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Unrequited love as an Evergreen Subject of Poetry with reference to Emily Dickinson’s I cannot live with you

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The topic of unrequited love is very deep for some people and yet very meaningless and utter waste of time for others. It might sound very unworthy a subject to some people as to what could be any logical or practical purpose of such an issue. But
  Koshy  1 Unrequited Love as an Evergreen subject of Poetry with reference to Emily Dickinson’s I Cannot Live with You   The topic of unrequited love is very deep for some people and yet very meaningless and utter waste of time for others. It might sound very unworthy a subject to some people as to what could be any logical or practical purpose of such an issue. But then when does poetry claim to  be logical and practical! The point actually is an attempt to understand this subject and to observe its effect on poetry and poets especially in the cont ext of Emily Dickinson’s poem,  I cannot Live with You . This poem deals with a speaker who brings forth all possible alternatives to be united with her beloved, and then negates them all as none of those options or situations is feasible. Their union is impossible according to the speaker and the only  possible union is mutual despair. Unrequited love or love which is not returned or cannot be returned can be a very strong factor in a person’s life which can bring abou t some defining changes in that person and it definitely leaves an unforgettable impress upon that person. This emotion is very strong even for the person who feels it to handle. It can become the driving force for someone to encourage him or her to strive for self-improvement and success. It can also become a destructive element which can devastate a person if he or she c ouldn’t control the storm of emotions and let those feelings take control and destroy him or her. Many poets have written upon this, yet, if recalled, it becomes very difficult to remember a poem written upon unrequited love. Such a love doesn’t have to be  necessarily unknown by the beloved. Many times even if the beloved knows that the lover feels for him or her in such a way, it is not agreeable to the beloved. This is what creates yet greater distress for the lover. It is like keeping on writing letters to someone who, definitely reads them but, never writes back. Still  Koshy  2 the writer keeps on writing in the hope that one day a reply would come. That person doesn’t stop writing because he or she fears that maybe that precise day when they stop writing might  become the day when finally the other person decides to write back. Living in this hopeless hope, in such a dilemma whether the love would never be returned or maybe one fine day, it would be, is extremely painful and that pain can be felt irrespective of the fact whether others have gone through that same fate or not. Unrequited love can be of many different kinds, sometimes it is totally unknown by the beloved in fear of rejection. At others it might be known by the beloved but the lover is despised by the beloved, and yet another might be that the beloved is totally indifferent to the lover’s feelings. The most painful one is in which the  beloved understands the feelings of the lover, even cares for him or her but doesn’t actually feel for that person as he or she does. Some people call unrequited love as obsessive love but, it is not always obsessive. Most of the times, it is just selfless love for the beloved. The one who loves someone and knows that it cannot be returned and still keeps on loving would definitely want his or her beloved to be happy in his or her own life. It is like a burning candle which melts to give light. This kind of love can turn out to be very positive for both the sides if the lover understands the beloved’s situation and tries to harness his or her feelings for the well-being of the beloved and for his or her own progress in life. Stagnation in life cannot be justified by love. Love is never static, it is dynamic and kinetic. Unrequited love is an evergreen subject for love poetry. Almost one out of every five people have undergone such a feeling at some point in their life though it is not necessary that the feeing should be so intense to bring about life changing changes in that person. Thus it is a universal subject which can be related by almost everyone without much effort thereby serving the purpose of poetry.  Koshy  3 In the context of Emily Dickinson, unrequited love can be seen as the trigger for her excellent and moving poetry. Her devastating love-life which hurt her beyond repairs also helped her to understand the very core of pain and love and to express them in so beautiful verses which are personal and yet universal in nature. In the same way, unrequited love though corroding, can help the poetic and other artistic faculties of an individual in totally unexpected ways. It can make a person who never thought himself or herself of trying to write poetry or to paint, start to write or paint even without that individual’s complete understanding or control of what he or she is t rying to write or paint. It doesn’t mean that unrequited love is a welcome feeling, even though it cannot be actually avoided intentionally. As true love can never be conditional, a lover has got to risk his or her heart to the beloved and then, it depends on the latter, to return that love or not. Love, if not returned can only be handled by visualising your own happiness in the beloved’s happiness and by keeping on doing your own work. It might seem easier said than done yet it is the only  positive alternative other than the one being drowned in depression and losing all sense of identity and self-worth. If the positive effect of unrequited love on literature is looked upon, it is the contribution of many great love poets, novelists and playwrights over the ages. Especially in poetry, matters of the heart can be finely spoken and expressed without requiring many words but just some choice words heavy with emotions and full of feelings and poetic devices. Love poetry has always been a very prevalent subject of poetry. Many poets write on various issues of love, like separation from the beloved, deeply in love and various things regarding reciprocated love. Yet ‘unrequited love’ can be felt with a very strong expression from the poets who have written about it and from the poets who are still writing about it. It is endless, as it actually  Koshy  4 never begins. Reality of this fact is quite ironic for those to understand who actually love knowing that their love could never be returned. While considering the poem  I Cannot Live with You  in this light, a very acute understanding of unrequited love can be grasped. Strong love for the beloved and the knowledge that this love would never be hers can be felt. This distress and hopelessness is so beautifully expressed. The poem  I cannot live with you  can be observed for understanding the note of unrequited love. The very first line, “I cannot live with you” is so ironic if read with the second line, “It would be life”. It is a straight forward declaration. Speaker is saying that she can’t live with her beloved because that would be ‘life’ and that ‘life’ is actually locked behind the shelf. The key is with the sexton or the representative of religious boundaries and restraints. What would be such a life lacking passion. Furth er it goes on that the ‘life’ is like a ‘cup’ discarded  by the housewife because it is quaint or broken. This explains that, that ‘life’ is already a  prisoner of so called domestic borders of the society. This very acutely depicts the inability to lead a life together. Unrequited love is so blatantly screaming in these lines. The misery of living such a ‘life’ together is worse than living apart. In the next stanza, the speaker gives an argument that they can’t even die together. She says that even for dying, one of them would have to wait for the other to close his or her eyes. She says that he can’t wait for her to close her eyes first. And how can  she watch him freeze in front of her, when she considers that she should have death’s privilege and the right to frost. How full of love these lines are! That they can’t even die together. Neither of them can watch the other die before themselves. What might be the actual extent pain of the speaker!  Koshy  5 The next alternative suggested by the speaker is to rise up or to be resurrected together, which is also negated with an explanation in followed in the later lines by her. Resurrection is a  belief in afterlife according to Christianity where souls rise up again after death. She says that her beloved’s face outshines the face of Jesus. According to her, her eyes are used to seeing only her lover shining. So, the new grace of God would just glow plain and would be actually foreign to her homesick eyes. These lines are like overflowing love from the brim of speaker’s heart. It is really adorable that for a lover, her beloved’s face can even overshadows God’s Grace.  She goes on explaining that if both of them were about to be judged on the Judgement Day, how would they be judged. On one side, her beloved ( Reverend Charles Wadsworth) tried to serve God or heaven but she could not do so because her beloved “saturated her sight”. Therefore she could not see anything like paradise. She calls paradise a sordid excellence. Such an adjective for a word like ‘excellence’ is unusual yet most fitting in this poem. Does anyone call paradise dirty or base? Rare choice of words in this poem makes it exceptional in its approach. This also shows the admiration of metaphysical poets and their unusual word choice on Dickinson’s part. Speaker says that if by chance her beloved lost on the Judgement Day, then even if her name would ring loud in heaven it would be nothing for her. And if he was saved and she condemned, then that place itself would turn out to be hell for her because she would be separated from him. Thus they both can’t be together even in heaven or hell. Such is the splendour of unrequited love which screams victory even in defeat or loss. Maybe even requited love cannot be expressed so powerfully because the constant experience of heaven while walking in hell, that is what unrequited love is.
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