Sentimentality in Love Poetry

There are moments in life where my heart feels heavy. I feel overcome with emotions that are often too vulnerable to expose to others. It’s not that sharing them would make me feel weak; it’s that I feel too weak to share them. Often times it’s easier to leave them untouched, because it’s too difficult to dig up such a deep emotion. However, there are people that chose to expose those emotions, whether that be through writing, television, or simply to others. This is often defined as sentimentality; the “indulgence of easy emotions” (Mr. MacKnight) such as sadness, nostalgia, or tenderness. When reading the “Love Poetry” handout, I immediately thought that When We Two Parted, by George Gordon, Lord Byron was the most sentimental.

Sentimentality is quite varying to love, because love doesn’t require dramatization; it’s enough on its own. Sentimentality is easier to follow and comprehend, because it’s designed to spark an emotional response. It’s meant to make you feel the way that they feel, in a way that relates to your life. When We Two Parted appeals to the sadness one feels when saying goodbye to someone, or when losing someone. It not only demonstrates the qualities of sentimental poetry, but also makes you feel that stereotypical wave of sadness and sympathy.

One of the preliminary observations one should make to determine the sentimentality in poetry is the rhyme scheme. The rhythm should be very regular, which is the case in When We Two Parted. Each stanza has an ABAB CDCD rhyme scheme, which allows it to flow nicely and repetitively whilst reading it. Furthermore, the consistency of 8 lines in each stanza proves the regularity, which allows for the ‘sing-song’ effect.

Another key component to sentimentality is vague, flowery, and “poetic” imagery (Mr. MacKnight), which is used throughout this poem. An example of this is displayed in lines 9-12, “The dew of the morning / Sunk chill on my brow– / It felt like the warning / Of what I feel now.” This poetic imagery gives the reader a sense of chills and coldness, due to the narrator’s experiences and sadness. When he describes that specific feeling as a warning of how he feels, it indicates his pain, without truly explaining it. Another example of this is in lines 19-20, “A shudder comes o’er me– / Why wert thou so dear?” There is a similarity between these two examples, because the author uses physical feelings that everyone has experienced, to reveal how he felt emotionally. This almost gives it a far-off sensation; as if you can hear his tone and emotions, and feel how he feels, without having to hear every word. This puts the focus on the depth rather than the surface, which is what this type of imagery and language provides.

The final reason contributing to my belief of the poems sentimentality, is the lack of reason, logic, and detail. As I previously mentioned, this poem focuses largely on the emotions. The poet describes how he feels, but doesn’t explain why he feels that way. One can clearly assume that it’s regarding a separation. However, he doesn’t explain the situation, nor the reasoning behind it. That being said, sentimentality is based around a feeling, therefore an explanation is truly unnecessary in order to convey his emotions.

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2 thoughts on “Sentimentality in Love Poetry”

  1. Amy, this is very good! I really like the fact that you quote from the poem to explain and support your assertions about it. I also like the way you show your personal engagement while at the same time using your analytical powers. Writing with both head and heart is the goal! Bravo! Two small ways to improve: 1) Put titles of short poems in quotation marks, not italics—”When We Two Parted.” 2) Put your line citations at the end of the quotations, in parentheses. For example, “A shudder comes o’er me– / Why wert thou so dear?” (ll. 19-20).

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