The Broken Heart Analysis by William Barnes

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This poem is written by the poet William Barnes. He was born on February 22, 1801, at Rushay in the parish of Bagber, Dorset, the son of a farmer. He was an English writer, poet, philologist & minister. He wrote over 800 poems some in Dorset dialect, & much other work, including a comprehensive English grammar quoting from more than 70 different languages.

The Broken Heart Analysis by William Barnes

The “Broken Heart” by William Barnes is a complex poem tightly knit with words to give it a profound meaning. The tone of the poem is a melancholic one. The poet creates a gloomy atmosphere thus propelling his story forward with ease. This poem gives two different perspectives of a heartbroken person. Thus it acquaints the reader with the perspectives of both the male & female protagonists in the poem. It dives deep into the psyche of a broken-hearted person & relays their emotion with a fine subtlety. The poem also goes into the depths of human emotions especially a poignant one of heartbreak to let the reader truly feel the pain of the protagonist in the poem. Moreover, the poem tries to exhibit the reaction of the two parted lovers on suffering from a terrible heartache. Everyone is bound to have their heartbroken once in their lives. It doesn’t always have to be about love it could be the breakdown of a relationship within the family or friendship. This breakdown causes our hearts to break & we feel pain. And, hence the reader can relate to the poem in his own way.

This poem draws a parallel to William Shakespeare’s book “Romeo & Juliet” in the sense that it also dealt solely with the theme of love and the lovers at the end of the day happened to part from each other on a despondent note. This poem is about a failed relationship between couples after a brief period of love. Females are generally categorized as being “soft” in nature. Thus they are tender-hearted and are more prone to be crestfallen. The reader finds the heartbroken woman weeping mournfully. The poet gives a detailed description of the female protagonist in the poem. She is a beautiful dame overwhelmed with grief and the bearer of the grim news causing her heart to break. The tears are dripping down her cheeks as she sways from side to side stricken with grief. On her head, there is a ribbon she so carefully tied before meeting her lover & the hands that tied the ribbon are now “white.” Her hands are white because she is paled by the appalling news.

The world seemed delightful & her cheeks were rosy when she was in love but now she is pale & lost her rosy flush. Those cheeks no longer hold a smile but instead are laden with tears. She has now resigned herself to the bitter black and white reality. The breaking of the heart also suggests the breaking up of the ideal. The waning of the color into white signifies the loss of mirth from her life. The reader can feel the same excruciating emotion as the protagonist in the gloomy hours after the breaking off the grim news. The poet then proceeds to relate the emotions of the male protagonist.


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We find that he is equally mournful & regrets his decision to part with his lover. But, somehow he must face facts & ignore her. In these lines “When a man, wi’ heartless slight” he also acknowledges that he was remorseless towards his lover. He regrets to have forsaken her deep-rooted love for him. In the depths of his heart, he feels true despair from having to part with his lover. He was selfish in his actions toward his lover because he fostered no genuine feelings for her. It had been an ill-fated & doomed romance right from its inception. “All her deeds o’ loving-kindness” clearly suggests that the female was devoted to her lover & it was apparent through her deeds.

The reader gets the idea of an unrequited love when reading this poem. The poem is a melancholic one where both the lovers end up heartbroken & desolate. They’ve sunk deeper into the pits of misery & grief. With woe-stricken hearts, they end up reminiscing those bittersweet memories they shared. “God wull waigh ‘em wi’ the slightest” suggests that only God can measure their actions in the end. The poem ends on a despondent note with these lines “What weight  o’woe/ Do break the heart ov ev’ry griever” illustrating the fact that the weight of woe is too heavy on the heart that it ends up getting broken. The person with a broken heart is always found to be grieving. This despair & grief shall always accompany a heartbroken person throughout his/her life.

The Broken Heart Theme by William Barnes 

The underlying theme of the poem is that love can bring both joy & sadness. It teaches us that if a couple is fated to be together they will be. Love cannot be forced & earned through earnest actions like the lady in the poem. The poem deals in depth about the poignant emotion of heartbreak that a person faces once in his/her life. The poem relays the story of two heartbroken people. Each of them seems to feel the intense measure of grief. The female protagonist is agonizing over the loss of her love with the departure of her lover. And the male protagonist is mournfully regretting his decision to part from his lover. He has adopted an attitude of resignation leaving the God to decide their fate.  The poem encompasses the wide spectrum of human emotions. It depicts the fragility of the human heart & states that no matter how hard we try to protect our hearts it somehow ends up breaking. The poem is descriptive enough to suggest that the weight of woe is overburdening to the heart. The lovelorn female shall always go on grieving about her lost love and her lover shall always be regretful for parting from her. The poem also depicts that humans can be inhumane at times thus profoundly hurting our loved ones. There is a general tone of resignation looming in the air thus suggesting that these couples have resigned themselves to their ill fate.

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