What Does the Poem Called 'The Sonnet-Ballad' Mean?

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American poet Gwendolyn Brooks gave her poem "The Sonnet-Ballad" an apt title. Ballads traditionally tell a story -- oftentimes tragic -- while sonnets are expressions of love. This poem fully encompasses both of those requirements in its heart-wrenching story of love and loss. Unlike many poems, the meaning of this one lies primarily on the surface.

A Loss of Love

"The Sonnet-Ballad" is a story of a woman's grief and loss. Death -- in the form of war -- is personified as a seductive lover who lures a beloved away from her arms. Alone with her grief, she wonders, "What I can use an empty heart-cup for." The reader is not told whether he will return but is told that change is certain. In the poem, this situation is to be mourned rather than celebrated.