Monday, March 28, 2011

To ____ _____ by Mary Bryan

This is an interesting example of a Shakespearean sonnet that manages to be typically melodramatic, while also affirming life in the face of death. The poem definitely seems to express a woman’s love for her dead lover, and one can’t help but wonder if this poem’s speaker is in fact the poet addressing her feelings over her dead husband. It is difficult to know who the speaker is directly addressing in this poem, which is another thing that makes it somewhat unique. All we know about the addressee is that the speaker calls them “unknown disturber of my rest.” It is as though she has personified her own feelings of despair over the death of her husband. She indicates that perhaps she is simply bemoaning whatever malady it was that took her husband from her when she calls it “[d]estroyer of love thou ne’er canst know.” The speaker runs the gamut of emotions, moving from suicidal to blissful. On the fifth line she seems to be imploring her life to end when she says “life with love–O leave me– spare me now.” On the very next line she has shifted completely away from the negative expressions which, up to that point, had entirely characterized the poem. She makes many references to an unspecified, serendipitous occurrence “when kind some pitying Genii heard [her] vow.” In the depths of her sorrow, she discovered a new motivation to live in the memory or spirit of her deceased love. She exposits the reasons in the couplet, after the volta: “to live for him, and at Love’s sanctioned shrine.” The movement from depression to hopefulness could be considered the volta, but it is at the end of the poem that the speaker moves from hopefulness to a statement about a new reason for life. The first part of the poem is cohesive as an emotional journey, while the end renders her surprising epiphany.

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