Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s poem “The Marriage Vow” approaches the concept of marriage in what one could perceive as an attack on the institution, using the idea of language and words to illustrate the funeral Landon thinks a wedding to be. Landon makes this thought clear immediately, with her first line being “The altar, `tis of death!” (1). After all, the altar is where so many young women lay their dreams to rest, burying their hopes and desires to instead pledge fealty to a man who will never let her follow her heart. At the altar, a young woman is forced to “… sacrifice of all youth’s sweetest hopes” (2), is forced to give up so much of what makes her her – it makes sense that Landon would view a wedding as an occasion of sorrow and death, as something is dying, it’s just not a human being that’s being lifted into a coffin. This idea of the woman’s wedding being her funeral is also indicative of Landon’s own relationship with marriage and the way the institution was held in the Victorian era, as a woman would become her husband’s “property” in a sense after the marriage was sealed.
The power of words is a theme repeated in a lot of Landon’s work, and this theme is prevalent in “The Marriage Vow” as well. Landon writes, “It is a dreadful thing for woman’s lip / To swear the heart away” (3-4), indicating that it is the words of the marriage vow uttered by the woman that seals the heart’s fate and dooms her heart to death. This is Landon’s proof for the amount of power words hold, as the simple words of her vows are what put the woman to death, or at least condemn her heart to death. These words are binding, and are stronger than the woman’s passions, will, and dreams, strong enough to kill her.
Bridgewater State University Virtual Commons – Bridgewater State University. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1420&context=honors_proj