Sample Thematic Analysis-Comparison Question: Sonnet 29 & Marrysong ( Relationships)

How have the poets of Sonnet 29 and Marrysong used Nature to represent the conflicts and change in their relationships ?


In Sonnet 29, Edna St. Vincent Millay uses images from Nature to represent how her relationship with her beloved rose to its peak and now lies tarnished and completely destroyed as her beloved withdrew from it first.

The poet however, does not want pity for her current state and she begins the poem with the words “pity me not” which she continuously repeats in each of the quatrains of her Shakespearean sonnet, which suggests that this poem is more of a lament and a tool of self-realization which she is using to raise her self-esteem.

She feels that the “light of day” has vanished from the “sky” which suggests that her relationship is now over and the light and happiness from her life is gone as now there is darkness above and all around her, and the sky which was a harbinger of light and life ,has now turned into a canopy of gloom. She does not want pity for the fact that her youth and the “beauties” in her life have “passed away”, which is an image of the death of her prime.

She compares how her relationship was once like a large blossoming “field”, where everything was beautiful and this image of Nature is a positive representation of her relationship , but as time has passed and the “year” gone by, her relationship has turned into a “thicket”. The image of “thicket” shows how her relationship became like an obstruction and a haze in which she became trapped, and everything related to her relationship became unclear.

The poet compares her relationship with her beloved to the “waning of the moon” as her relationship reached its peak as the moon becomes full in its cycle, and then just as the moon becomes smaller, similarly, her relationship also declined.  Her relationship was like a “tide” which suddenly became full and then eventually started “ebbing” back to “sea”, thus fading into nothing.

She feels that her beloved does not “look with love” in her any longer but she does not want pity for the face that her beloved’s feelings for her were “hushed” so quickly.  Instead she generalizes her beliefs and presents her definition of love saying that love is like a “wide blossom” that can be overcome by “wind” which shows that she believes that love can be beset by the forces of Nature.  She believes that “love is no more” than a “great tide” which slowly dies away and that it is fickle and temporary, as it is like a “shifting shore”.  She believes that love can be destroyed by “gales”, which is strong expression of how Nature’s powerful forces can do away with it.

In this poem the poet only wants pity for the fact that her “heart” took a long time to accept what her “mind” told her at every instant; that her relationship was fading away into nothingness.

In Marrysong, Dennis Scott uses Nature as a key theme. The poet uses Nature to describe his wife and his marriage with her. Throughout the poem, we see that the poet has attempted to completely understand his beloved’s personality, actions and moods, but fails to do so. The poem does not have a particular structure as compared to Sonnet 29.

The first line of the poem tells us that the poet “never learned her”. This shows that the speaker was never able to fully understand the inner working of his wife’s mind. He calls her a ” territory without seasons” as if she is an unpredictable landscape, and that her moods would continuously change and that there was no constancy in her personality.

He feels that he at times he would find himself “lost” in her “quarried hurt” which shows that her “walled anger” would be deep and wide as a quarry and not evident on the surface. There would be “stones in her voice” when she would be offended and angry and her anger would be show in her voice. However, suddenly he would find “cool water laughing” in place of her anger, which suggests how suddenly her moods would alter . He uses these images to present the diverse range of her moods and the unpredictability in her temperament.

The poet implies that he tried to make a “map” out of her personality and thus confine it, but “the map was never true” because of his wife’s continuously changing nature. He uses an image of  “wind” bringing him “rain”, and the “rain” “tasting of sea” which shows that when he expected something else out of his wife, he would be surprised to find that whatever she did would was not what he predicted.  He feels that “suddenly” she would “change the shape of shores” which again suggests that the poet uses Nature to describe his wife’s unexpected changes in moods.

He finds that every “day” he would find her different from the previous one and this shows that he felt that there was so much he did not know about her. The “shadows of her love” would grow smaller and larger as if they were “trees” would suddenly appear on an “unexpected hill”, which suggests that he felt that sometimes she loved him a lot and at times the intensity of her love for him would be very less. Every aspect of his wife’s unexpectedly changing and diverse nature would be different from the others and he would find “new country” at every unsuccessful “journey” he took to understand her.

Thus, he concludes that he “accepted” that “strange”, diverse and changing “geography” but still attempted to travel among the “landscapes of her mind”, which were so expansive that he never really “charted” them out and is unable to decode her personality. He uses these images from Nature to present her as an intriguing character as all his attempts to define her fail. Thus, he accepts her as she is.

In Sonnet 29 and Marrysong both the poets have successfully used Nature as a tool to present their relationships. While Sonnet 29 uses Nature to present a broken relationship, in Marrysong, Dennis Scott uses Nature to give an insight about his wife and his marriage.

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


About Words Infinitum- A Teacher's Haven

Am I a bird for Maya Angelou? If yes, why do I and so many of you around me feel caged? why not free? Am I a free spirit, then?If yes, then why don't I locate my limits? Because I can see I have lost the way. The quest for enlightenment is taking me acknowledge just Him ..and this strife just becomes so rewarding and so assuringly peaceful when I see myself having adopted His favourite occupation- the one he designated to his prophets. What is obstructing this self -actualization?
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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