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Love in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and Haldeman’s Saul’s Death

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Human beings long for love and romance. These have therefore been dominating themes in various forms of literature over the years.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Haldeman’s Saul’s Death: Two Sestinas both have their own unique ways of expressing love and romance. In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, the writer wants to express love by preserving the beauty of the subject of the poem by expressing it in everlasting words whereas in Haldeman’s Saul’s Death: Two Sestinas, the writer recalls when he experienced love during his life as a mercenary, however, both poems show how love is subjective, being expressed and experienced in different forms. 

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To begin with, in Saul’s Death: Two Sestinas, the writer experiences love through the bond that is shared between him and Saul. This bond early in the first Sestina. “The first day of my service, I liked Saul; his humor quickly won me over” the writer, in this quote, states how this bond began. The humorous character of Saul played a crucial role in determining the bond that would eventually result as Saul and the writer interacted. This bond is further strengthened as the two start sharing even more details about each other, “He confided Saul was not his name; he’d taken up another name for blood.” Furthermore, the writer also states that he had also taken up a fighting name. Both the writer and Saul had common factors that helped create and cement the bond between them. Moreover, love can be found in passionate engagement. In Saul’s Death; Two Sestinas, the writer discovers a new love, the love of steel. His love for swords and the satisfaction that it brought him in war made the writer appreciate the new world to which the sword had introduced him. The writer states, “And how I learned to love to fence with swords! Another world, my homely past, and future –…” The writer became accustomed to the life of the sword. He further states, “…I felt that sword and I could take the world.” 

Love can be found in material things that bring satisfaction to our daily lives. Further, love can be destructive as expressed in Saul’s Death; Two Sestinas. The bond between Saul and the writer gives the writer the confidence that they could take on the world, “I felt like Saul and I could take the world: take the whole world hostage with our swords. The bond we felt was stronger than mere blood…” This gruesome expression of love comes into play when Saul meets his death during one of their battles. “…Broad blade hammered down hammered down and sent him from this world…” Saul is killed during an ambush which results in the writer avenging Saul’s death by murdering everyone involved in the ambush, “ In angry grief, I killed that one, then all the other swords; then locked the door and murdered every human.” Conversely, in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, love is expressed through the preservation of beauty. The writer appreciates the beauty of his subject by making a direct comparison to a summer’s day and even stating that his subject is “…more lovely and more temperate”. By using symbolism to express the beauty of the subject, the writer was able to imprint an image of the beauty of the writer in readers such that beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, the subject’s beauty becomes universal across all readers as each reader has their own imagination of a perfect summer’s day. Another example of the preservation of beauty is found in this line, “…But thy eternal summer shall not fade…” which comes right after the writer acknowledges the fact that beauty fades away, “ And every fair from fair sometime declines…” however, the writer insists that his subject’s beauty shall not fade but shall be preserved eternally, “But thy eternal summer shall not fade… So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” In addition to the preservation of beauty, Sonnet 18 also shows the expression of love in terms of preservation of life. The writer adored his subjected expressing how the subject’s beauty will be eternal, never fading. However, more than this, the writer wanted the subject’s life to be eternal, beyond the confines of time through the preservation of words in a poem. “…So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee…” the quote echoes the desires of the writer to preserve his subject. 

The words through which he describes his subject are the life-giving words that assure the eternity of his subject’s life. “…So long as men can breathe or eyes can see…” this quote emphasizes that the existence of the lives of men would continue to preserve the subject’s life in their minds. As can be seen, the expression of love is subjective and can be expressed in any form desired. Both Haldeman’s Saul’s Death: Two Sestinas and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 give clear depictions of love and romance in their own ways. They open the reader’s mind into accepting the fact that love is subjective, thus, it cannot be confined to the definition or restrictions of the majority or a particular group. The expression of love, as long as it is within the confines of the law, remains subjective, to be interpreted as the lover sees fit. 


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