How Do I Love Thee Vs Oh My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose
A vast majority of poems today, whether written ten, twenty, or even hundreds of years ago are about love. Poetry has long been regarded as a romantic genre that is very personal, which would explain the sentimental verses one may find sprawled across many Valentine’s Day cards (Portable Literature, 634). Some view love as gentle and beautiful, one of the most beautiful experiences of a lifetime, while others would describe it as one of the most painful, most deceiving, and stressful encounters of a lifetime. However, whether the outlook on love is positive or negative, one thing can be agreed upon and that is that it is very, very powerful.
Love has a very timeless theme, and no matter the time or place, love may be present. Poets seem to be best at capturing the meaning of love though their perceptions of it can vary greatly. A poem published in 1796, “Oh, My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose”, gives a very dramatic and vivid account of one’s love for another, and “How Do I Love Thee” a poem published in 1850, over fifty years later gives a very brief account of all the ways one loves. These two poems in themselves show just how timeless love is.
Poets, through the use of many different literary elements create beautiful, heart-felt pieces that anyone who has ever been in love can relate to. Using many different styles, tones, languages, and also structures a poet can capture your attention and take you to a place inside their mind of feelings, and emotions.
One of the most powerful elements of poetry, as well as some others literary works, is tone. In both “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and “Oh
My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns the tone is uplifting and positive in the light of love (Mega Essays, par. 4). It can be felt by simply reading another’s words. In both poems the tone is very deep and passionate while still serious and convincing. Both portray love as being one of the greatest experiences of one’s lifetime making it seem so natural, sensitive, and effortless. Both authors show that love is not as simple as the word itself and that your love can not be described in just one word, if even a couple.
The speakers in both poems also contribute to the tone of the poems. By making it seem like the speaker is addressing his actual love, the reader can put themselves in the lovers place making the poem even more romantic. A lot of times people never fully understand a situation until they take a walk in that person’s shoes. Putting yourself in one’s position, it becomes easier for them to feel exactly what a person is feeling and by also listening to one speak, you can understand how one feels. In both “How Do I Love Thee”, and “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” if one just sincerely listens to the poem they can feel the love the speaker is experiencing and understand how deeply in love they are.
Both poems are very similar in structure, through the use of rhyme scheme and meter. Neither of the poems has much of a consistent rhyme scheme but the poem is still easily understood and the tone is not lost as may be the case in other poems. One big difference between the poems would definitely be their purpose. According to “Scottish Songs Illustrated,” “How Do I Love Thee” is actually an old street ballad that was
written as a farewell to his betrothed (Cantria). This explains the last stanza of the poem which reads:
“And fare thee weel, my only love!
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my love
Though it were ten thousand mile.”
In Elizabeth Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee”, she’s not bidding anyone a farewell but is still though expressing her deep compassion for her loved one. Also, “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” is written in closed form. It is a Shakespearean sonnet consisting of fourteen lines divided into three quatrains and a concluding couplet, which is written in iambic pentameter. “Why Do I Love Thee” on the other hand, is written in iambic pentameter but there is no real form. It is a fourteen lined poem that is not broken down into any quatrains, nor is there a couplet. It seems to be more of an open form breaking lines unexpected places abandoning any semblance of formal structure (Portable Literature, 570).
Figurative language, along with alliteration, imagery and allusion, all contribute to helping the reader interpret both poems though they are achieved in different ways. For example, in “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, Burns uses alliteration as well as rhyme to make his poem flow. While using simile, the author also uses alliteration, which is the repetition of key consonant sounds, to enhances the sound of the poem while also assisting in setting the tone of the poem. Through use of simile, the author shows
the seriousness of his love by saying, “oh, my love is like a red, red rose”. We all know that roses themselves are very romantic and a major symbolization of love, but when he says that it is a red, red rose, the reader may start to understand that the love the speaker feels is so much deeper than one may normally feel about love.
The author of “How Do I Love Thee”, Elizabeth Browning, on the other hand, does not use either alliteration or similes to convey her love to her significant other though the same goal is achieved. Instead, Browning uses a more metaphorical approach. She says “I love thee to the depth and breath and height my soul can read when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace.” She simply takes out the word “like” which makes the poem sound a little bit more mature and even deeper in meaning than “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”. Also, the allusion used in “How Do I Love Thee” which is brief reference to a person place, or event (Portable Literature, 609) makes the poem seem a little bit more realistic because it alludes to God. For example, not everyone has experienced love and some don’t even believe in it but by alluding to God one may change their view toward love because it makes the poem less superficial.
The most powerful literary element both poets used in their poems which makes them as interesting as they are is their use of imagery. Imagery, a language that evokes physical sensation produced by one of the five senses help to call up images in the audiences mind (Portable Literature, 513). Both poems use at least two of the five senses to paint a picture for the reader making the poem all the more interesting. For example
when someone says “my love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune”, one may actually be able to hear a sweetly melody being played. Or for example, “when one hears “I love three to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light” quiet can be heard and also the romance of seeing the sun or candle-light can be captured.
Even though both poems were probably written during two completely different time periods, the same theme can be captured as well as most of the literary elements can be identified. No matter how the eras change or how far back in history one goes, love will always be present whether presented in a positive or negative fashion.