The Lion's Bride - Gwen Harwood

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The Lion’s Bride

Gwen Harwood’s work frequently focuses on woman being demoralised by society’s practices that reduce her to a lesser being. A common worldwide value that Harwood rejects as the normality in life with her poems. Harwood battles against the traditions that she believes support this downgrading by continually returning to the issue. Due to Harwood’s existence in a time where women of Australia still fought to vote and for a pay check to match a man’s, Harwood too displays her support. “The Lions Bride” is centred on the subject of marriage and entails the ugliness of the situations that are specific to women. This remains relevant to the modern world because of the ongoing struggle for equality. By using a wedding as a platform to highlight societies imposed traditions on females she seeks to shock the conventional expectations by demonising the widely romantisied event. Harwood extends this and questions treatment of women in the world before any vows are made.
The poem takes the form of a sonnet, most typically known as a gesture of love. However, in the poem Harwood mocks this love-theme. The woman is loved for her “softness”, “mane” and her “smell” by the beast that personifies a man. These are purely physical qualities. Insight into who the woman is beyond her body is intentionally omitted from the beat’s reminiscing. The attraction felt for woman is only skin deep and is misguided by the beast’s “rank longing”. The sexualisation in the first stanza is developed by the image of an evocative “thigh”. A carnal motif that is hidden behind the idealised ‘true love’ that is divulged shamelessly by Harwood. Subsequently the beast’s ‘love’ is only the lustful thoughts of her body. By unveiling the undertones of the couple’s erotic relationship, Harwood is being critical of the false notions of innocent attraction - replacing them with the “love feast” that is sexual desire. It is Harwood’s challenge against the orthodox expectation...
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