Love Sonnet XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,)

Love Sonnet XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,) Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Describe the changes that occur between the poem's second and third stanzas.

    A number of radical shifts take place between stanzas two and three in this sonnet, encompassing content, style, and form alike. While the poem's two opening stanzas center around the speaker's attempt to find an ideal simile with which to describe his emotions, the third instead marks his turn away from that goal. In the third stanza, rather than experiment with metaphorical images, the speaker uses strikingly literal language. Meanwhile, in contrast to the first two stanzas, both of which are quatrains, the third is a sestet. This longer length is not merely a reflection of the sonnet form's norms; it also creates an impression of informality and excitement, as if the speaker is expressing a sudden overload of feeling.

  2. 2

    Why does the speaker express distaste for the images mentioned in the poem's first two lines?

    In the opening lines of the sonnet, the speaker declares that his love cannot be accurately compared to a rose made of salt (or, in some translations, a "salt-rose," a type of coastal flower), to a topaz, or to colorful, fiery carnations. In rejecting these images, he also rejects the highly structured, ceremonial, and socially dictated versions of love and romance they represent. Each of these images—flowers, gems, and even fire—is popularly associated with romance and desire. Moreover, especially given the use of precious stones and flowers as gifts, they are widely associated with certain rule-bound rituals of courtship and marriage. By discarding these comparisons, the speaker suggests that his love is distinct and private.