English Essay- exploring the contrasting attitudes to love, which may be seen in the poetry of different writers, analysing the implicit themes and the poets’ use of language.


18 November 2000


Love can exist in a broad diversity of forms and feelings. The poems “Decorated for a Kiss” by Ian McDonald and “Alone” by Walter de la Mare emphasise this. Whilst the poem “Decorated for a Kiss” is obviously the description of unspoiled love blossoming, in which a man is coming to his woman for love, bearing the gift of red petals. The poem “Alone” provides a sharp contrast in that the focus is a dejected person whom has lost a loved one through death. It demonstrates how abruptly happiness can die out - just as the persons’ lover passes away in the poem.


The theme of the poem “Decorated for a Kiss” is the newfound love and the contrasting experiences between the men-friends and the man who comes to his woman for love. It appears to depict the men-friends experience as short, sharp and unsatisfying. The poem conveys this in the line “ Come, man, come fish shark, strong white shark,” and in the proceeding line “At midnight come fish golden snapper along the warm black rocks.” These lines give the impression that the men-friends are the sharks and that they come out at night to ‘snap up’ women. The fact that the lines do not appear to make much sense and do not fit the rest of the poem seems to suggest that the men’s experience makes no sense either. In comparison, the poem “Alone” conveys the theme of love surviving death because even though the person’s lover is dead, their love for them still burns brightly on. The poem is set in winter as can be told by the line “It is winter” but also by the lines “Flowered frost congeals in the gelid air” and in “The fox howls from his frozen lair” once again the only season bitter enough for ice and snow is winter. Winter symbolises death and I am inclined to believe that this was the poet’s reason for choosing this season as a foundation for the poem.


“Alone” is an intense poem with the prevailing atmosphere of death and loss. The stark and futuristic images created portray this. In the line “Come moth, come shadow, the world is dead” it seems to suggest that now the persons lover is gone that their life is not worth living either, and that they want to rejoin their lover. However “Decorated for a Kiss” appears also to be a very intense poem but very romantic and sensual in comparison to the poem “Alone.” The poem “Decorated for a Kiss” also implies that is a perhaps set not in Britain but abroad in a more romantic location. This can be told from the exotic items such as the palm wine, the green calabash, the scent of the sun-dried khus-khus grass and also by the animals like the green lizards and the colourful dragonflies- most of which can not commonly be found in places with similar positioning and climate to England. The poem is extremely sensual and appeals to all the senses. For example, the line “The scent of sun-dried khus-khus grass” appeals extremely strongly to our sense of smell, whilst the line “Come fish golden snapper along the warm black rocks” appeals equally strongly to the senses of touch and sight.


When in the first line it indicates that the man has bothered to come to the woman himself and to bring the gift of red rose petals “ I come to her house for love with a basket of red petals” shows that he has prepared for the evening. Furthermore, throughout the poem it shows how well the woman has prepared, the line “She has washed her mouth with milk” and the line “The sweet fibres she has put between the linen since midday” show how much care and effort she has put into making sure the evening is perfect. In addition, the fact that she has put the linen in the bed obviously means that she expects something to happen later in the evening. “Decorated for a Kiss” is very well