Sentimentality in Love Poetry

While love poetry should arise passion in its readers, it is quite different from directing readers to feel the emotion demanded by the speaker. This is sentimentality, which usually involves cliches and plots guided by the purpose of making one feel strongly for the characters. In the Love Poetry handout, one of the most sentimental poems is Anne Bradstreet’s A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public employment. 

The title adds dramaticism to the direct impression of the poem. One would only know that the speaker is writing to her own husband, other than someone else’s husband, once they read the poem. By using the third-person point-of-view, it gives the title a smoother ring but really means nothing much. Rather it seems like the speaker sounds sad and melancholy on purpose.

The poem itself sounds smooth and has a consistent rhythm to the ear. Since this poem is such a long, single stanza, this repeating rhythm does not seem very interesting. One desperately long line is divided into many short sections: “My head, my heart, mine eyes, my life, nay, more,/ My joy, my magazine of earthly store” (ll 1,2) These extravagant layers of words may seem to emphasize the speaker’s sadness, but strong emotions should be portrayed best in a simple and powerful manner in order for the reader to relate to it. There are many adjectives in this poem compared to other poems about separation. In fact, there are simply too many words that could be simplified: “such frigid colds,” (l 11) and “sweet contentment.” (l 15) These lines are losing concentration in the quality of sentiments.

It is understandable about the concept of “I here, thou there, yet both but one.” (l 26) This line is more likable compared to the other lines, but I can’t help but become bored with the long chunk of lines that could have been structured in a more impactful and less self-pitied manner. I appreciate how the poet is able to use so many poetic devices to create some imagery, but it really makes the poem so cheap and too dramatic. I can relate to someone with silent but powerful melancholy. But it is hard to relate to someone who is moaning continuously about it.