Love Is Not All Essay Research Paper

Love Is Not All Essay, Research Paper

Poets must utilize many tools and techniques to create a mood or convey a

thought. Metaphor, simile, spacing, form, voice, and setting are all common

poetic utilities. Some tools, however, are more understated. Some of the more

delicate methods used by poets are rhythm, language, and the consistency of the

theme throughout the poem. One work that makes use of inconsistent theme is Edna

St. Vincent Millay?s sonnet ?Love Is Not All: It Is Not Meat nor Drink?

(page 936). This poem uses indirect theme and abrupt change in message to add

more emphasis the meaning of the poem. By beginning the poem with an image that

contrasts the main theme, the poet is able to inflict a more vivid impression on

the reader. Even the title of Millay?s sonnet gives us an idea of what the

poem?s theme is likely to be. ?Love is not all? suggests that the persona

is decrying love. It prepares the reader for a put-down of love and all things

romantic. Millay proceeds to use a group of anti-similes that declare what love

is not; ?it is not meat nor drink,? therefor we presumably can not live

without it. Love will not refresh you or protect you from the elements, as it is

not ?slumber nor a roof against the rain.? She then relates love to ?a

floating spar to men that sink,? stating that it will not support you in times

of disaster. The entire first six lines generally knock love by declaring it

useless and unsubstantial. After reading this the reader jumps to the conclusion

that they know what Millay?s message is. The turning point of the poem is the

seventh line. ?Yet many a man is making friends with death / Even as I speak,

for lack of love alone? contradicts everything the reader is led to believe

thus far. The following lines are equally contrary to the initial message. They

state that though love may not be absolutely necessary, life is hardly worth

living without it. The persona states that though in a time of ?nagging by

want past resolution?s power? she could trade her lover?s affection for a

moment of relief, she doubts that she would. This change of message is one of

the more delicate and indirect tools used to drive a point home to the reader.

If we simply read the last sestet of the poem, the message seems trivial and

mundane. The persona wouldn?t trade her love for anything. So what. It has no

emphasis, and lacks voice. The reader is left with no lasting impression.

However, when read with the first octet included, the poem takes on a new

importance. The sudden contrast in mood and theme catches the reader?s

attention. Contrast is used in all forms of art and imagery. Visual artists use

contrasting colors and light and dark to make an image more independent and

defined. When held to a dark backdrop, a white object appears much more vivid

than it would against a light backdrop. A soft melody proceeding a loud

crescendo is often used by musicians to make the latter even more impressive and

overwhelming. Millay?s use of contrast in this poem punctuates the message in

a similar manner. The last line jumps upon the reader with emphasis. To create

this emphasis, she employs inconsistent line structure and rhyme scheme in

addition to the theme change. Throughout the sonnet, the lines are long and full

of many-syllable words. The final line, however, is very simple. It contains

single syllable words, and uses no figurative language. ?It well may be. I do

not think I would? simply states the message. The prolific use of figurative

speech earlier in the sonnet to state the opposing thought makes this line more

memorable and powerful. This line does not fit into the rhyme scheme of the

sonnet, either. Lines one through twelve follow the standard scheme of abab.

Lines thirteen and fourteen, however, don?t rhyme. Millay breaks away from the

rest of the poem, giving the last lines independence. These techniques combine

with the change in message to embed the theme deep into the reader?s mind.

Contrast is a very effective tool in poetry. Just as clever metaphor and

innuendo catch the reader?s attention and emphasize a point more

authoritatively than simple statement; contrast leaves a thought with a reader

long after they have read the poem. Millay utilizes several forms of contrast in

?Love Is Not All,? the result being a poem that expresses distinctly that

love is indeed all.


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