The human condition is an inevitable, fundamental issue that faces us throughout our life time, and how to address the emotions we feel inside of us is a quest many of us face. We are consistently reminded of the human frailties we possess and seek for a way to free this burden set upon us. John Clare and Andrei Voznesensky are two poets that have expressed themselves through poetry, to remind us that love is an essential part of the human condition, and with love also comes the inescapability of heart break.
Voznesensky’s poem ‘First Ice’ illustrates the pain of first love’s end, experienced by a girl mentioned in line one. Using visual and tactile imagery, the poem effectively depicts the instantly recognisable theme of ‘heart break’. This is outlined in the strong use of symbolic meaning in the word ‘ice’ positioned throughout the poem, which is evident in the concluding line “the first ice of human hurt”. The readers are positioned in a way to see the ‘other side’ of love which creates a feeling of empathy toward the girl freezing in the telephone booth. This feeling of empathy is echoed through the use of sensual imagery that allows the reader to physically feel the cold and pain that is described, such as in line 6 “Her fingers are icy”. In comparison ‘First Love’ created by John Clare begins his poem with the lines “I ne’er was struck before that hour with love so sudden and so sweet” inferring that the theme of his piece is the unchanging and universal theme of romantic love. Through the use of both poems’ timeless theme, they are instantly elevated to the realm of an endless struggle regarding the human condition; love.
The timelessness of the theme is supported through the different cultural backgrounds and time periods known to the authors. Clare was born in 1793 in England to an illiterate and poverty stricken family. A reflection of the Victorian era is clear in ‘First Love’ through the clichéd techniques and familiar language used within the poem to illustrate his love. This is illustrated in line three in the second stanza, “the trees and bushes round the place seemed midnight at noonday”. Rather than allowing the reader to guess at the topic in question he simply spells it out for them: in this case he was blinded by love. Love is more often defined by its ability to be undefinable, although Clare makes no attempt at doing this within his piece. Voznesensky however, was born in 1933 – almost two century’s after Clare- in Moscow, Russia. The cultural context of this author remains unimportant in relation to his text and therefore has no need to be discussed. These two poets were born into two completely different societies and eras, and yet have created pieces of literature still relevant in contemporary society today.
Although these two poems hold different cultural backgrounds, they share the same structural techniques. ‘First Ice’ defies a traditional structure and is written as a free form poem. The first stanza consists of four lines and is then followed by four sets of couplets. Similarly, Clare’s poem takes on a non-traditional form consisting of three stanzas with eight lines to each, reflective of the natural patterns of speech and allows rhythm to be created. However, the poem has a scarce amount of punctuation. This could either be alluding to the mess that has begun in his emotions and the raging love he is developing for the woman at first sight, which is evident in line four when he declares “[she] stole my heart away complete”. Or this lack of punctuality could simply be a reflection of the time period he was brought up in. Contrasting to First Ice, Clare’s poem holds many more poetic devices and figurative language than Voznesensky’s.