How are the themes of love and relationship presented in Sonnet 29 as compared to Marrysong?
Both Sonnet 29 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Marrysong by Dennis Scott present love and relationships as a primary theme, although in each poem a different perception of them is given. While Sonnet 29 talks about a tarnished relationship, in Marrysong, a husband presents his view of his wife, and his relationship with her during their marriage. While Sonnet 29 is a Shakespearean sonnet, Marrysong appears to be mainly free verse and is an extended metaphor.
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.
The speaker implies that the “light of day” has vanished, which shows that that she feels that the light and happiness in her relationship has now finished, and that it “no longer walks the sky”. The sky has become a canopy of gloom above her and that the day is coming to a “close” which connotes that everything is coming to its end. However she does not want to be pitied for this or the fact that “beauties”, that is her youth and the beauty of her relationship, which have now ended and “passed away”, which is an image of the passing of her prime, and death.
She says that her relationship was once like a blossoming “field” which shows fulfilment and how happy and contented she was but as the “years” have gone by, it turned into a “thicket”, which is a negative image of her relationship and it acted as an obstruction to her perception.
She compares her relationship to the “waning of the moon” which suggests that their relationship was once at its peak but eventually declined, like the moon does after becoming full. She calls it an “ebbing tide” which faded away back “to sea” after it became full.
She does not want to be pitied that her beloved’s love for her was “hushed so soon” and that he “no longer” looks at her “with love” as he once used to and that his love for her died out. In fact, she generalizes her beliefs and presents her own definition of love and says that “love is no more” than a “wide blossom”, which can be overcome and vanquished by the forces of Nature, like the “wind” which blows it away. She feels that love has no more value than the “great tide” which suddenly rises and then dies out. She feels that love is like a “shifting shore” which is temporary and does not stay constant. The speaker presents the turmoil in her relationship when she talks about “fresh wreckage” being “gathered in the gales”. “Gales” is a powerful expression for the destructive forces of Nature, which are able to destroy love and leave nothing but ripe painful memories and pieces of a broken relationship.
In the last couplet of her sonnet, she says she wants pity for the fact that she did not accept that her relationship was going downhill while she was in it, even though her “mind” kept telling her at “every turn” the status of her relationship, but her “heart” was unwilling to “learn it.
Dennis Scott begins Marrysong with the lines that he was “never” able to “learn” his wife. This suggests that even though he attempted to understand her character, he was unable to do so during the whole period of his marriage. Although this does not imply that he had an unfulfilling marriage, it shows that his wife was an unpredictable person. He found her as a “territory without seasons” during their relationship, which gives her personality an aspect of spontaneity and wildness and implies that she had continuously varying moods which “shifted” before him.
The speakers tells that during his marriage there would be times when for “an hour”, he would be “lost” and trying to figure her out when she “walled” herself up in her “anger” in her “quarried hurt” which shows that she would mentally seclude herself when she would be angry and how deep her anger would be. However, her mood would suddenly change and he would find “cool water” there, which suggests that she would suddenly became calm as compared to the previous “day” when her anger would show in her voice which would became strained as if there were “stones “ in it.
The speaker says that even though 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, and he would not know what was next to come as “roads disappeared”. This imagery is one of a continuously varying and unpredictable landscape, which he thinks is his wife.
He found her unpredictable during their relationship. He would be baffled that “wind brought him rain” which shows that when he expected her to act in a particular way, she would surprise him by “suddenly” changing the “shape of shores” which shows her varying temperament, as “faultlessly” as if her previous mood had not existed at all. In their marriage he felt that every day was a new “day” because of her changing moods, and tells that the “shadows” of her love for him would increase and decrease as if trees suddenly appearing from an “unexpected hill”, which shows how unpredictable he finds her.
He feels that every “journey” he takes to understand his wife fails and turns out to be “helpless” as he would find “new country” and unfamiliar “territory” every time he sought to understand her. Thus he concludes that she is impossible to define and accepts the “constantly” changing aspects of her personality but also “wondered” and still tried to figure out the inner workings of her “mind” as he would travel the widely varying “landscapes” she offered, thus presenting his wife as if she were another world that he would attempt to traverse through.
In both the poems, the poets present the theme of relationships in different ways. While Dennis Scott attempts to understand his wife’s personality, Edna St. Vincent Millay wants no pity for the fact that her relationship with her beloved ended as he stopped caring for her and feels that love is easily overcome.
Cooperative Learning Project : Aamna Naeem, Amna Ahmed and Marium Agha ( Class of 2011, Generation’s School)