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Essay/Term paper: A critical examination of 'my lover in white'

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Essays

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After reading "My Lover in White," for the first time, I thought of a poem written by Shakespeare that seemed to be in some ways similar in content. The mention of the fair maidens outside the gate and the poet's observation that his love is not with the rest reminds me of Shakespeare's Sonnet CXXX. The poem is about the poets love of a woman that is not the most beautiful in comparison to most fantasy women; she is not perfect, but in his eyes she is all that he could possibly want. It seems that the content of this poem also reflects a devoted love to a maiden that may not be the fairest of them all, however she gives him all the delight he needs: "She alone gives me delight". The note at the end of the poem comments that 'the man praises his lover..., contrasted with beautiful maidens...'. This seems to support the insinuation that perhaps his maiden is not of the same entirety as the other dating maidens. The poet does not need anything other than the love he receives from this one maiden.

It is possible that the lines that state she is not there outside the gate could be referring to something more literal. It could perhaps be literal in the sense that something has happened to her, which is why she is not out there. The note at the bottom of the poem clarifies that the gate in the poem refers to the eastern gate of the capital of Zheng. The significance of the eastern gate seems to be important to the meaning of the lines, however that importance is unclear to the uninformed reader.

The two stanzas of the poem are repetitive yet with subtle differences. It seems common throughout many traditional Chinese poems that the first two lines of each stanza are very much alike and repetitive, while the following lines show more of a distinction. The first line reads "outside the eastern gate," while the first line of the second reads "outside the outer gate". The next line compares maidens to clouds, while the second line of the second stanza compares them to blooms. The poet uses nature in both stanzas to compare the fairness of the maidens. The fourth lines of each, say in different ways that his love is not where all the other maidens are. The fifth line is interesting however, because in the first stanza he says his maiden is "dressed in light green and white," while the second stanza says she is "dressed in scarlet and white". The note at the bottom of the poem barely addresses this difference and does not explain any significance. Perhaps it is as the note infers, and the guy who wrote the poem simply forgot what color she was wearing; however, I find this reason too simple. I think that there must be more of significance in the fact that the poet changed the color that she wore from light green to scarlet. If this is a correct translation from Chinese to English, then it is also interesting that the poet specified "light green" as opposed to simply green.

I am not too familiar with the symbolism of colors in Chinese literature, but in many cultures green symbolizes birth, growth and springtime. Scarlet however, often can either symbolize love and passion, or it is sometimes thought of as a color reflecting blood and death. White is generally a color that symbolizes virginity and virtue, but sometimes even death. There may be a difference in the meanings of colors in the traditional Chinese costume, however in our western culture the mentioned are the common associations to color and their meaning.

Since the poem is simplistic, there are many possible interpretations for each line. The switch from light green to scarlet could simply be a distinction between days. The first stanza may be about the poet's thoughts one day and the second stanza of another day. It is hard to determine whether or not to take each sentence as very literal, or if there is something more than what would seem obvious.

The style of the poem is also simplistic. Each stanza is made up of 5 lines. The rhyme follows an AABBCC pattern, however the third and fourth lines of the first stanza are only close in rhyme compared to the other lines. Each line also shares a six syllable sequence, with the exception of seven syllables in the very last line. The poem flows very well in the translation. It would be interesting to have a sense of what the poem is like in its original Chinese form.

As an English translation, I assume that this is similar to its original form in terms of content; however the style in which the poem is presented plays a significant role in its overall delivery. The obscurity in the denotation may be due to the translation or may be the poet's original intention. There are many questions that the audience may contemplate as they create their own interpretations of this poem.


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