Themes in On Monsieur's Departure

Themes Examples in On Monsieur's Departure:

On Monsieur's Departure 13

" Or..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

The poem concludes with an intricate branch of possibilities, bound together by that magic word, or. The dualities and contradictions that launched the poem at the outset remain as it reaches its end. As it develops, the poem does not reach for clarity so much as a more perfect expression of confusion.

"lies..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

The word “lies” is central to the poem’s structure and style. On the physical plane, “lies” gives the image of the shadow self lying down alongside the speaker. Yet the second self also “lies” in the sense of telling untruths. Indeed, the speaker’s two selves have different senses of the truth. The tension of dual truths gives life to the poem, full as it is of starts and stops, negations, antonyms, and words with multiple meanings—including “lies” itself. The only truth the speaker can pin down is the existence of that tense feeling of multiplicity.

"care..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

The word “care” is multifaceted. While “care” suggests an act of affection, the word comes from the Germanic “kar,” meaning grief, illness, and suffering. The word “care” contains the duality introduced in the poem’s first two lines: the inseparable nature of love and grief. “My care” is the speaker’s love for the beloved as well as the unavoidable suffering that accompanies love.

"love..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

There is a rich relationship between “grieve” and “love.” The two words represent counterparts in the parallel structure of the opening lines. The words align metrically as well, falling on the second syllable and first beat of their respective lines. The words also share a subtle rhyme. The r and l in the beginning of each are connected through the paired relationship of the letters: r and l are known as the liquid consonants. Thus “grieve” and “love” form a rim rhyme, in which the first and last sounds of the rhymed syllable align. The underlying idea is that grieving and loving are inseparable, a theme that plays itself out as the poem unfolds.

"him..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

“Him” in this context once again takes on a double meaning. It could point to her love object or it could suggest the personification of her “care.” This dual meaning once again suggests that the subject of this poem is more about the speaker’s intimate feelings than a love object.

"His too familiar care..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

Noting “His too familiar care” contradicts the conventions of traditional Petrarchan love poetry. In these poems, the love object is depicted as completely indifferent to the narrator’s feelings so that the narrator can poetically express his pain over his unrequited desire. Bringing in the feelings of this “him”—whether “him” refers to the love object or the speaker’s personified feelings—suggests that this poem is not about traditional unrequited love. Instead, the tension revolves around this speaker’s inability to fulfill her desire because she is forced to reject of her own feelings.

"it..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

In this line the referent of “it” is unclear. “It” could refer to his care, her pretended indifference to the relationship, her own care, or her actions (“what I have done”). In this way, she is either resenting his love, the actions she committed that made him express his love, or the circumstances that make her unable to receive that love. This line suggests tension between the speaker’s actions and thoughts about those actions and further emphasizes her divided nature.

"My care is like my shadow in the sun— ..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

While the first stanza focused mostly on her two selves, the second stanza revolves around the personification of her “care.” This personification figures her emotions as an external party and further suggests the theme of the speaker’s divided self.

"myself another self..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

Notice that in this line the speaker highlights her divided nature. There is a distinction between “myself” and “another self.” From the context of the rest of the poem, it seems that the “myself” is the grounded, frozen, Queenly identity that suppresses her romantic feelings. The “other” self seems to be the passionate romantic who is suffering over the loss of her lover. In this way, the speaker makes her romantic feelings, or care, an external entity, dangerous in its ability to “burn.”

"Since..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

Due to its complicated syntax, this line has two potential meanings. If we read “since” as because this line explains why she both “freezes” and “burns” in the previous line. The speaker could mean that she has fragmented herself and “turned” another self from her person. She could also mean that because she turned away from herself, she has created another self.

"I..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

The repetition of “I” throughout the first stanza shows the narrator’s obsession with her own thoughts and feelings. Rather than focusing on the love object, as most Petrarchan sonnets do, the speaker of this poem is concerned with her own feelings and the presentation of those feelings. In a way, the version of herself that experiences love becomes her object of obsession. Just as a Petrarchan speaker becomes obsessed with his love object, this speaker becomes obsessed with the external “I” that embodies her feelings. This rhetorical move once again shows that the speaker is divided: there is the rational self and the emotional self.

"mute, but inwardly do prate...."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

In this line the narrator once again reveals the theme of the poem. There is a disconnection between her external “mute” appearance and here “prattling” inner monologue. The narrator possesses two selves; this love has divided her into two people.

"I grieve and dare not show my discontent;..."   (On Monsieur's Departure)

In the opening line to her poem, the speaker characterizes her emotional experience as the tension between two competing desires: her need to grieve a loss and her need to keep that feeling concealed. This line introduces the theme of the internal self vs. the external self that the rest of the poem will address.