The Wife’s Lament and To Rosemounde

In the two poems, written long ago and in distinct styles, the writers are aware of the power of employing literary elements in spicing up their work. In The Wife’s Lament, the writer embarks on a theme of sadness in which the wife of lord is complaining of her loneliness (Cottom, pp 9). In comparison, To Rosemounde is a parody about traditional romance but equally humorous. Still, these two poems are both similar and different as far as the literature and styles employed is concerned. Exeter’s The Wife’s Lament and Geoffrey Chaucer’s To Rosemounde employ the use of imagery, similes, metaphors, and rhyme in effectively exploring the themes of love and sorrow.

Imagery is one of the most used forms of literary techniques and the same is applied in the expression of the theme of love. The character, Rosemounde is in the first stanza introduced using the imagery of crystals. The book says that “for as the cristal glorious ye shyne and lyke ruby ben your chekes rounde” in reference to Rosemounde (Chaucer, Line 2). Moreover, the writer continues to show her love for the woman by describing her dances at a revel party. Although this may not be as flattering, it is still evidence that the writer has good things to say about the woman he loves. Later in the poem, the writer expresses that he “wepe teres full a tyne” (Chaucer, Line 9) meaning that his tears fill a full basin. Imagery is a technique that is also used in The Wife’s Lament as is shown in different examples. For instance, the use of the cave as an abode in which the wife airs out her lamentations is characteristic of a gloomy and lonely place. The use of the same is therefore appropriate in showing the gloomy and lonely nature of the character. In fact, the cave in which the speaker is exiled to live in is described as being “under the oak tree” (Exter, Line 36) meaning that it is gloomy.  Moreover the fact that the speaker is trapped in a cave could literally be interpreted to mean that she cannot be able to escape from the sorrows that burden her loneliness.

The use of metaphors is extensively used in the poem to portray the intended theme. The author metaphorically describes the perfect beauty of a woman in expressing his love for the woman in the script. In so doing, the reader gets an insightful view of the happiness that the writer achieves from loving his woman. In another line, the writer compares his love for Rosemounde as a fish rolled in jellied sauce. While this may sound to be sweet at face value, the opposite is very true. The sauce mentioned in this line “galantine’ is noting close to romantic. Still the writer suggests that metaphorically states that his tears would fill a basin which seems to be a bit exaggerated. The use of these strange metaphors is evidence that the writer is employing humor in making fun of the traditional romance. The Wife’s Lament also uses metaphors in expressing the theme of sorrow and sadness. For instance, the speaker compares her situation to a “time just before down” (Exter, Line 35) thus showing how dark her life is. In so doing, the speaker means that she cannot sleep from the sorrows that reside in her and that her life is as dark as the time before dawn. In another instance, the speaker uses the same word to identify with the sexual longing that she harbors in her body.

Similes are also another technique used in expressing the theme of poetry as is evidenced in To Rosemounde. In fact, the language used in the text is similar to conventional poetic language albeit with ridicule in between the lines. In his description of the woman he loves and who possibly doesn’t love him back, the writer employs a number of similes to compare the extent of his descriptions. He is adamant that the woman’s eyes cheeks are rubies and her eyes crystals (Rossignol, pp 15). Further, the writer likens the idea of love to be a form of illness whose cure is to be found only in the person that he loves. In so doing, he calls upon his love to accept his advances and cure him from this illness. The writer does not stop there but goes on to show that he does not mind being ignored by the person that he loves. This is perfectly put in the representation of his love as “walwed and ywounde” (Chaucer, Line 18) meaning that he is all alone. This is in reference to the coldness that the writer receives from the love of his life. Later, the writer compares himself to Tristram who was famed for his love for Isolde.

Chaucer is privy to the fact that rhyme is an important element is expressing poetic themes. This is evidenced in the manner in which rhyme is extensively used in the poem with each stanza ending in a distinct rhyme. Every stanza is formatted to form a rhyme of “ababbcbc format” making it a unique poem altogether. Perhaps the importance of the use of rhyme is only visible when the poem is read out loud as was characteristic of ancient time. By using the element of rhyme, the writer is able to express the love that he has for Rosemounde. Moreover, the application of rhyme is equally important in ridiculing the traditional romantic setting; a theme that the writer aims to achieve. In its original form, The Wife’s Lament is unrhymed because of the heavy ancient English language that was used. However, the poem employs the use of caesura to pause in between the different lines. In so doing, this gives the poem a distinct pacing.  This means that the reader gets an opportunity to pause in between the lines thereby expounding on the theme of sadness as they read through.

Humor and ridicule of the traditional romantic life is also initiated through the use of repetition in the poem. There is a constant repetition of the sound “oo” which is so extensive to the point of being likened to a cow’s mooing. The name Rosemounde also has the same sound at the rear end and its repetitive use could make the reader sound foolish while narrating the poem. Although the satirical elements in the poem are not immediately visible, a deeper search reveals numerous instances of this humor. The comical tone is further enhanced by the use of enunciation and strange imagery.

The poems under review communicate the contrasting themes of love and sorrow through the use of different styles. The two poems employ literary techniques in not only giving the poems a flow but also to express the different themes that they possess. The use of similes, rhyme, metaphors and imagery is a useful tool in any literary work whether poetic or prose. Despite the use of similar techniques, the poems distinctly express their different themes in successful ways. Obviously, the poems would not have been as effective had they not employed these techniques in their presentation.


Works cited

Cottom, Charmae S. The Wife’s Lament and the Sorrow of Mary Magdalene. , 2013. Print.

Greenberg, Arielle. “To Rosemounde: A Balade.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.’s%20Lament.pdf


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