In ‘Distant Shore,’ Dohren explores themes of indomitable love, eternity, and death. The poem maintains an optimistic and peaceful mood throughout as the speaker addresses her lover.
She expresses her opinion on the power of their love and her belief, or her hope, that they will love one another in another life.
Explore Distant Shore
Summary of Distant Shore
The speaker addresses her lover throughout ‘Distant Shore,’ telling them that they need not fear death as for the two of them it is not the end. Their love, she likes to think, is more powerful than time. Over and over, life after life, she knows that they have loved one another and will continue to do so.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Distant Shore
‘Distant Shore’ by Valerie Dohren is a six stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. This pattern is very simple and entirely consistent throughout ‘Distant Shore’. There are also examples of rhyme within the lines, rather than at the ends. Rather than perfect rhyme, as is seen at the ends of each line, these are half-rhymes.
Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “I” and “time” in the second stanza and “seen” and “sweetly” in the third stanza.
Poetic Techniques in Distant Shore
Dohren makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Distant Shore’. These include but are not limited to personification, alliteration, and enjambment. The first, personification, occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. For example, in the third stanza, the speaker describes the moon as watching their “warm embrace” then later, speaks of the “darkness” stealing their “souls”.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “love” and “loved” in the second and third lines of the first stanza and “gentle grasp” in the third line of the second stanza.
Enjambment is another important technique in poetry. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza and lines three and four of the fourth.
Analysis of Distant Shore
Stanzas One and Two
O could it be that we have known
Such tender love before –
I held you in my gentle grasp,
Set in another time.
In the first lines of Distant Shore,’ the speaker begins by asking the listener, someone she loves, a rhetorical question. She’s considering the possibilities of another life, something like reincarnation, where she and her lover were together in another age. Or, as she puts it, “Upon some distant shore”.
It is meaningful to this speaker to consider the possibility that she was with this person in the “far and long lost past” as that might allude to a future life in which they are together. She uses techniques like alliteration and enjambment to structure these lines. At this point, the mood is wistful and dreamy as she explores these possibilities.
Stanzas Three and Four
And could it be the Moon above
Has watched our warm embrace,
For now I love you, as I deem
I loved you long ago.
In the next stanzas, she speaks about the moon, using personification to describe it as watching them. It was always there, through the different ages of their lives, watching their warm embraces like a guardian.
Alliteration is used again at the beginning of the fourth stanza with “Beyond the boundaries”. She is thinking that maybe it’s possible that their “love did grow” in a place beyond the confines of time. It’s so powerful that it transcends life and death. The word “love” is repeated in the lines of the fourth stanza, as is “I”. She is very clearly setting out her emotions here.
Stanzas Five and Six
And thus when darkness steals our souls
I know our love won’t die,
Two hearts united through all time,
In the last two stanzas of ‘Distant Shore,’ the speaker uses personification again to describe how the “darkness steals our souls”. This is a metaphor for death and when the two finally succumb to it. She knows that her love won’t die, as time can’t touch it, but “blossom in the dawn / That lights another sky”. Again, she hopes that their love is going to live again, in new bodies, but with the same souls and the same emotions.
In the final stanza, she directly addresses her lover telling them not to cry because death is not going to be final for them. Across eternity they are always going to meet up again. There is nothing that can separate them from one another. The poem ends on an optimistic and peaceful note. The listener should be soothed by the speaker’s words and know that in the end, they are always going to end up together.