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Throughout history, love has been portrayed differently in various types of literature. The concept of love in ancient literature and in medieval literature is represented both similarly and conversely. Two famous authors, Sappho, an ancient author, and the poets of Arabic Spain, medieval authors use passages in their pieces of writings to express and depict a picture of love in comparable and contrasted ways.


Sappho, an ancient author, depicts human emotion in the passage chosen through a series of references to the human senses.


“If I meet/you suddenly, I can’t/speak-my tongue is broken;/a thin flame runs under/my skin; seeing nothing,/hearing only my own ears/drumming, I drip with sweat;/trembling shakes my body/and I turn paler than/dry grass. At such times/death isn’t far from me.” (Sappho, p. , l. -1)


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Here, a story is being told to us about a man who is so greatly loved by the author. The love shown here for the man is so intimate and passionate that a loss of senses occurs. “I can’t/speak-my tongue is broken;/a thin flame runs under/my skin; seeing nothing,/hearing only my own ears/drumming.” (Sappho, p. , l. 10-15) The author loses his/her sense of speech because he/she is so overcome with love that he/she cannot even speak words. He/she can also see nothing because he/she is blinded by the love that he/she has for this man. He/she also cannot hear anything but the drumming of his/her own ears because he/she is so engulfed in his/her love for this man they he/she cannot comprehend anything around him/her. Sappho uses a series of imagery to better delineate the concept of the author’s emotion for the man whom he/she loves. Reading the words of her writing, “I drip with sweat;/trembling shakes my body/and I turn paler than/dry grass.” (Sappho, p. , l. 15-1), a picture can be drawn in the reader’s head and understand the passion and love the author has for this man. Upon reading this description, one can actually feel what the author is feeling inside. Sappho’s style of writing is notably descriptive and vivid. Her illustrative style of writing makes it apparent that a sense of passion is important in this passage of the poem. The expressions of love in these words are depicted through a more direct way. In describing what the author really feels and what he/she does, Sappho makes it so that the reader can also feel what the author of this passage is feeling about the love of his/her man, whom he/she views is his/her God in his/her eyes.


Another author who writes about vividly about love is Ibn Zaydun. His passage from Poems of Arab Andalusia depicts the concept of love through the eyes of a person who seems to have lost a love. “Now we are far apart/one from the other/my heard has dried up/but my tears keep falling.” (Poems of Arab Andalusia, p. , l. 1-4) The person speaking in this story seems to have lost one whom he/she cares about very much. The speaker’s emotions are seen through his/her sadness. It is seen as he/she expresses how his/her heart is dry but his/her tears are still falling. “In losing you my days/have turned black./When I was with you/even my nights were white.” (Poems of Arab Andalusia, p. , l. 5-8) The speaker’s love and passion are vividly seen in these four lines. The speaker’s affection for his/her lover is strong in that his/her love made even the darkest of times seem to be optimistic and bright. The author’s choice of words, “nights being white”, is ironic and seems as a bit of an oxymoron. This contradictory metaphor shows the speaker’s depth of love for his/her paramour; being able to make one’s dark nights white. Now that his/her love is gone, his/her bright days “have turned black”. The power to have such an immense effect on someone indicates a grand love. The loss of his/her lover leaves the speaker in great despair. This passage shows a love and passion so great that the speaker’s life changes when he/she loses his/her love.


These two passages depict love in both comparable and contrasted manners. Sappho’s depiction of love is prominently more vivid as the speaker sees his/her love, whereas in Poems of Arab Andalusia, love is understood better through his/her eyes as the speaker loses his/her loved one. While both passages use some sort of imagery, a picture can better be drawn in a reader’s head while reading the passage written by Sappho because of the images of the dripping of sweat, the trembling of the body, and the pale color in the speaker’s face. Although these two passages express love in different methods, they both portray love through one’s unexpected, hard times (i.e. suddenly meeting one’s love, losing one’s love).


Love is expressed in different ways throughout various types of literature. Whether it is portraying love through one’s abrupt encounters, like the ancient author Sappho, or through one’s loss, like in one of the authors in Poems of Arab Andalusia, the concept of love depicts human emotion and gives importance to the areas of passion and despair. Love is very powerful, passionate, and deep, especially if written by great writers.





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