What is the woman's sense of love in "Patterns" by Amy Lowell?
The topic of love is central to Amy Lowell's poem. At the beginning of the poem, the struggle for the speaker is clearly between the restraints of society (symbolized by her stiff clothing and the formulaic garden paths) and the freedom of the natural world. In light of this theme, the lady's sense of love could be understood through her celebration of her own passion and her need to let that passion run free. She states,
"Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin" (ln 32-33).
From there, she leaps into a fantasy of a woman enjoying the pleasures of a bath outdoors while her lover watches her through the bushes. She goes on to imagine flinging her stiff dress to the ground and leading her lover on a chase through the garden, until they make love together:
"Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon" (ln 52-55)
In these fantasies, it's clear that love, both the emotion and the act of love-making, are a part of the freedom of nature. Love represents an opportunity to escape the narrow confines of what is socially acceptable and recapture some of the natural selves that society has been filing away.
Unfortunately, the speaker will never experience this. The letter she has just received, the letter that inspired this aimless, futile wandering in the garden, states that her fiance, Lord Hartwell, has been killed in a war, a month before they were to be wed. When she recalls his proposal, it's clear that she saw their marriage and love as a way to escape the expectations of society in the comfort of one another: "We would have broke the pattern; He for me, and I for him" (ln 83-84). Now, with her love lost, the speaker confronts the fact that she will never escape the patterns and cycles that confine her life and passions.