First Love

First Love

By John Clare

I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale,
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start—
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice?
Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love’s appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more.

Summary of First Love

  • Popularity of “First Love”: The poem ‘First Love’ was written by John Clare, a not-so-well-known English poet of the 18th century. However, his work on love is an excellent piece. It is not clear when this piece was published. Recently, the poem has become a hot topic because of the poet’s intense expression of feelings of love. The popularity of the poem lies in its throbbing melody integrated with the feelings of the poet’s love.
  • First Love” As a Representative of Love: The poet expresses his intense feelings upon seeing his beloved for the first time in the poem “First Love”. He feels pale and ill at ease, as he cannot walk because she has turned him into a stone as if by magic. Suddenly, he thinks his circulatory system has also given way and his eyesight seems to have gone. The times have changed, and words are coming out from his eyes instead of his mouth. It also seems that he is harping on the strings instead of speaking. He believes his beloved can perceive his feelings and asks rhetorical questions to emphasize this. According to him, he has never seen such beauty in his life, which is why he is so taken aback. To him, she has proved a thief of hearts, as his heart has changed its place and cannot beat properly now at its place.
  • Major Themes in “First Love”: Amazement at the beauty, unrequited love and sudden expression of the feelings are three major themes of this poem. The poet expresses his amazement and sudden attack of paralysis in the first stanza when he says that it is “so sudden and so sweet”, adding that his legs were frozen. He cannot walk anymore. This leads him to conclude that despite this paralysis, his beloved did not respond which means she still seems to hear. However, he is not certain as he says “She seemed to hear my silent voice.” This makes him feel that even the vital organs have shifted from their proper places and cannot return after this sudden attack of amazement and paralysis.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In First Love

literary devices add beauty and spice to simple poetic pieces. John Clare has also used some literary devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /i/ in “And took my eyesight quite away” and the sound of /ee/ in “She seemed to hear my silent voice.”
  2. Alliteration: The poem shows the use of alliteration in the shape of the initial consonant sounds of the neighboring words. For example, the sound of /s/ in “so sudden” and again in the phrase “so sweet”, and the sound of /b/ in “blood burnt”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, as the sound of /d/ and /l/ in “My face turned pale as deadly pale” and the sound of /d/ in “With love so sudden and so sweet.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. John Clare has used imagery in this poem such as “Seemed midnight at noonday”, “Words from my eyes did start—” and “I never saw so sweet a face.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet has used metaphors such as love, blood, and words shown as lightning, flood, and chords.
  3. Personification: The poet has personified words and his heart as if they have life and emotions of their own.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of symbols of love such as flower, face, chords, and place.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in First Love

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of highly figurative language as the analysis shows. The tone is serious and appealing.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABABCDCD rhyme scheme in all of its three stanzas.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas with each having eight verses.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “First Love” are appropriate to use when showing the affects of love on the physical organs of the body.

I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more.

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