Love by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Analysis

The poem Love is written in the form of a ballad. A ballad, in general, is a short narrative poem, dealing with simple homely themes of perennial interest. It is written in an artless, simple and direct manner. The themes of the older ballads were mainly connected with war, love, family ties, and feuds of a similar nature. The poem Love also describes a situation in a dramatic manner. The poem contains a story within a story.

S. T. Coleridge (1772-1834)

It describes two love affairs: the love of the miserable Knight for the Lady of the Land, and the deep but unexpressed love of the poet for his beautiful and innocent Genevieve. There is, however, one striking difference between the traditional ballad and this poem. The tone of traditional ballad is impersonal and detached and there is little of the composer's personality in it. But the poem Love is not so impersonal. It describes the poet's own love for Genevieve, though by the medium of the story of the Knight's love for the Lady of the Land. It describes the personal emotions of the poet, and his personality is constantly felt in the poem.

The theme of the poem is the glorification of love. Love, according to the poet, is the supreme passion of human beings and all the other passions are subordinated to it. They, moreover, contribute something to the passion of love; they stimulate, inspire, and sustain love, and make its fire more steadily and brightly. This is the main theme of the poem which is described in the very first stanza. The poet then proceeds to narrate the circumstances of time and place in which he sought to win the love of Genevieve. He does not express his love directly. He describes the sorrowful story of a certain knight who was treated with a cruel scorn by the lady he loved. His disappointment in love turned him mad and he lost his senses. He lost all interest in life and wandered in the forest. There he once rescued his lady-love from the clutches of some wild ruffians who wanted to molest her chastity. The lady then realized the worth and the deep love of her lover and nursed him day and night to save him. But all her efforts proved fruitless, and she could not save that knight. He died, but not without recovering his senses in the end. When he regained sanity on his death bed, he said something to that lady which the poet could not relate, as it was the most pathetic part of the story. His heart overflowed with emotions, his voice faltered, and his hands stopped on the harp. The poet was in reality mourning his own miserable condition in describing the sad and unfortunate condition of the Knight of the Burning-Brand. Genevieve realized this; she felt pity for the knight, and also for her own lover who was not less disconsolate and miserable. The death of the knight in the story made her apprehensive. The feeling of pity for the knight as well as her lover, the influence of the temptingly romantic scene, the quick alternation of her own hopes and fears, the gradual increasing of her love for the poet, all these had a very strong effect on her, and she not without some hesitation and shyness; ultimately yielded to his love- and confessed her love in an open manner. The poet thus succeeds in exciting and winning the love of Genevieve.

Love is a highly romantic poem. The time and place are romantic and therefore very suitable for describing the story of the love of that dejected and miserable knight. The poet was lying half way up the mountain beside a ruined tower. The time was evening. The moon was climbing up the sky and the moonlight was slowly and stealthily spreading over the scene. In such a beautiful and romantic place the poet was enjoying the company of Genevieve, who leaned against the statue of an armed knight. The sorrowful tune and the old rustic song which the poet sang harmonized well with the surrounding atmosphere. In such a wild and romantic atmosphere the poet indirectly expressed his own feelings of love for Genevieve by narrating the sad story of that miserable Knight, whose love was treated with scornful contempt by the lady he loved.

Love has a perennial appeal because it describes the most intense passion of the human heart. The human heart is full of the feelings of love, pity, fear, and sympathy. All these feelings are described in this poem. As the title suggests, the central passion described in the poem is that of love. Love has been glorified as the supreme passion of mankind and all other passions are subordinated to it, and contribute to making this supreme passion more firm and strong. AII the persons described in the poem are in love. The lady who earlier rejected the knight in the story fell in love with him in the end. The knight was a passionate lover. The poet has a deep love for Genevieve, and she also develops a deep love for him. In this connection, it should also be noticed that all of them are inspired with Platonic or ideal love. Theirs is a union of the hearts, and not of the body. There is no suggestion of carnal passion in anybody.

The poet knows that Genevieve is full of pity and sympathy for others' sorrows. He tries to win her love by singing to her the story of the frustrated knight who was scornfully rejected by his lady. The sad story of the knight arouses the feelings of pity in Genevieve. The poem contains subtle psychological analysis of the changing emotions of Genevieve at the sad and moving story of the knight. She feels strong emotions at the miseries of the knight. Her heart is thrilled by the feelings of hope and fear. She has worked up to so strong emotions that she cannot suppress her own feelings of love for the poet.

Ballads are generally written in an artless, simple, and direct language. There is the constant use of repetitions or 'refrains' to enhance the effect of the story. They are written in simple stanzas, and the story moves forward rapidly. The poem Love is also written in a simple and direct language. There are no adornments of diction in it, no use of fine phrases for their own sake. The poet concentrates on the story of the knight and on the changing emotions of Genevieve, and describes them in a simple and direct language. Sometimes the poet repeats a line or two to enhance the effect, like--''She listened with a flitting blush", etc. The poem is written in a very sweet and musical language. Coleridge was a master of harmony and music. These qualities are fully revealed in the poem Love also. It is a simple and direct expression of the feeling of love, the effect of which is greatly enhanced by the sweet music and movement of the lines.

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Shrestha, Roma. "Love by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 9 Nov. 2017,