Love Is Not All

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“Love is not all” by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a sonnet about love written in iambic pentameter, with traditional structure and follows traditional sonnet rules. It expresses the confusion and emotion of the poet in a way to give the reader the idea that he has suffered or is suffering. It also goes from speaking broadly about love, to making it more specific and then finally making it personal with the last line. After the first eight lines of the poem the speaker completely flips the way the poet feels about the theme. The poet used alliteration and repetition to further emphasize the theme. One of the conventions of a traditional sonnet is a twist in the middle. In the beginning of this poem the poet talks about love as if it is of secondary importance because it cannot provide physical needs. In opening by saying “it is not meat nor drink” it gives the reader the impression the poet has a negative outlook on love right from the start. As the poem goes on and states more and more physical things love cannot provide it leads the audience into the mind-set that the poet is going to continue with this theme, then on the first line of the sestet the mood shifts as the poet starts talking about the possibility of love being the better choice in different situations.

The poem uses the rhyming scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet, but also differs in some ways. Normally, in a Shakespearean sonnet the ‘turn’ or ‘twist’ occurs after three quatrains. In this poem the twist occurs after the eighth line, dividing the sonnet into two sections: the octave and the sestet, making this more of an Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet.

The speaker uses poetic devices such as alliteration and repetition to further get his point across. The speaker begins listing all the things that love cannot do and puts stresses on each thing by repeating the letter “B” like in “breath”, “blood” and “bone”. This adds to the impact and significance those words have on the reader, helping to portray...
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