Sample Response-Comparing Poems: Marrysong and Sonnet 29 ( Theme of Time)

Explain how the poets of Sonnet 29 uses the theme of Time to present her views as compared to the poet of Marrysong.


In Sonnet 29, Edna St. Vincent Millay uses the theme of Time to present the changes in her relationship with her beloved, while Dennis Scott ,in Marrysong ,describes how during the long time of his marriage he was unable to completely understand his wife . Both the poets use the theme of Time to present their views in equally unique and capturing ways.

In Sonnet 29, the speaker assumes an imperative tone of defiance as she begins the poem with the words “pity me not” which shows that she is not asking for pity for her broken relationship, but is actually trying to raise her self-esteem. She begins the next quatrains with the same words which emphasizes her stance.

Edna St. Vincent Millay uses the mechanism of Time to represent constant inevitable change in her relationship. The poem opens with the speaker mentioning “the light of day”, which after a passage of time “no longer walks the sky” as the “day” has come to its “close”. Here the poet describes how after a certain time period, her relationship has ended as if its ending were inevitable, just like the day has to come to it end.

An element of death is brought into the poem when the speaker implies that the “beauties” in her relationship have “passed away” and this image suggests that her prime and her youth have passed as time has passed, leading to an eventual death of the happiness in her life and relationship. Her relationship turned from a “field” to a “thicket” “as the year goes by”. Thus with the passage of time, her relationship turned from positive to negative. This theme of Time is further reinforced by the images of her relationship that declined similar to the “waning of the moon”. After a passage of time, the “ebbing tide”, which she compares to her relationship, eventually fades away. The speaker implies that she does not want pity that “a man’s desire is hushed so soon” and that after a period of time his feelings for her died out and that he “no longer looks” at her “with love”.  She presents her own definition of love in which she presents “love” as “no more” than something conquerable, which the force of Nature can “assail” and again compares it to a “great tide” which eventually fades away. She feels that when the forces of Nature like “gales” do away with love, all they leave behind is “fresh” ripe memories, which are the “wreckage” left behind after Time has done away with the relationship itself.

The poet wants pity that she did not accept that her relationship was going downhill when her “mind” kept telling her at its status at “every turn”, as her “heart” was “slow” to understand that,  as it needed time to comprehend that.

In Marrysong, the speaker uses Time as a means of describing events and varying emotions at different times and how, during his married life he “never” really “learned” her. He compares her to her a “territory without seasons” and suggests that although seasons occur with time, when it came to his wife, her moods would suddenly change at any time, and “year after year” that “territory” “shifted” before him. This suggests that Time would pass by and the continuous variation in his wife’s moods would remain.

He describes moments of time out of his marriage when for “an hour” he would be “lost” in her “walled anger”, but suddenly would find “cool water” in place of her “quarried hurt”, as if time were of no consequence. He describes how she would suddenly became calm after when the previous “day” her voice would become filled with stones” when she would be offended by him.

He “charted” her out, but the next moment her mood would change and his “map” of her character would fail to be accurate and “never” be “true” as his wife “made wilderness” constantly. This imagery is one of a continuously varying and unpredictable landscape, which he thinks is his wife.

When at a specific time he would expect her do a particular thing she would surprise him by doing something else, as is suggested by the words “wind brought him rain” and “suddenly”, without any particular timing her mood would shift, and she would “change the shape of shores” “faultlessly calm” as if her previous mood had not existed at all.

He found each “day” new during the time of their marriage because her moods would be shifting and her love for him “shortened and grew” “all” the time, and he would find “new country” at every “helpless journey” he took to understand her. Thus he “accepted” her as she was, “wondered” about her, and attempted to traverse the “landscapes” her “mind” offered.

In both the poems, Time is used as a thematic device to present the turmoil and changes in the relationship of the poets with those addressed. While Sonnet 29, effectively uses Time to present the decline of a relationship, Marrysong presents how emotions and moods vary at different times.

Cooperative Learning Project : Aamna Naeem, Amna Ahmed and Marium Agha ( Class of 2011, Generation’s School)


About Ms. N's Rhyme and Reason

Hi, In the beginning was the word. Hence begins the history of humankind, in all domains of evolution. The thriving of civilizations has depended on how articulate were their teachers- the ones who descended with the learned art to their offspring generations. This phenomenon of transmitting of genetic code of learning has been at the heart of my inspiration to teach. This art somehow has transformed into a mantra for me, and it has never ceased to amaze me. Although to become a perfect teacher one might take a lifetime, but if one tries to be perfect, one negates the reason to experiment and fail. Hence, I may have faltered in some of my approaches, but my aspiration has been to try rectifying the short-coming, to connect again with the subject-matter and my pupils, to demystify the intended outcome, to enthuse the learners again, and to keep the cycle going.
This entry was posted in GCE O Level Literature in English, Poetry Anthology for 2010-11,2011-12 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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