“A deeper sense of truth and love/ Comes o’er us as we pass;/ While lingers in the heart one line,/ The nameless poet hath a shrine.” (Page 385, lines 37-40)
In her poem entitled “The Unknown Grave,” Letitia Elizabeth Landon explores the idea of a poet’s work being overlooked, despite the meaning and beauty that it holds. Landon powerfully expounds upon the idea that poets encapsulate life, youth, love, and hope in their writing, but that the actual name of the poet goes easily forgotten or underappreciated. Landon struggles with the fact that poets contribute virtue and value to the world, but that they can die without anyone giving attribution to the poet. By the end of the poem, Landon argues that the life, love, youth, and hope that poets give to their readers continue to make a home in their hearts, despite the forgotten name of the poet.
In the first stanza, the speaker describes a “lonely grave,” devoid of visitors or memory. Landon personifies this grave to the life of a poet. In stanza two, Landon attributes the meaningful aspects poets have brought into the world by saying “Youth, love, and hope yet use his [the poet’s] words,/ They seem to be his own” (lines 17-18). The speaker states that these virtues – youth, love, and hope – actually wrote the poem; they use the poet’s words to emulate themselves within the poem. This idea expresses the deep meaning and significance of a poet’s writing – it is not the words, but it is the values and virtues themselves that makes up a poem. The next line reads “And yet he has not left a name,/ The poet died without his fame” (lines 19-20). Landon reveals a possible fear for herself, but also a sad fact of life: writers can, and some will, die without receiving any credit for their work.
At the end of the poem, the speaker states that “A deeper sense of truth and love/ Comes o’er us as we pass” (lines 37-38). Landon argues that poets help explain and make sense of the important, but complicated, facets of life: truth and love. This more profound understanding of truth and love comes in a way that is two-fold. “A deeper sense” could be understood by someone actually passing by the unknown grave of a poet – coming to know the author as a person is what gives value to the work. But Landon also touches on the idea that a deeper meaning of a poem or writing becomes present after the author has died. It is interesting that in both instances, death is present and is a medium by which writing becomes more powerful and appreciated.
The poem ends by saying “While lingers in the heart one line,/ The nameless poet hath a shrine” (lines 39-40). The speaker maintains that poetry remains constantly in the hearts of its readers, therefore creating a home or “shrine” for the poet. Landon asserts that the power of poetry causes readers to internalize its meanings and virtues in their hearts, allowing the “nameless poet” to be remembered after all. The remembrance of their words and virtues gives praise to the poet, even though no name is attached, the meaning of poetry and the depth of the virtues ascribed to it are always remembered.
Word count: 520
Landon, Letitia Elizabeth. “The Unknown Grave.” British Women Poets of the Romantic Era: An Anthology. Ed. Paula R. Feldman. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. 384-385. Print.