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A Woman to her

Lover . Sonnets
116 & 43
A Woman to her
Lover
 Read through the poem and annotate it.

 The date that the poem was written is


unknown – try to place it in a historical
context whilst reading.
 Compare it to the last poem we studied in
what ways and think about ways in which
the two are similar or different.
 How is the theme of love and marriage
presented in the poem? Is it more or less
realistic than the view presented in
‘Valentine’?
A Woman to her
Lover
Do you come to me to bend me to your will
As conqueror to the vanquished
To make of me a bondslave
To bear you children, wearing out my life
In drudgery and silence
No servant will I be
If that be what you ask. O Lover I refuse you!
A Woman to her
Lover

Or if you think to wed with one from heaven


sent
Whose every deed and word and wish is
golden
A wingless angel who can do no wrong
Go! - I am no doll to dress and sit for feeble
worship
If that be what you ask, fool, I refuse you!
A Woman to her
Lover
Or if you think in me to find

A creature who will have no greater joy


Than gratify your clamorous desire,
My skin soft only for your fond caresses
My body supple only for your sense delight.
Oh shame, and pity and abasement.
Not for you the hand of any wakened woman
of our time.
A Woman to her
Lover
But lover, if you ask of me

That I shall be your comrade, friend, and mate,


To live and work, to love and die with you,
That so together we may know the purity and
height
Of passion, and of joy and sorrow,
Then o husband, I am yours forever
And our co-equal love will make the stars to laugh
with joy
And to its circling fugue pass, hand holding hand
Until we reach the very heart of God.

A Woman to her
Lover
 Why do you think the exact date that the
poem was written is unknown?
 The WJEC GCSE course book attributes the
poem to ‘Christina Walsh’ (1750-1800).
However, it is also thought to be written
by ‘Christina Walshe’ (1888 – 1959).
Which do you think is most likely?
 Is the poem still relevant to an
understanding of modern relationships?
Or have we all moved on since the advent
of Feminism, etc?

Sonnets
 What do you know about Sonnets?

 Look at Sonnet 116 and Sonnet 43 and


compare their structure, ie. Rhyme
scheme, Length, Rhythm, Language. What
similarities/differences do you notice?
 Sonnet is Italian for “Little Song”. What
does this tell you about Sonnets? What do
they express?
Sonnet Structure
Fourteen lines: Every sonnet has fourteen lines. In

fact, if you read a poem that's fourteen lines, the odds


are that it's a sonnet.

Rhymed: There are several different traditional rhyme


schemes for sonnets. The rhyme scheme of sonnet 43
– is ABBA ABBA CDC DCD.
This rhyme scheme is that it's not a traditional English

sonnet pattern like the sonnets that Shakespeare


wrote, most of which have more rhymes (they get up
to "G" instead of "D" in the rhyme scheme – seven
rhyming words instead of just four). Instead of
following Shakespeare or any of the other great English
sonneteers, Barrett Browning chose to model her
sonnet on the Italian or Petrarchan pattern.
Sonnet Structure
 Here's the point: in a sonnet by Shakespeare, there are four groups of
rhyming lines, followed by a couplet. The couplet naturally becomes
an exciting "turn" or "twist" in the sonnet, or sometimes a little
summary.

 In contrast, in sonnets by the Italian poet Petrarch, the rhyming lines


divide into a group of eight followed by a group of six – so instead
of having a thought that develops for twelve lines and then a
catchy rhymed couplet, you get one idea for about half of the
poem, followed by a twist (called a "volta") and then another idea
for the next six lines.
So, choosing to write an Italian-style sonnet means a few things:

 1) there are fewer rhyming words, so the same sounds are


repeated more often, giving the poem a very heavy, obvious
rhythm;

 2) the twist in the writing comes about halfway through


instead of right before the end;

 3) and there's an exotic, Romantic sense of "foreignness" for


an English poet in borrowing this form from Italy. That's a
lot of meaning for a few rhyming words!
Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be

taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and

cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Sonnet 116
 Sonnet 116 is about love in its most ideal
form. It is praising the glories of lovers
who have come to each other freely, and
enter into a relationship based on trust
and understanding.
 The first four lines reveal the poet's
pleasure in love that is constant and
strong, and will not "alter when it
alteration finds."
 The following lines proclaim that true love is
indeed an "ever-fix'd mark" which will
survive any crisis.
Sonnet 116
 In lines 7-8, the poet claims that we may be
able to measure love to some degree, but
this does not mean we fully understand it.
Love's actual worth cannot be known – it
remains a mystery.
 The remaining lines of the third quatrain (9-
12), reaffirm the perfect nature of love
that is unshakeable throughout time and
remains so "ev'n to the edge of doom", or
death.

Sonnet 116
 In the final couplet, the poet declares that,
if he is mistaken about the constant,
unmovable nature of perfect love, then he
must take back all his writings on love,
truth, and faith. Moreover, he adds that, if
he has in fact judged love inappropriately,
no man has ever really loved, in the ideal
sense that the poet professes.

Sonnet 43
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and


height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's


faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, -- I love thee with the
breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if
God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Rhetorical Structure
 Question:
 “How do I love thee?”
(1)

 How many answers does the poet give


to this question?
Answer
 “Let me count the ways.”

 The speaker identifies 8 ways to express


love
 Focuses on the evolution of faith
 Focuses on the evolution of maturity
 The speaker recognizes that life and
love will be good and bad

Way 1

 I love thee to the depth and breadth and
height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of
sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

Way 2

 I love thee to the level of
everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and
candle-light.

Way 3

 I love thee freely, as men strive


for Right;

Way 4

 I love thee purely, as they turn from


Praise

Way 5

 I love thee with the passion put to use


 In my old griefs, and with my childhood's
faith.

Way 6

 I love thee with a love I seemed


to lose
With my lost saints!---

Way 7

 I love thee with the breath,


Smiles, tears, of all my life!---

Way 8

 and, if God choose,


I shall but love thee better
after death.

Sonnet 43
 Is the gender of the speaker important to
this poem?
 On a basic level what is the poet doing in
this poem?
 Why is the word ‘love’ repeated so many
times?
 What other synonyms for ‘love’ could the
poet have used and why did they choose
not to use them?
 What change occurs after line 8?
 What do we learn about the speaker in the
Paradox
 Paradoxical answers to the question “How
do I love thee?”

 Love is divine and everyday


 Love is childlike and mature
 Love has tears and joy
 Love exists through life and continues
after death