Looking into the poet’s mind and soul is often as simple as looking into the speakers that he or she places directly between themselves and the reader. This voice serves as a buffer as the author is able to relate to the reader without exposing their ownself as being vulnerable. These speakers often discuss the way the writer, the reader, or a collection of both may see things such as love and aging, but they do so without forcing any participating party to feel as if this view is specifically their own. In other words, the narrator blocks the vulnerability. Two such poets, who were able to utilize this form of speaker in order to discuss the theme of love by using symbolism are T.S. Elliot and Jonhn Donne in their respective poems “The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock” and “The Canonization.”
As was mentioned, the speaker holds the key comparative element between the two poems. However, it is notable that the speaker in “The Canonization” appears to be more angry and aggressive than that in “The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock” as he states “For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me love” (Donne 1). The speaker in Elliot’s poem is a bit more reserved and almost appears to be regretful as he states “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” (51). This suggests that Elliot’s speaker has not found significant meaning in his life whereas Donne’s speaker has found something worth fighting for in his own.
As is true in many similar poems, what one speaker has found and the other regrets can be discussed in the theme of love. It is without a doubt that this is often a central theme in poetry, but how these two narrator’s portray this concept is widely varied. Donne’s speaker has found love and is refusing to let anything in life stop him from pursuing this feeling. This is shown as he says “We can die by it, if not live by love” (28). However, the speaker in “The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock” has bypassed love throughout his life and looks back stating that he missed out on many opportunities to love thinking that he would have more time “ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse” (Elliot 48). Sadly, as the reader knows, time is not guaranteed and love must not be taken lightly.
These concepts of love, in both poems, were displayed through beautiful symbolism that allowed the reader to truly feel what the speaker was going through. One symbol that is found in both poems is that of elapsing time through the changes of the speakers’ hair. In Donne’s poem, the speaker mentions his “five gray hairs” (3). This shows that he is just starting to age, but he is still full of life. However, life has been harder on Elliot’s speaker without love in his life and he now speaks “With a bald spot in the middle of my hair” (40). By using the hair to symbolize the passing of time, both speakers are relating to readers of all ages and genders.
Although there are apparent differences between the poems with their differences in the way the speakers have approached love, the overall concepts portrayed are very similar. Through using narrators, both writers were able to reach the readers without leaving themselves open. Both speakers were telling the readers to grab love while there is still time and showed the passage of time through the physical changes of their hair.
- Donne, John. “The Canonization.” 1633. Web. 9 July 2015.
- Elliot, T.S. “The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock.” 1915. Web. 9 July 2015.