In using the term ‘theme’ for the subject matter of a poem, we are reminded of a musical piece and particularly that a complex composition, in music (such as the classical sonata) as in poetry, may have sub-themes that complement, and even contradict, the principal subject. In our first encounter with a poem, we should endeavour to identify its principal theme. The best introduction to the theme of a poem is its title. Some poems have no title (such as Emily Dickinson’s short lyric pieces) or may have been given a title by a later editor of the work. Sometimes the title is merely the opening word or phrase of the poem, as in George Herbert’s poem ‘Death’ (beginning: ‘Death, thou wast once an uncouth, hideous thing...’) or his third poem on the subject of love, entitled ‘Love’ and beginning: ‘Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back’. Nonetheless, those simple titles are the key to the subjects of the poems that follow.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Describing a poem
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number