Although the speaker in the poem is not identified as a woman, the poem reads better if one assumes that a woman is speaking. The conflict expressed in the opening two lines gains power if the speaker is seen as a woman fighting for her independence from a man, as well as a lover struggling to be free of her lover’s dominating influence. It also helps to remember that in the background are two real-life lovers: An invalid (Elizabeth Barrett) is writing a series of sonnets to a lover (Robert Browning) whom her tyrannical father has forbidden her to see. This much biographical information, if not essential to an understanding of the poem, greatly enhances one’s appreciation of it and makes the beginning of the sonnet clearer and the poet’s conflict more poignant.
The poem opens abruptly with a command—“Go from me”—followed by a seeming retraction (“Yet I feel”) that introduces the poet’s conflict. She appears not to want her lover to go, but he must, for reasons left unexplained. The peremptory nature of the command makes his leaving seem imperative and the fact of his going final. His going will give her strength to “stand”—or will she rise because she is alarmed by his leaving, as if to stop him? The second line takes back the suggestion in the first line that his leaving will make her somehow strong and independent—when he is gone, she will live in his shadow.
Continuing into line 3 and further, the poet reveals an...
(The entire section is 474 words.)