Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

At first glance, Michael Drayton’s “Since there’s no help” seems to be an indictment against a (recently) former lover for being unwilling to attempt to resolve their problems instead of leaving. One could almost read the poem as one half of a dialogue, with the subject of the poem responding verbally or nonverbally in unwritten lines. However, it can also be viewed as an inner-monologue of the stages one goes through after being rejected romantically, much like the stages of grief after the death of a loved one: anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.

At first, the speaker states the position of his lover, that there is no way things can work and that they should therefore separate, and then reacts to it with malice, rejecting in his mind any future gesture of respect that may come from the other, insisting that he is happy that he will be no longer burdened by this other person, almost implying that their love did not exist. Next, he begins to bargain, entreating himself to forget that anything ever happened, or to at least cease to acknowledge any lingering feelings to provide a clean break. The last half of the poem seems to turn even more inward in a state of despair. By personifying the concepts of love, passion, faith, and innocence and describing them in their dying throws, the speaker begins to sound over the top, wallowing in self-pity, merely wishing for a quick end to misery. However, even as he wails, he transitions, indicated by a semicolon connecting the two clauses, into a phase of acceptance, realizing the possibility of future love and a clean slate after he has sorted out his feelings.

Interestingly, Drayton uses the second person “thou” in the last lines, which would seem to be an attempt to comfort his lover if he were speaking to them. This, however, does not make sense in the context of the poem, as it seems that he is the one at odds with the situation. In the reading described above, using the word “thou” strengthens the idea that he is internally deliberating, essentially giving himself a pep-talk by the end of the poem.

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