The history of English poetry stretches from the middle of the 7th century to the present day. Poets from different countries created numerous outstanding works. Here are three poems Ive read which are of great reputation. They are “My Mistress Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun”, “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “How Do I Love Thee”. The first poem was written by William Shakespeare who is a world famous writer. He is well-known not only for his plays especially tragedies, but also for his 154 sonnets. Not like most sonnet, just as you can find in the title, it depicted a different lady who is not so beautiful. This poem is number 130 out of the 154 sonnets, so we can call it Sonnet 130. It is William Carlos Williams who wrote the second poem. What interesting is his primary occupation was as a family doctor and writing poems was his off-hour hobby, but I believe he is much more succeeded in poetry than as a doctor. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is a traditional American poetry which is so much different from a sonnet. It is often considered as the masterwork of American 20th-century, although it is the shortest poem I have ever known. The third poet is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. This is Sonnet XLIII in “Sonnets from the Portuguese”. It’s also a sonnet, but it is in the model of Italy which is popularized by Petrarch. This means the third poem and the first one have great differences. Because of these widely different poems, the world of poetry can be so splendid and vibrant. And I am now going to analyze these three different poems in the aspects of satire, image and theme.
When reference satire, we cannot ignore the Shakespeare’s sonnet number 130, which is a successful poem that effectively use satire to convey a sincere theme while maintaining sonnet structure, and using literary devices as a source of irony. Let me expound it from the beginning. The first quatrain illustrates the appearance of his lover. Her eyes are not beautiful, her lips are not so red, her breast are dun and her hair is bad. No one will think her beautiful, so do I. People who study sonnets are used to praises of beauty and extraordinary spirit yet, instead of introducing a surreal love interest Shakespeare begins his sonnet in such an unconventional method of satire. This ironic method completely overturns the traditional idea of sonnet and successfully hooks the reader. The next two quatrains continue describe how his lover is just a common woman. There is no flushed cheeks and no fragrance breath. Her voice is not like music and when she walks, treads on the ground. We all know the fact that conventionally metaphors and similes are used in love poems as a tool to express praise. But in this case, the speaker in sonnet 130 proves his love by depicting his lover that none of these metaphors or similes apply to her since they are exaggerations. In this way, the sonnet 130 enhances its theme by satire. Things change in last two sentences: “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare; As any she belied with false compare.” By abandoning literary devices for sincerity, Shakespeare concluded his poem. It makes me believe that sincerity and realism is worth more than false comparisons. And when the theme of the sonnet is concluded with sincere language like this, the readers, including me, then understands Shakespeare’s use of satire. To conclude, this poem satirizes the over-the-top descriptions that poets had traditionally used to praise women’s beauty.
Regarding to images in poem, no one can deny the fact “The Red Wheelbarrow” is one good example. In this poem, three images form a beautiful picture which is unforgettable and meaningful. The poem is so begins: “So much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow”. The first two lines look like a child discovered a miracle, and what followed on is the wheelbarrow, the first image. But the picture is so vague now. Then, it goes “glazed with rain/ water”. The second image here is water or rain and it shows that this scene is just after a rain. The last sentence “beside the white/ chickens” reveal the last image, the chickens. Just from the images, we found the poem begins from the abstract things (so much) to stationary object (wheelbarrow), then goes to moving object (rain), and ends with living animals (chickens). These images can simply sum up into “from silence to vitality”, which is a healthy and progressive development. Furthermore, we can draw a more specific picture if we notice the adjectives. The wheelbarrow is vividly because there is a word “red” to modify it. We can find the atmosphere so relaxed because the wheelbarrow is glazed with rain other than became dirty. It is said the chicken is white, which is opposite to the wheelbarrow’s red. In a sense, the imagery in the Williams poetry just like a colorful painting shows the picture of our daily life: an agrarian scene, most likely the yard of a farmhouse, where a wet red wheelbarrow stands among some white chickens. With a strong visual stimulation and the contrast of dynamic and static, this is no longer a simple poem that has only 4 clauses but an ingenious work which has brilliant images.