THE PARTING

Michael Drayton, was an English poet, the first to write odes in English in the style of Horace. The Parting by Michael Drayton is a sonnet. It is a poem about the breakup of the relationship between the poet and his companion. This sonnet has a very strict form and the poet has been cautious in composing his poetry, to assure that it fits the design constraints. The sonnet is very short, it consists of only 14 lines. Oftentimes, he has to synopsize in a single line of the poem, something he would ordinarily have penned a. The line, “Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows” summarizes quite a precise sense of the dispute signifying enduringly, with no chance of reconciliation. There is a change from the aggression of the first half of the poem, there remains a slight hint in the second half, as the author threatens his lover, telling her that if she leaves him, then she will be a murderess, who has killed not only their endearment but love itself. The language is harsh and cold, and after the Volta, in the third and fourth quatrains, the language is softer and more personal. Again, this is a function of the form of the sonnet; there must be a drastic change of ideas after line eight. For example, there is the brutally aggressive “you get no more of me” in the second line, and the much gentler “Now at the last gasp of love’s latest breath”. The poet uses the Volta not just to change the language but also to the entire message. Instead of pushing her apart from him as he did in the first eight lines, he is now emphasizing her of how consequential the end of the relationship will be. He goes from demanding to practically pleading. The orders in the first two quatrains such as “be it not seen” are replaced with conditionals, such as “if thou would’ st”; it seems almost as though he is pleading with her. Also, worth noting is how he goes from using the aggressive “you” to the gentler “thou” after the Volta.

In a sonnet, the rhythm is always iambic pentameter, which means that there must always be ten syllables per line, with each second syllable being stressed and the author breaks this pattern. Besides, to the constraints of the number of lines, because of which the poem is compressed, simplifying the poem’s purpose, and enhances it. For example, in the first line, “SINCE there’s no help, come let us kiss and part— ” there should be no stress on the third syllable, but the author has written the poem so that there is, stressing the “no” and giving weight to the preciseness of the first two quatrains. The author again breaks the rhythm in the last two lines that are ” —Now if thou would’st, when all have given him over, From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.”  using eleven syllables instead of ten. This is not a blunder or an accident, it has been done for one of two purposes; to add importance to these lines because it appears out of place due to their length, or because the poet thought that he clearly could not sum up his feelings in the eleven syllables that the conventional sonnet allows him. When looking at the rhythm, we should look not only at the line length but also at the rhyme scheme. In the first two quatrains, the rhyme words are very harsh, distancing the author from the poem. For example, there are the very harsh consonant sounds of “part” and “heart”, However, in the third quatrain, there are much softer sounds, such as “breath”, “death”, “lies” and “eyes”. The harsh ‘r’s and ‘t’s are replaced by softer ‘th’s and ‘s’s. This pattern is mirrored throughout the poem; in the first two quatrains. 

The structure of the sonnet has considerably added to the essence of the poem. In perfecting the poem to suit the constraints, the poet has illuminated the message and intensified the sense of what he is trying to say. Besides, where the poet for some purpose breaks the rules of the poem which adds more meaning to the poem, highlighting specific elements and making other parts exceptional.

Categories: Literature

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