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Abbey Morrical Professor Melissa Haynes English 124 Literary Analysis 4 November 2012 History and love poem: Love and Lust Through comparing the poems, History by Adrienne Rich, and love poem by Linda Pastan, we are led to a metaphysical analysis of love. By the use of theme, tone, and metaphor in each poem, two different sides of love are represented. It is important to focus on mankinds natural responses to love and how they can differ. When reading love poem by Linda Pastan and History by Adrienne Rich, the poems seem to differ immensely, History describes a past memory of a childish fling, whereas love poem uses imagery to portray an emotional longing; upon further inspection though, it becomes evident that the same tone pulsates through the veins of each poem, a challenged love and desire for a beloved. History, and love poem taken alone each show a curtained story of two beloveds and their external and internal longings; and when taken together, weave as one untold story of the humans natural changes in love.

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In the poem History, Rich looks back upon her sexually drenched past with understanding; looking at her use of symbol, and metaphor we can better understand the main theme of the poem. With her nostalgic tone, the poem takes flight and transports the reader to her past with her whilst she looks back. While Rich writes, she writes not to explain herself, but to relive and remember her past love. Dont ask me (Rich 1-2) Spoken twice back to back, Remember the forties songs, the slowdance numbers. (Rich 4-5) This enforces the nostalgic tone she carries throughout and helps show that she isnt writing to an audience to explain things, but she is looking back fondly on a past love. As the journey begins we have this scene of sensuality and lusty inhibitions hinted towards. Reading into the text, Dreaming that dream we leaned applying lipstick by the gravestone's mirror when we found ourselves playing in the cemetery. (Rich 13-15) The symbol of the cemetery is a place where the two beloveds were cloistered away from anyone else. Every form of intimacy in the poem is placed by Rich in a secluded, secretive place. This symbol is to represent that their love is hidden. She writes of the wood (Rich 18) and stairwell (Rich 42), areas they wouldnt be seen. There was this external influence that they found the need to hide from, so they had to fight this force to be together. It started with them both putting their lipstick on, and in the privacy of the cemetery they found themselves playing, later Rich interrupts herself to mention she wore no lipstick (18). One interpretation of this is that the playing was more than just a game between friends, but a lust-

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filled escapade between the beloveds. The word playing in this sentence is a metaphor for something more and sexual. The word choice throughout the first stanza savors strongly of sensuality and carnal desire; hidden behind symbol and metaphor, this flavor sets the tone of the poem in motion. Whilst reading Linda Pastans love poem, we are introduced to this feeling of falling, her extended metaphor of the creek and the prevalent symbols and imagery throughout, help unveil the theme behind the poem. The words tumble down the page as you are reading; this use of word structure is used as a symbol itself to represent the feeling of uncontrolled blindness to what is coming up next, parallel to love. The emotional turmoil undergoing throughout the poem is due to the residing tense danger, represented as the water. The water is a symbol of their intense emotional love. The poem reads the creek ahead of them as rushing so fiercely that it risks sweeping anything away that gets in its path (Pastan 7-10). This shows a fear of what is to come of their love. There is this desire for one another that is quick and intense; it is likened to the creek, swelling, falling, and rushing, with no force stopping it. The extended metaphor of the river being their love is represented avidly in these prior two examples, also when the two beloveds hold each other for fear of the water (Pastan 16-19). This brings to light a new feeling. Are they afraid of the love itself or the question that is

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rushing in front of them? At the end they have to decide, take a step back or get their shoes soaked together (Pastan 21-22). This is a metaphor represents the idea of a choice being made, between stepping away from their love and the danger associated, or waiting for the water to catch them. With the water nearing them it adds a sense of urgency to the decision. We can see this represented in the repetitive line we must grab each other, interlaced each time with options. It shows the urgency for the beloveds to not lose one another and to quickly make their mind up; are they in the creek or out? It is a deep desire for the other that cannot be quenched. The idea that they have to either be in this together or out shows that this isnt a light fling to them. It is love. The urgent tone Pastans writing of the last eight lines helps produce this serious flavor to a seemingly light poem. The title love poem is to draw attention to the fact that this is, in fact, a love. The imagery drawn throughout by the fear shows an internal force working against the couple. It helps show the conflict of a power that is fighting something the narrator desires, to be with the beloved. The symbol of the creek as their untameable love marks the emotional desire for one another and is the tone of this falling poem. History by Adrienne Rich and love poem by Linda Pastan both use symbol, metaphor, tone and theme to show a longing between two beloveds and forces acting against them. By juxtaposing these two relationships, and using our knowledge of poetic devices, we

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can see that in History Rich relives a lascivious desire, and in love poem Pastan expresses an emotional longing. Delving to the core of the two poems exposes the same core tone, each poem is about two beloveds intertwined in a conflicted love for the other. Whilst reading love poem, Pastan shows internal yearning and conflict between the beloveds; this is mostly displayed through her extended metaphor of the creek. By juxtaposing the two poems we can see a distinct parallel to Richs History and its more erotic intimacy shown through symbol, and the external power working against it. These themes help to express how literary devices can tell two different stories to come to a very similar theme. Both are forms of love, and are rooted strongly on todays interpretation of what love means. Reflecting on poems like this can help us understand the natural metaphysical characteristics of love inside all of us. It is important to understand the way two, seemingly very different, types of love actually parallel each other and make the universal experience of love. The way the two authors used the poetic devices of symbol, metaphor, tone and theme to express the same universal human condition, shows how two seemingly different poems can both tell a story of love.

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Works Cited

Pastan, Linda. "Love Poem by Linda Pastan." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of poems and poets.

Poetry Search Engine. N.p., 12 Mar. 2006. Web. 23 Nov. 2012.


Rich, Adrienne. "The Poetry Center at Smith College ." Smith College. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://www.smith.edu/poetrycenter/poets/

Russell, Tony, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. "MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue

OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 4 Apr. 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2012

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