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Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese-Number Forty-Three

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Choose a Sonnet Style Which is New to you and Write a Detailed Analysis of its Structure and Style with Some Judgements on how it uses the Sonnet Form and Tradition

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese-number forty-three is adapted in both structure and style to fit the Petrarchan sonnet form and the traditions associated with it. Written in the nineteenth century, the sonnet form experienced a revival as Romantic poets such as Browning sought to effectively convey the subject of love and feelings associated with it once more.

Firstly, the structure of the poem takes the traditional Petrarchan sonnet form of fourteen lines, following a rhyme scheme of aa bb aa bb a cd cd cd. Browning uses this particular form in order to allude to the original fourteenth century Petrarchan Sonnets used to express ideas of love. The readers immediately see browning has matched the form with the overriding theme of love in the poem, and we see that both complement each other.

The style of the poem also includes poetic devices, which can be linked back to the sonnet tradition. Throughout the poem, Browning writes in the first person:

"...I love thee...I seemed to lose..."

Here we could say that Browning is writing from personal experience, or alternatively is adopting a persona in the poem.

In addition, second person pronominal usage is present:

"How do I love thee?.."

At this point, we could say that Browning has introduced another person into the poem. We, as readers, immediately gain a sense that the poet (or her persona) is addressing someone else. Again, Browning borrows this device from the Petrarchan sonnet, as (in the fourteenth century) many poems of this style were written in the first person on order to address lovers or express admiration.

Next, when studying the versification of the poem, we see Browning employs the use of regular iambic pentameter:

"I love thee to the depth and breadth and height"

Here, the importance of using such meter becomes apparent as the strong beats fall upon the second syllable (or word if they are monosyllabic) in each foot. This aids the writer in aurally conveying a stronger sense of her love to the other person. Taking this last quotation as an example, the poet chooses to put a soft beat on the pronouns:

"I...thee..."

and a stronger beat on the words:

"Love...to...depth...breadth...height..."

This puts the emphasis on the lexis, which describes the 'dimensions' of her love. The fact that these words have rhythmic emphasis over the pronouns in the line indicates that Browning sees the love she bears, as greater than either individual. This use of meter also reflects the Petrarchan sonnet when writers would use and be consistent in iambic pentameter in order to stretch their own linguistic competence.

Lexis used in the poem is also a feature Browning employs; and in doing so, she conveys echoes of the Petrarchan style once more. If we analyse the metaphorical imagery in the poem, in terms of the 'tenor' (the sense/ideas the poet is trying to evoke) and the 'vehicle' (the metaphors/images used to convey these ideas), we get a heightened sense of this. In Sonnet number Forty-Three, the tenor of the poem is the expression of the poet's all consuming love for this person. We can plainly see this is so, even without the imagery as the phrase:

"I love thee..."

occurs nine times in the fourteen-line poem. However, the vehicles used to further heighten and communicate this message, appear through Browning's use of abstract and religious metaphors (for example):

"...My soul can reach when feeling out of sight/

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace...

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose/

With my lost saints..."

Here, the poet uses such intangible concepts such as the 'soul' and this blends with the religious ideas we connote them with (such as 'Being' or 'Grace'). The purpose of this is to convey both to her lover and to the readers the sense of awe her feelings impose upon her. This allows her move the poem forward, alluding to religious figures such as 'saints'.

The effect of using such vehicles to convey meaning, in not only convey the tenor (her love) but also to introduce another viewpoint-that she sees her love as a kind of religion, which she will worship with more heart and enthusiasm than she ever could with her orthodox religion. The use of such complex vehicles could also be said to be taken from the Petrarchan sonnet tradition. Especially so, as many were originally crafted as part of complex conceits to the lover for the purpose of persuading. Such metaphors would combine many ideas and strands of reason into one compact image, which would fit the poem's traditional form.

Following on from the lexis of dimensions and abstract metaphors, we are then presented with the use if transferred epithets:

"I love thee to the level of/

...

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