Love is something that we all experience throughout our lives. Whether romantic relationships are good, bad, or mediocre, we crave them; however, sometimes we complain about them. Furthermore, love is a battle between pleasure and pain, and it can make us feel foolish. In the poem, “If it’s not love, then what is it I feel?” by Francesco Petrarco, translated by Robert M. Durling, the translator, uses tone, diction, and imagery to advance the theme that love is confusing and complicated.
For example, Durling uses a questioning tone throughout the poem to advance the theme that love is confusing and complicated. According to the poem, “If by my own will I burn, whence comes the weeping and lament?” (Durling 4-5). We all enter romantic relationships willingly and with eyes wide open, so we should not be sad when things do not end up as we imagined. Relationships do not always end up like we imagined them, which is why it is smart to take a step back and re-evaluate what it is that we want. Romantic relationships are secure attachments to another person, and everyone may experience them at some point in their lives. The love we feel in relationships can mean different things for different people, such as sorrow, anger, joy, happiness, or betrayal.
Also, Durling uses connotative diction to advance the theme that love is confusing and complicated. In this case, according to the poem, “and I shiver in midsummer, burn in winter,” (Durling 12), the words we use while expressing our love in relationships can often reveal our true feelings. Sometimes, we find ourselves loving the wrong people at incorrect moments in our lives. Love offers many choices, but it can be confusing when our hearts and minds do not want the same things. Unfortunately, we do not always know what we want until it is right in front of us. Whatever decision we make will be the one we have to live with, and we may never know how the opposite choice would have turned out.
Finally, Durling uses imagery, through metaphors, to advance the theme that love is confusing and complicated. According to the poem, it states, “Amid such contrary winds I find myself at sea in a frail bark, without a tiller,” (Durling 9-10). In this example, romantic relationships can be confusing, and sometimes we do not have the strength or tools to fight them off. Love can be a strength if appropriately cultivated, but people often view it as a weakness. Also, because we crave romance so much, we are often left feeling inadequate and vulnerable, like the frail bark in the sea.
In conclusion, Robert M. Durling’s translation from the poem, “If it’s not love, then what is it I feel?” illustrates that romantic relationships are confusing and complicated. Durling uses tone, diction, and imagery to advance the theme that love is confusing and complicated. With these three elements, Durling shows the reader that love is something we may not ever understand or have the strength to fight.
Petrarco, Francesco, translated by Robert M. Durling. “If it’s not love, then what is it I feel?” Literature: Reading, Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, edited by Robert DiYanni, 6th edition, McGraw Hill, 2007, p. 878.