Felicia Hemans and Unrequited Love

I noticed that two of Hemans’ poems that center around unrequited love, “Properzia Rossi” and “An Indian Woman’s Death Song,” and the way that the women react (without the objects of their desire). “Properzia Rossi” is about a female sculpture of the same name who is said to have died of a broken heart from unrequited love–though she actually died from the plague. The pain from unrequited love is vivid: the speaker says “Wher’er I move,/ The shadow of this broken-hearted love/ Is on me and around” and describes her devotion as “sad,” “deep,” and “unrepaid.” The sculptor in the poem is pouring all of her emotions into this marble work, an act that is productive and does not involve her love interest. She also implies that this work, tinged by her being scorned, will be her legacy.

In “An Indian Woman’s Death Song,” the woman’s death and her being scorned are tied together much more explicitly. After her “warrior’s eye hath look’d upon another’s face,/ And mine had faded from his soul,” the woman takes her children onto a canoe and paddles them toward a waterfall, with the intention that the rushing water will claim all of their lives. The woman “cannot live without that light” and she is horrified by the thought that her children might ever be made to feel that way, too. I find it interesting that first of all, there are two poems where the female main character faces the problem of a man who does not love her back, and second of all, that both protagonists are devastated and do not involve the man further. Additionally, they both deal with death, which can be seen as a form of power, in that it is a reaction that the women are taking within a society that oppresses them, or can be seen as a complete and hopeless lack of power.

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