One of the four full-length Shakespeare love poems, this poem is written in seven-line stanzas and is written in rhyme royal, just like another Shakespeare love poem, the Rape of Lucrece. The rhyme royal rhyming scheme is (aba-bb-cc). This full length poem is 394 lines long, and has 2579 words. so if you haven’t read it yet and don’t have the time to do so, have a look at my summary below.
The poem tells the story of a young maid who laments over her seduction by a persuasive, womanising young man. He eventually dumps her and breaks her heart. The story begins with her weeping and wailing by the river, and an old shepherd hears her and takes pity, and goes over to console her. He finds her throwing love tokens into the river as she weeps, old love letters (some written in blood) and jewellery, all given to her by the same man. The shepherd notices that although she looks bedraggled, she is still young and must have been pretty before she became in such a state.
She tells the story of how she was an innocent and chaste young woman, not to be easily seduced by red-blooded men. This young man had a reputation as a notorious womaniser, and the young maid was wary to begin with. Eventually his charms and popularity seduced her. Shakespeare goes on to describe the young man’s many qualities, he was very handsome, and had wit and charm and a twinkle in his eye. He had a “subduing tongue” and could “make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep” He gave her gifts and love tokens from his previous lovers to show how much her loved fer, and she accepted them and almost believed her loved her. Perhaps he did, it is not made clear in the poem, but soon the young maid started to fall in love with the young man, even though she knew of his nature as a womaniser and a cheater.
Eventually the young man started becoming untrue and deep down she knew it, but she was so in love that it blinded her and she ignored it. The young man eventually left her to pursue other woman, and now the young woman is sad and alone.
Shakespeare explores two different themes of the nature of love here, both are very dangerous. In this Shakespeare love poem, there is firstly the power of love to blind all to sense. The young maid was at the time a chaste and good young lady, and she knew that the young man was a fickle seducer, but yet at the time she was blinded by love and it robbed her of all reason.
Another theme is the cruelty of love, how this young woman was cheated and dumped unkindly by this man. Sometimes people have very little concern for other peoples feelings. This could also be interpreted as a theme on how fickle men’s hearts are. In this poem, we are unsure whether the man really over loved the young maid or whether he was just using her, but some lines portray him in a bad light. I particularly like this very clever description near the end of the poem “…though our drops this difference bore, His poison’d me, and mine did him restore.” This is my favourite line in the poem, and it describes how the seducing young man’s false tears tricked the young maid into falling in love with him, but her real tears gave the young man strength and boosted his ego. The use of the word poison almost gives an evil edge to the young man’s motives I like this poem’s description of each character’s flaws and qualities.The young maid’s description invokes pity in the reader “Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat… Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside”, this description makes her seem very plain in appearance, almost as if she could be pretty, but has no strength or energy to care about her appearance. We could all learn from Shakespeare’s romantic writings here.
This in my opinion is one of the best Shakespeare Love Poems to learn poetry from because of its simple themes of the dangers of love. Many of you may be able to relate to the story of the young maid in this poem, but if you’re looking for clever description, this is one of the best poems to look at.