Christina Risotti and in Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but actually the passion of a mother in A Mother In A Refugee Camp by Chinua Achebe, the admiration of a daughter Poem at Thirty-Nine by Alice Walker, and even the zeal of a woman speaking of herself as simply a woman as found in the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. In order to show the contrast in the approach to emotions in the use of poetry of the male and female species I will explore Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare . This is so I can have a solid argument on the theme I have chosen; the emotions of a woman.
To begin with I would like to express my views on Remember by Christina Rossetti. This poem is spun by the hands of a woman in love. At this time in her life, Rossetti learned she was dying and therefore, it is believed by many critics, this is the reason for this heartfelt declare of her love for the one man who she could not have. Rossetti has made clear her undying love as well as her impending death clear to the reader, from the very first line. She expresses her wishes as though in a love letter to the beloved and through this we see that her love has been immortalized by the exploit of poetry. This love and desire of hers can be seen when Rossetti asks her lover, in the first line, to ‘remember’ her when she has gone ‘far away’. Her farewell note comes in the last line when she asks her love to not ‘be sad’ when he remembers her. This shows that her love runs deep enough that she prefers to not be remembered rather than have the love of her life to be distressed in any way. This true love is also seen in Browning’s Sonnet 43.
Sonnets, particularly, are categorized as declarations of love in the form of poetry. Sonnets are an old and popular form of poetry. One usually links sonnets to William Shakespeare; who wrote over 150 sonnets. Sonnet 43 is a statement of Browning’s love as she compares it to the most basic human needs; – the sun, thus emphasizing her strong, deep love. Through personification of the words Being and Grace, Browning expresses her passion for this person in her life and this affects the reader as these are complex characteristics found in humans, yet are thought to be simple and not given much attention to. When Browning devotedly proclaims that she ‘shall love thee better after death’ she, consequently, proves her love to hold such ‘depth’ that even after death she will not only love her man, but love him ‘better’.
Nonetheless, sonnets are not always written as a proclamation of love, as in the case of Sonnet 130. It is a popular belief in the literary world that William Shakespeare wrote poems about a beautiful damsel, who he loved; many have asked to whom they are dedicated to, due to the compassion portrayed in his poetry. However, this certain sonnet ‘breaks tradition’. The style and language of the poem is the same yet the meaning behind the carefully chosen words of each stanza hold a diverse meaning once looked at closely. To use an example, ‘roses damasked, red and white, but no such see I in her cheeks’, to compare the unusual comparisons to Shakespeare’s other work. The roses are possibly an allusion to the rose known as the York and Lancaster rose. Reference to this rose was made in The Taming of the Shrew where Shakespeare declares, ‘Such war of white and red within her cheeks’. This, furthermore, emphasizes the change in Shakespeare’s writing. Sonnet 130 is Shakespeare’s pragmatic tribute to his uncomely mistress, commonly referred to as the dark lady because of her ‘dun’ complexion. In my opinion, this is the first poem in which a man’s true love is portrayed. This statement of mine may be questioned yet it will be agreed that most poems follow the norm and talk about beauty and base their love on this beauty. These words of
Shakespeare betray us; he talks of revulsion towards this ‘hags’ appearance yet to end his proclamation, Shakespeare informs us of his love for his woman with ‘ eyes nothing like the sun’. The ordinary beauty and humanity of his lover are important to Shakespeare in this sonnet, and he deliberately uses typical love poetry metaphors against themselves. It is for this that I chose to use this poem to apply emphasis on the fact that emotions may also be shown by men, even they show them in a miscellaneous, completely different way.
There are countless other poems of love in the world yet the one type of love only women can experience is that of a mother. This type of love is unique and those who have felt it consider themselves to be special for just bestowing love unto their child. The love for a child from the mother is undoubtedly highlighted in the poem A Mother in a Refugee Camp where Chinua
Achebe talks about the feelings of a mother watching her child, her own blood, dying and not being able to do anything about it. Achebe describes the love in such detail that even those readers who have not experienced motherhood receive a taste of what it is. I say this due to the details of the mother immaculately grooming her child who is undernourished, and yet continues to do so when she does not even know if her child will live to see another day. It is this love that moves the reader, especially when Achebe concludes by stating in the form of a simile that this act of love is ‘like putting flowers on a tiny grave’. The mother’s actions, in another scenario, would be considered simple yet at this particular time holds a great significance to the mother; it could be the last time she is with her child. The fact that even though she knows her child is dying, the mother still hopes and stays strong by performing the everyday ritual of grooming her child is brought to the reader’s attention and confirms that the mother has love in her heart, a love that goes so deep that she does not even show her fear of the inevitable death of her child.
This parent-child connection is also seen in Poem at Thirty-Nine. However, this time with the voice of a daughter, grown up, yet still possessing the ever burning love and respect for her father. We see this respect when Walker describes her father’s attributes and how she ‘misses’ him. We experience a sense of nostalgia coming from the poet; she is remembering her father and how she misses the time they spent together. We see that she is passionate about the same things as her father who she considers as her teacher; her mentor, when she says ‘Now I look and cook just like him’. It is also made clear to the reader that the poet is saying that what she is, who she is, is because of her father. This confirms to the reader that Walker has a sense of reverence towards her father and highlights her love for her father which reaches to him even in death.
My final poem Still I Rise, is a well-known poem. This poem could be interpreted in a number of ways; racially, politically, and even socially. Maya Angelou describes herself as a ‘black ocean’ expressing her race proudly. She also conveys her femininity using phrases like ‘…. I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?’ This is a very different view of a woman; Angelou is expressing her sexuality and proves that women are also proud of their ‘sexiness’ as Angelou puts it. This shows that woman may be considered as fickle but are strong, independent humans who can sustain themselves.
It is said that ‘woman, without her man is nothing’ yet this could also be said as ‘woman, without her, man is nothing’. These poems prove that a woman feels a number of various emotions; different types of love seen in both Sonnet 43 and Remember, a passionate anger as seen in Still I Rise, the eternal love in Mother in a Refugee Camp and the portrayal of respect and awe in Poem at Thirty-Nine. The emotions of a woman may be looked to as a weakness but they are actually her strength; these emotions are what make a woman the person she is; a cherished mother, a prized daughter, and an irreplaceable companion to man.