Poetry is one of the literary materials that can be said to have a compact language that is able to express a complex emotions or feelings. The broadside ballads that were published in the sixteenth century express the complex feelings of that particular period. The poem The Secret Lovers is one of the broadside ballads published early in the 16th century and expresses the complex emotions of passion and love between two young lovers. This paper seeks to critically analyze the poem The Secret Lovers with respect to various poetic textual criticisms such as form, poetic devices, and sound patterns.
Context and Form of the Poem
The poem The Secret Lovers like many other ballads does not have a particular or known author even the date of publication because they were passed down from generation to the next through the oral means. The Secret Lovers is a ballad that tells a story of two lovers with the key subject or theme being love. Like many other ballads, The Secret Lovers focuses on action instead of the thoughts of characters. However, the action is conveyed or depicted through the dialogue. The reader can be able to depict the speakers voice from the context conveyed in the dialogue. From The Secret Lovers one is able to depict the three key characters from the conversation or dialogue between them. The three characters include the two lovers and the father of the girl. The poem is fairly a short narrative in quatrains. This means that the poem has four line stanzas.
The title of the poem The Secret Lovers highlights the meaning of the poem since it mentions the actions examined in that particular literary material. The poem talks about two lovers who have to secretly see each other despite the objection of the ladys father. The lady explains how she fears her father not to find out about her affair with her lover. She says that I dare not open now the gates; for fear my father spy (12).
The poem has integrated various poetic devices which help in the development of the plot. First, repetition has been widely used in the poem in various stanzas and lines to achieve different effects. For example, the word Love has been repeated in almost all the stanzas to help the poet achieve the emphasis effect. The poet tries to show that despite the obstacles present in the affair, the two lovers are unable to keep their feelings for each other hidden. In the last stanza the poet explains how the two lovers are able to overcome their obstacles; thus, the couples had wishes at last (48).
Alliteration and assonance have also been employed in the poem for rhythm purposes. In the fourth stanza, the poem employs assonance in the first line O Dearest be not daunted; thou needest not to fear. The two words dearest and fear achieves the assonance effect which helps create musicality or rhythm in the poem. In the third stanza, the last line the poet explains that for fear my father spy which also creates alliteration. The sound /f/ has been alliterated in the line; thus, creating rhythm. The rhythm of the poem has been achieved through the above three poetic devices; alliteration, assonance, and repetition.
The poem The Secret Lovers has twelve quatrains with the irregular rhyme scheme. Each stanza has a different rhyme scheme. For instance, the first stanza has a rhyme scheme of ABCBDB which is different from the other stanzas that follow. However, the first four lines of the first stanza can be said to follow the majority of the ballad rhyme scheme of ABCB form. The poem further follows the iambic tetrameter; thus, making a ballad poem. Most of the ballad poems follow either iambic trimeter or tetrameter. The first line of the first stanza has four words stressed; for instance, in the line Dainty Spruce young Gallant, these four words have been stressed. Most of the lines in this poem are written in iambic tetrameter. The poet used this form in the poem to achieve two key effects. First, the poet wanted to make the poem relatively easy to read and follow the lines for the readers or audience. Using three or four-meter form in the poem like it is done in The Secret Lovers makes it easy for the readers to comprehend due to the short lines used. Secondly, this form has been used due to its traditional popularity. As mentioned before, most of the ballads use the four or three iambs system for easy memorization because they were performed or sung. Further, it was easy to transfer them from person to person through the oral means.
The tone of the poem is also a critical issue of consideration in the critical analysis of a poetic work. In the poem The Secret Lovers, the poet has employed both passionate and emotional tone in the poem. In the first stanza, the poem introduces the audience to the young man who lived in the West and courted a young lady in which he profest real love (4). The poet has also frequently and repeatedly used the romantic words like my love to depict the endearing and passionate tone of the poem. Apart from the tone, the poet has also employed cheerful mood in the poem through the joy-like limericks. For example, despite the objections and challenges that they face in their relationship, the two lovers are not able to deny their emotions. The young lady is ready to disobey her father who commands her to go to bed just to be with her true love. She says that Dear father I obey you.but yet I am not willing to leave my love alone (39). In the last stanza, the poet shows admiration to the young couple who despite the obstacles like the fathers jealousy, at long last manages to stay together.
In conclusion, the poem The Secret Lovers has employed many poetic features or devices that have been described in detail in the body of this essay. Among the key features highlighted and discussed include the assonance, alliteration, repetition, rhyme, and rhythm as well as their implication in the poem. Other devices like mood and tone of the poem have also been explained in respect to the poem The Secret Lovers. The integration of these different elements in the poem The Secret Lovers leads the audience or readers to believe that the poet is describing a serious or intense experience. The intense experience that the poet describes is love or passion between two young people.
EEBO. The Secret Lovers or The Jealous Father Beguild. Early English Books. Accessed on January 30, 2018 from http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/21137/transcription
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