Feminist Perception on Henry Constable’s Poem

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The poem by Henry Constable, My lady’s presence makes the roses red, presents a scenario where the speaker is speaking to someone else about a certain woman he loves and admires. It is an Italian sonnet that is writing in an octave and sestet meter with fourteen lines; the first eight lines present a happy spirit and loving feelings while the next six lines are in a sorrowful and sad state. This paper seeks to take a feminist perspective that defends the presence of one major theme associated with Feminism.

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Feminism is a belief that pushes for socio-economic equality and liberty among male and female genders; it supports women interests and rights in a way that aims at empowering women to an elevate status. Feminism has undergone through various evolution stages to its current day perception that tries to redefine issues surrounding gender, sexuality, womanhood, beauty, masculinity, and femininity (Orleck 16). Besides, feminism tries to oppose existing stereotypical image created about women as a weaker gender by presenting them as smart, powerful, independent, assertive as well as being in control of their sexuality. In the current day, feminism is perceived as a movement that upholds aesthetic value of female gender and advocates for sexualized behavior among women for their own interests and gains. It seeks for superior rights for women that promotes them to be treated in a special way by the society (Cortina, Curtin, and Stewart 2012).

From the poem, the persona presents a woman who is compared with flowers and tries to present her as better than them in every aspect. The opening line in the poem reads “My lady’s presence makes the roses red”; this portrays the lady in a light that her beauty compares to nothing in nature. It goes on to state that “Because to see her lips they blush for shame. The Lily’s leaves, for envy, pale became”; this is to show how flowers are jealous of her beauty which outshines them. Furthermore, looking at this portion from feminist perception, it portrays how women are compared to men and the notion is overrated to depict them as even better than men as is seen in the poem that shows they are better than flowers. Flowers are known to be the most beautiful creation in the nature, but the persona tries to show that the lady he admires is far beyond their league. This notion is carried on by feminist to show that women are better than men by far and that men are always jealous about it to appoint of being ashamed.

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Additionally, the persona continues to state that “Because the sun’s and her power is the same”; this is a comparison of the lady’s power and that of the sun which is equated. The sun is known for its power to rule during the day and how important it is for growth and development of nature; all creating depend on it and function properly only its up and shinning. This shows the status which feminists have given women in the society to portray them as powerful like the sun; this shows that everything depends on them to blossom. Feminists believe that women are powerful and should be perceived as so and with the right placing in the society they can make things change positively. The likening of the lady and the sun is an exaggerated comparison which is borrowed by feminists to drive the point that they are to be admired and respected. Besides, the line that states “From her sweet breath, their sweet smells do proceed” shows the aroma that the lady emits which shows that she takes care of herself. This is a sign of independence and upgraded status that women have achieved which contrasts the notion that they should smell smoke due to their association with kitchen duties. Hence, from a feminist point of view, this is the right status a woman ought to portray.

Conversely, the persona states “Dyed in the blood she made my heart to shed”; this show how the lady has hurt him since she does not notice his attention and adoration. From the poem there are no memories they share together neither is there a hope for a relationship between them in the future. In the lines “The rain, wherewith she watereth the flowers, Falls from mine eyes, which she dissolves in showers” is a clear indication that the lady misuses the man for her own gains. The lady does not want any attachment with the man because she is independent and feels superior about herself. The man is bleeding with sorrow and is sad that even with all his efforts and commitment to this lady there is no gesture of love or feelings towards him. Hence, this is how feminists approach men in the current day, they do not want to be emotionally attached to men around them no matter what they get from them. They can use their beauty to benefit themselves at the expense of men who show interest in them (Hogan 68).

It can be concluded that from a feminist point of view, the poem My lady’s presence makes the roses red paints a picture of a feminist in the current generation. Their beauty is presented in an exaggerated manner and it is well if they gain from men without having relationship attachment. Besides, the persona shows the contrasting perception men have towards beautiful women around them but there is no corresponding reaction from the ladies towards these men. Men adore and admire these feminists who benefit from them which ends up breaking their hearts when they fail to be appreciated back.

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  1. Cortina, L. M.; Curtin, N.; Stewart, A. J. (2012). “Where Is Social Structure in Personality Research? A Feminist Analysis of Publication Trends”. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36.3 (2012): 259–73.
  2. Hogan, Kristen. The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2016.
  3. Orleck, Annelise. “Rethinking American Women’s Activism”. New York: Routledge, 2015.
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