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Analysis of a poem by Carol Ann Duffy

SYNTAX
I want to call you thou, the sound of the shape of the start of a kiss like this, thouand to say, after, I love, thou, I love, thou I love, not I love you. Because I so do as we say now I want to say thee, I adore, I adore thee, and to know in my lips the syntax of love resides, and to gaze in thine eyes. Loves language starts, stops, starts; the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.

This poem could be called a sonnet since it consists of fourteen lines and the theme of the poem is love. However, this is not a sonnet, since it does not match up with Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnet. But then again, this poem bends some other rules as well, like grammatical rules, and remains perfect and enjoyable, not to mention understandable. It also shakes the readers up and makes them think about plain, everyday words in a new way. It breaks down the image that most readers have about poems- the one that they are full of posh and incomprehensible words. The title of the poem is not very promising and certainly does not allude to love. But that would be a rash and wrong assumption. After encountering this title, one might hope to read a poem perfectly obeying the rules of syntax, which is rarely seen in poetry. And one would be wrong again. The fact is that this poem speaks about love and in doing so it refuses to obey the rules of syntax and grammar of the English language. The speaker is talking to his/her loved one and while expressing his/her emotions, does not want to be restricted by rules and regulations. It is hard to find the right words to express yourself as it is, let alone to be bothered by a set of rules on how those words can or cannot stand together in a sentence. Therefore the speaker rejects those rules and transforms the simple, three-word, everyday sentence I love you into something new, fresh, unique and straight from the heart- I love thou. It does not matter that it is grammatically incorrect because the word thou is used

only when talking to a person who is the subject, not the object of the sentence. What matters is that to the speaker the word thou carries a deeper meaning than the worn out word you, and it sounds better. It sounds like a whisper because of the first two letters th and it is the sound of the shape of the start of a kiss, a description that beautifully depicts the position and the shape of the lips while pronouncing this word. The word thou seems to whisper to a loved one, calling her/him for a kiss, for a confirmation of the uttered words. The dash after the word kiss allows the speaker to take a brief pause in order to show what is meant by the previous description of the word thou by puckering his/her lips and perhaps even kissing his/her loved one. Between the two dashes lie the words like this, thou not only to show the speakers movement, but also to compel the readers to do the same thing- utter the word thou and see its magic for themselves. After introducing the word thou the speaker then moves on to the whole sentence and utters it: I love thou. The magic of hearing these words together for the first time is so intoxicating and overwhelming that the speaker repeats them several time in different formulations as to taste them on his/her tongue, to see them flow of the tongue, to hear them in the breath. They are so rich and smooth, seductive and passionate that they have to be repeated, they have to be tried out, just to see how great their power is, to test them. They are interesting not just because they are the speakers own product, but also because they are forbidden fruit since they are grammatically incorrect. The speaker is aware that those words are not allowed to exist, they are banned from the language, but it seems unrealistic and unfair because they express love and emotions as good as the words I love you, and even better. They are the speakers own words from the heart, they mean something to him/her and to his/her loved one, and yet, they are scolded. Therefore, the speaker excuses himself/herself beginning the next stanza with the words Because I so do, trying to justify his/her love, which is absurd because love is not reasonable and should not be vindicated. In this stanza the speaker uses a grammatically correct formulation I adore thee, because the word thee is used when talking to a person who is the object of the sentence. There is again the repetition of these words which adds to their strength and magic since the word thee is old-fashioned and rarely used, and therefore paradoxically sounds new and fresh. At this point the repetition of the words I want to is noticed and it indicates that the speaker can only wish to say those words of love and adoration, since the poem does not say I call you thou nor I call you thee. He/she cannot say those words aloud, and it is not just because they are made up and grammatically incorrect, but because the speaker talks about forbidden love. But the speaker, the lover inside him/her does not give up easily and does not care about the rules. Instead he/she speaks about

the syntax of love which, if it existed, would be a syntax free of all rules, just like love. Lines to know in my lips/the syntax of love resides/and to gaze in thine eyes are one lovers cry and every lovers dream. The syntax of love permits existence of any kind of formulation because it only serves to lovers to express their feelings through words and does not bother by setting rules. But when talking about the syntax of love one should allow for that it does not reside on everyones lips. It is a gift, magic lingering only on lips that are worth it, on lips of those who do not care about rules and who therefore can comprehend love. That is why the last two lines speak of difficulties loves language encounters: it starts, stops, starts. It does not always flow smoothly, it makes pauses and it is not flawless. The speaker uses the expression right words which would normally mean that wrong words are sometimes spoken as well. But in the language of love there are no wrong words, all the words are right words or at least seem right to the listener. That it is why the speaker says the right words flowing or clotting in the heart. The listener picks and chooses the right words and then keeps them in his/her heart, making thick lumps of clot in the blood and lets the wrong right words flow and disappear from the bloodstream. This poem speaks of love in a new and intriguing way. It looks at love through syntax and grammar, which sounds almost paradoxically. It uses everyday words and metamorphoses them before readers eyes into sublime expression of love. It tickles the readers mind and makes him/her wonder how come he/she never saw the great power lying in simple and oldfashioned words like thou, thee, thine as well as in words which are thought to be reserved for school books only, like sound, syntax, language. This poem truly is a beautiful love poem and carries in itself a part of strength of the great emotion of love and that strength can be seen in astonishingly arranged words that break all the rules of syntax and grammar and yet they are recognizable and understandable. This poem proves that the language of love, just like the love itself, accepts no boundaries and kneels not before any human rule or law.

Belma Sarajli Group III

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