College Essay Examples

The Ironies of Romantic Love


The topic of romance has been addressed in many poems since it is a fundamental feature of human society in the past, present, and possibly in the future. Romantic love is significant in the daily lives of human beings. Numerous poems have explored the concept of love and its features, including intimacy, passion, and commitment. However, unlike other types of love, romantic love is characterized by the high intensity of the involved emotions by individuals. Some poems have explored the irony in romantic love as depicted the human society. The poems, Ulysses by Tennyson, Musée des Beaux Arts by Auden, Ode on a Grecian Urn by Keats, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Marlowe, and The Paperweight by Schnackenberg explore the ironies of romantic. Through exploring time movement and the idealized nature of romantic love, the poems give their audiences a realistic perspective of romantic love. 

“All breathing human passion far above,

         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,

                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue” (Keats, 28-30)

One major element of romantic attraction explored in these poems is the static nature of time among lovers. Intense emotions of passion, intimacy, and commitment and sexual desires are usually viewed to make the time static. By basing the events of the poems on the present, the speakers take no note of the future or the past and focus on the activities happening at the moment. The irony is presented to the audience when they realize that, unlike romantic that focuses on intense emotions of passion and intimacy at the moment, eventually, the realities of life would intrude. 

In The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, the poet shows no movement in time. Christopher Marlowe writes:

“Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove” ((MARLOWE, 1-2)

However, the shepherd does not suggest long-term arrangement through marriage or establish a home together with the woman. In proving the pleasures, the shepherd will cover the woman in flowers and make ivy buds and straw belt, besides other activities. However, he fails to identify that these flowers and belts wilt and disintegrate quickly, focusing on the moment’s pleasures. The romantic love depicted fails to identify a future that will inevitably follow, such as the cold winter. Moreover, by ignoring the wilting and disintegration of flowers with time, the poet uses symbols to describe how fast romantic love falls apart due to the static time, where lovers cannot take care of their relationship because there is no future. 

The poem Ode on a Grecian Urn also uses the concept of static time to present the irony of romantic love through describing the scene of a young man sitting with his lover and their scene. John Keats in Ode on a Grecian Urn states:

“Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

And, happy melodist, unwearied,

For ever piping songs for ever new” (Keats, 21-25)

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The poet relates the scene to the two lovers and their love for each other. In the lines, the tree in the scene is a metaphor to indicate the love shared between two lovers. The poet identifies that just like the leaves of the trees will never fall, and trees never grow old, the couple’s love will not grow stale and old but will be immortal. Through relating the immortality of the couple’s love and the tree, it reflects that their romantic passion will not diminish since their time is still. The irony of the everlasting passion among lovers is addressed by indicating that it is inevitable for passions to diminish with time. The young couple’s immortal romantic love is achieved only escaping the temporary nature of life and stillness of time. 

The use idealized nature of romantic love is depicted by the various poem to explore its realistic aspects that are less celebrated in society. The ideal nature romantic of love is depicted in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, where Marlowe paints an environment where there are no real dangers. The shepherd tells the woman:

“And we will sit upon the Rocks,

Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,

By shallow Rivers to whose falls

Melodious birds sing Madrigals” (MARLOWE, 4-8)

In these lines, the shepherd’s romantic life is presented to have no responsibilities since he imagines that they will other shepherds feeding their stock, without mentioning his responsibility to feed his flock. Moreover, the shepherd fails to mention dangers such as predators faced by his flock. In reality, with the responsibility of protecting, shearing, and herding his sheep, the shepherd fails to understand that there is little to no time to sit on the rocks and watch the birds sing for eternity. Through imagery and personification, illustrates the setting to arouse emotions among romantic lovers. Imagery creates the feeling of “us against the world” common in the description of romance. Birds can sing through personification enhance background music for the lovers, a type of romance normally depicted in the movies. The use of madrigals connects the audience to Italy, which is usually considered “very romantic.” The irony is that such romantic love does not exist in reality, which involves fulfilling one’s passion and ignore the real necessities of life. 

The ideal environment among romantic lover is further illustrated by The Paperweight by Schanckenburg. She poet writes:

“Beyond our lives, they laugh, and drink their tea.

We look at them just as the winter night

With its vast empty spaces bends to see” (Schnackenberg, 16-20)

In the poem, Schnackenberg explores the lives of a husband and wife in the snow globe. The couple is shown to exist in their love, oblivious of the other people around. The poem criticizes the idea that romantic love should be exclusively about the two lovers, failing to recognize that they are part of society. 

On the other hands, the poems Musée des Beaux Arts by Auden and Ulysses by Tennyson give a realistic view of human relationships in romance. In Musée des Beaux Arts, Auden explores the human indifference to suffering. Through the use of arts that describe historical tragic events, Auden shows the bystanders’ tendency to disengage from their surroundings. Auden states:

“Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky” (Auden, 19-20).

The poem reflects that the world is full of pain, making human indifferent to others’ suffering even in historically important moments. The speaker’s tone, by using “something amazing” to describe a boy falling from the sky, acknowledges the human’s sentiments about the suffering of others. Moreover, the reality of love is shown in Ulysses when the speaker leaves his family to pursue his passion for exploration. Tennyson writes:

“This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle” (Tennyson, 33-34)

The two poems show that romantic loves fail to acknowledge the pain and passion of partners. They challenge the idea of romantic love as an intense emotion between two people, who in reality are suffering and have other passions. 


Works Cited

Auden, W.H. “”Musée Des Beaux Arts” By W.H. Auden”. Poetry Daily, Accessed 24 Apr 2021.

Keats, John. “Ode On A Grecian Urn By John Keats | Poetry Foundation”. Poetry Foundation, Accessed 24 Apr 2021.

MARLOWE, CHRISTOPHER. “The Passionate Shepherd To His Love By… | Poetry Foundation”. Poetry Foundation, Accessed 24 Apr 2021.

Schnackenberg, Gjertrud. “Number 41: Gjertrud Schnackenberg “The Paperweight””. Happopoemouse.Blogspot.Com, 2011, Accessed 24 Apr 2021.

Tennyson, Alfred. “Ulysses By Alfred, Lord Tennyson | Poetry Foundation”. Poetry Foundation, Accessed 24 Apr 2021.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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