Betrothal by Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy is one of the most recognized poets of this era. She has a psychoanalytical, challenging and philosophical style. Very beautifully she brings together the romanticism of expression with the realism of clarity. In a very philosophical and provocative style Duffy paints the picture of the society we live in. Love, society and childhood are the subject matter of Duffy’s poems.

When Carrol makes love the subject of her poems she describes the intense sensations that come into play when we fall in love, very beautifully. She always writes these love poems in the first person which further increases the sense of intimacy and the disclosure of the poet’s personal thoughts and feelings. Through her technique of bringing together her analysis of personal feelings and linking them with romantic associations she succeeds in creating some beautiful imagery.

 

Betrothal Analysis

I will be yours, be yours.

(…)

make me the one.

The poem, Betrothal by Carol Ann Duffy, is a pledge of woman towards her betrothed. In the poem, the speaker (poet) convinces her betrothed and is prepared to go to any extremes just to be his life partner.

And this is very well made clear from the very first stanza of the poem, wherein we find her convincing him that she would lead her life according to his wishes and would be prepared to go wherever he wants. In this section of the poem, we can actually feel the intensity of her feelings when she says: I will be yours, be yours, I’ll walk on the moors with my spade. Make me your bride. And yet again when she goes on to say, I will be brave, be brave. I’ll dig my own grave and lie down. Make me your own.

Let me tell you here that with introduction of these strong lines the poet gets succeeded in creating an image of a woman who is desperate enough to be at her lover’s side. She is even prepared to die and lie in her grave and will consider herself lucky if he comes and kneels beside her grave. Also let me explain you here that the pledges the speaker takes in this poem reminds me of the Indian Wedding’s Seventh Rounds (Saat Phere) taken by the bride and bridegroom around a pious bone fire. With these seven rounds around a fire, the couple pledges and vows to each other. And the same type of rituals is felt through the each stanza of this poem.

I will obey, obey.

(…)

Make me your wife.

In the above lines, the vows and pledges from the speaker continue. Here the poet again continues with her nuptial vows and says that she is prepared to do anything possible, even go to the ends of the world if only he becomes her partner.

And we can feel her intense feelings and her burning desire when she says I’ll wear your ring, your ring. I’ll dance and I’ll sing in the flames. Make me your name, which means that she will only wear his ring and would be even willing to sing and dance in the flames if she gets his name. And again when she says I’ll feel desire, desire. I’ll bloom in the fire. I’ll blush like a baby.

Make me your lady. And her burning desire is further intensified when she says that if she becomes his lady she would feel so much desire that instead of perishing in the flames she would simply bloom and prosper in the fire. She would be so overwhelmed with her emotions that she won’t be able to hide them and would be blushing like a baby. She would eagerly agree to all the marriage vows and do anything for him, if only he made her his wife. Thus, in the above lines, the speaker (poet) completely surrenders herself to her lover, or husband. She is ready to do anything, and is ready to get adapted according to him provided he accepts her as his wife.

This poem shows the ardent desire of the poet who wants to get the love of her betrothed. The betrothal is a formal engagement before the actual marriage. However, in many different parts of the world, this ceremony is performed differently. The way this poem has been written, it seems that the poet is inspired by the rituals of Indian wedding for whatever kinds of vows and pledges the woman is depicted taking in this poem almost relates to the vows and pledges had during Indian ceremony.

In order to define ardent desire of the woman, the poet has used great imagery and metaphors in the poem. And the most important thing to note in the poem is that each end of each stanza of the poem, Betrothal, ends with a wish of the woman. For example: Make me your bride, Make me your own, Make me your love, make me the one, Make me your spouse, make me be wed, make me your name, Make me your lady, Make me your wife. All these desires and wishes of the poet show she is ready to become anything and do anything to be his betrothed part.

 

About Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy is one of the most important voices in contemporary British poetry. She belongs to a generation of women poets that includes Michele Roberts, Alison Fell, and several other famous women poet who carved a niche in the world of poetry. Despite their disparate social, political and cultural characteristics they all exhibit the recognizable lineaments of their foremothers – the women of the feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Immensely anxious with the interrogation of certain accepted gender norms, Duffy’s work also had to confront a lot of racial intolerance, religious bigotry, the nuclear nightmare, the political indifference exuded by the Thatcher administration towards the unemployed and the under-privileged.

Born in Glasgow, brought up in Staffordshire and educated in Liverpool, she now lives in London and retains a clear identification with the impoverished regions of Britain in which she grew up. Although she is a lesbian and a feminist she displays none of the self-congratulatory essentialism commonly associated with such a stance.

Her work is analytical, deeply disturbing and committed to posing far more questions than it answers. It is also at times deeply humorous.

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  • Avatar Emma says:

    Hi,

    Just thought it’s interesting to note that Duffy is homosexual, meaning she may not have been making the speaker talk of a ‘male’ lover, but rather a ‘female’ one.

    Thanks,
    Emma

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      That’s a very valid point. Often Duffy’s sexuality does inform her poetry.

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