Love, Nature, and Loss in Two Sonnets

You will prepare and submit a term paper on Love, Nature and Loss in Two Sonnets. Your paper should be a minimum of 1000 words in length. This paper argues that although the two sonnets both have the same general topic of love, nature and the loss of it all when a person dies, Shakespeare manages to combine these three dimensions in a positive way, while Wordsworth can only report the loss in a negative way.Shakespeare’s sonnet is one of the best-loved pieces of love poetry in the English language. It uses a common simile in the opening line, which equates a young person’s love with the height of summer. The idea that is being conveyed here is that love is strong, bright and warm, and it makes people happy. Summer has very positive connotations, because that is when people enjoy time outdoor, and when they have holidays and plenty of food. Winter in Shakespeare’s England was cold and unpleasant. Travel was difficult on muddy roads, and so people looked forward to the freedom and fun that they could have in summer time.The picture of the beloved woman that Shakespeare paints is acknowledged to be temporary, because the poet speaks of her beauty later fading as she will one day have to die. The mention of the wind that shakes the “darling buds of May” (Shakespeare, line 3) is a warning that everything in this summer day is likely to change. Nature is used to illustrate the fine qualities of the beloved person, and Shakespeare embraces the change that is bound to come. He notes that summer is too hot and is bound to cool down, and he takes this as part of its wonder. The main message that Shakespeare draws out of change and mortality is that the loss of external beauty cannot dim the internal beauty that the person has. He states very definitely that “thy eternal summer shall not fade” (Shakespeare, line 9) which shows that he lives in the moment, and uses his talents as a poet to make the image of his beloved live on in poetry for ever. This is the sign of a deep understanding about the nature of life and death, and gratitude for the beauty that surrounds human beings while on earth. He takes the good with the bad, and celebrates everything positive, with no fear of Death. Wordsworth’s sonnet, in contrast, is much more tied up with the need to hold on to the beauty that he sees. The tone of the poem is much cooler, and more intellectual, and Wordsworth generalizes his observations to include everyone, since he uses the third person “we” and “us.” The opening line sounds like a complaint, since he says “The world is too much with us” (Wordsworth, line 1), as if he is in a position to judge what is better and what is worse for human beings. He looks at the beauty of nature, and although he recognizes how impressive it all is, he is still negative and depressed. He calls this great gift “a sordid boon” (Wordsworth, line 4) which shows how ungrateful he is. For Wordsworth, there is a need to possess the beauty before him, and he laments the fact that there is so little in the world that is “ours”. There is a disturbing personification of the Sea in line 5, where Wordsworth relates “This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon.” This line shows that Wordsworth sees himself in the position of a man who has power over women, and sees them as an object. He seems to suggest that this is the idea vision before him, but that he is too “out of tune” (Wordsworth, line 8) to enjoy it fully. He really does want to possess the beauty of nature, but this is a projection of his own inner attitudes.

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