Tag Archives: Love

‘Sudden Light’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door;
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.You have been mine before, –
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at the swallow’s soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall, – I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?
I think this is a truly startling poem about the moment of falling in love. It is about the phenomenon where (when it’s real) loving someone can feel like you have “been here before”. It is about deja vu.Rossetti starts his second stanza with the words “You have been mine before”; he does not remember how long ago, but he feels a connection to the person that is impossible to explain. Just a gesture or movement can open up memories: she turns her head and “some veil did fall, – I knew it all of yore”.
I love this poem because it’s very romantic and mystical.

Although I have posted a few poems by Christina Rossetti on this blog, this is the first one that I have read by her brother, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Of all the souls that stand create’ by Emily Dickinson

Of all the souls that stand create
I have elected one.
When sense from spirit files away,
And subterfuge is done;

When that which is and that which was
Apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh
Is shifted like a sand;

When figures show their royal front
And mists are carved away,—
Behold the atom I preferred
To all the lists of clay!

This is a beautiful love poem by Emily Dickinson. I picked this poem today because it is heroic and bold, and about an enduring, spiritual love.

The phrase that really gets me in this poem is “this brief tragedy of flesh”; I think that is just perfect wording. Dickinson is telling us in this poem that of all the souls on earth, she has chosen only “one”. And when the “subterfuge” of the human guise, and the brief tragedy that is out material life, is “shifted like a sand”; when “mists are carved away” and we pass on to a spiritual realm (i.e. when we die?)… “Behold the atom I preferred/ To all the lists of clay!”

I love the tone of triumph in the final two lines. The word “atom” is interesting, here. I suppose what Dickinson is getting at here is that this spirit, or “soul” is something more than the material shell — the “lists of clay” — and cannot be seen or touched physically. I love the poet’s use of the word “lists” here because it delivers a sense of the physical plain of almost being boring; there are lists and lists of physically beautiful, materially rich people, but she has chosen one “soul” — one “atom” — who is all that she could ever want, even when the material realm has passed away.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Avec le temps’ by Leo Ferre

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
On oublie le visage et l’on oublie la voix
Le coeur, quand ça bat plus, c’est pas la peine d’aller
Chercher plus loin, faut laisser faire et c’est très bien

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
L’autre qu’on adorait, qu’on cherchait sous la pluie
L’autre qu’on devinait au détour d’un regard
Entre les mots, entre les lignes et sous le fard
D’un serment maquillé qui s’en va faire sa nuit
Avec le temps tout s’évanouit

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
Même les plus chouettes souvenirs, ça, t’as une de ces gueules
A la gallerie j’farfouille dans les rayons d’la mort
Le samedi soir quand la tendresse s’en va toute seule

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
L’autre à qui l’on croyait pour un rhume, pour un rien
L’autre à qui l’on donnait du vent et des bijoux
Pour qui l’on eût vendu son âme pour quelques sous
Devant quoi l’on s’traînait comme traînent les chiens
Avec le temps, va, tout va bien

Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
On oublie les passions et l’on oublie les voix
Qui vous disaient tout bas les mots des pauvres gens
Ne rentre pas trop tard, surtout ne prends pas froid
Avec le temps…
Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va
Et l’on se sent blanchi comme un cheval fourbu
Et l’on se sent glacé dans un lit de hasard
Et l’on se sent tout seul peut-être mais peinard
Et l’on se sent floué par les années perdues, alors vraiment
Avec le temps on n’aime plus

These are the lyrics to one of my very favourite French songs, ‘Avec le temps’ (In Time) and for me, it is absolutely poetry. Leo Ferre (1916-1993) was a prominent singer in France from the 50s right up the the 1980s.

This song is about how love can dissipate with time. As time passes, says the song, our love and passion can often wilt and finally die. However, it is the manner in which Ferre sings the song (as I hope you will see if you watch the video below) that I find absolutely hypnotic. His expression is so poetical; you can really feel the import of each word as he sings it (and each word is so loaded). What I love most about this song is near the end when he sings “et on se sent tout seul peut etre, mais PEINARD!” I love the way he cries out — almost shouts — that word, peinard, which means “comfortable” or “hunky dory”. Paradoxically, the singer’s indignation at the death of his passion seems to spark an incredible anger and passion, which he uses to express what has happened.

I just think that this is an incredible song, with wonderfully poetical lyrics. I have tried to translate it below, but I found it a very hard task and am still not happy with it. However, I don’t think that it matters too much; the best thing really is to read the translation to have the meaning, and then listen to the song to really hear the poetry. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I do!

 

My translation

In time …
In time, it goes, everything goes away.
We forget the face and we forget the voice,
The heart, when it stops beating, there’s no point
Searching any further, you must let it go and that’s good.

In time…
In time, it goes, everything goes away.
The Other, who we adored, who we searched for in the rain;
The Other, who we guessed with one look,
Between words, between the lines and beneath the make-up
Of a masked vow, who goes off for the night…
In time, everything vanishes

In time …
In time, it goes, everything goes away,
Even the best memories, the most incredible ones,
In the cheap shops I search the aisles of death,
On Saturday evening, when tenderness disappears.

In time…
In time, it goes, everything goes,
The Other, who we believed for silly reasons,
Tho Other, who we gave nothing and jewels,
For whom we would have sold our soul for a few pennies,
Who we followed around like dogs do,
In time, it goes; everything’s fine.

In time …
In time, it goes, everything goes.
We forget the passions and we forget the voices
Which whispered the words of poor people:
“Don’t stay out too late, and, especially, don’t catch cold.”

In time…
In time, it goes, everything goes away.
And we feel pale and grey like an old horse
And we feel frozen in a bed of chance,
And we feel all alone, perhaps, but comfortable.
And we feel fooled by the lost years

So, really,
In time we don’t love any more.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Separation’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A sworded man whose trade is blood,
In grief, in anger, and in fear,
Thro’ jungle, swamp, and torrent flood,
I seek the wealth you hold so dear!

The dazzling charm of outward form,
The power of gold, the pride of birth,
Have taken Woman’s heart by storm–
Usurp’d the place of inward worth.

Is not true Love of higher price
Than outward Form, though fair to see,
Wealth’s glittering fairy-dome of ice,
Or echo of proud ancestry?–

O! Asra, Asra! couldst thou see
Into the bottom of my heart,
There’s such a mine of Love for thee,
As almost might supply desert!

(This separation is, alas!
Too great a punishment to bear;
O! take my life, or let me pass
That life, that happy life, with her!)

The perils, erst with steadfast eye
Encounter’d, now I shrink to see–
Oh! I have heart enough to die–
Not half enough to part from Thee!

I am only putting this poem on my blog because of its final two lines, which I absolutely loved from the first time I read them as a child. Those lines are so entrancing with the breathless alliteration of ‘h’s, the delicate ‘f’s and of course the grandiose ‘Thee’ at the end. This is an expression of that beautiful, heroic love that consumes all and becomes all… and I just love it!

I’m not very keen on the rest of the poem, to be quite honest; I particularly dislike the line about almost supplying “desert”… it seems clumsy, as if Coleridge only put that word in to make it rhyme with “heart” (which it doesn’t, really.) But however cringing some of this poem is to me, I forgive it all when I get to the final two lines, and I hover over them to enjoy the linguistic beauty that is more akin to that of Coleridge’s most famous poem, Kubla Khan.

Separation is one of Coleridge’s ‘Asra poems’, which are all addressed to the love of his life, Sara (he affectionately called her Asra in all of his poems).

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

“Phenomenal Woman” of Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

The poem “Phenomenal Woman” is a known poetic work of Maya Angelou, a poetess and a public person, one of the most successful African-American women in the middle of the ХХth century in America.

The author confirms self-critically enough: “I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size”, – and really – Maya Angelou or Margaret Ann Johnson, as she was called actually, was by no means a sample of physical excellence and attractiveness. Although her life experience was complex and she had to sell herself at different times (prostitution, dance shows), her appeal concealed not in the body, but in the spirit. The author says: “I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,  

That’s me”.

Objectively, phenomenal aspect of this author is in the fact that Maya Angelou actually feels like a woman in the deepest sense of this word. Forcing the path through thickets of public stereotypes into popularity, she was a black (which served in itself as the grounds for discrimination) woman (still in the socially undeveloped societies, a woman is regarded as a creature of the second or third grade) and additionally, she was originally from a poor family. Objectively, “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies… But when I start to tell them, They think I’m telling lies”.

What is the special thing, which attracts these numerous men, who cannot resist magic (or insistence?) of this phenomenal woman? The author believes that “It’s the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist is And the joy in my feet…”. And at the same time she confirms that even “Men themselves have wondered What they see in me”, but they cannot understand this to the full.

What is this poem about? About the fact that a woman is a phenomenon. The woman who is strong enough to remain forever one, even in the most unfavorable external conditions. An accomplished woman, a self- made woman, a self-confident woman – Maya Angelou, certainly, speaks about herself. But also about the stuff, which is important for her in every person. Yes, a woman is a miracle much more complex for cognition, than a man. At least just because she is able to undermine imagination of a man, be a source of life and the source of “My inner mystery”. Of the secret, on which those ones, who did not receive access, cannot touch.

However, there is one more important thing. It is the one, which is important both for women and men from the author`s point of view: “Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud”. Not to bow, not to speak loudly, not to try to conquer attention by any external manifestations. But only by the world inside. “ ’Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me”.

“O captain! My Captain!..” by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman enriched American literature with his outstanding creative work; he broke the new ground in poetry. Whitman despised slavery and fought for the ideals of freedom and democracy. Born into a poor family, he did not have a chance to finish school, so his path in literature is often called the path of overcoming. Yet it was probably the lack of formal schooling that enabled Whitman to create a new form of poetry, free verse.

Although the poem “O captain! My Captain!..” seems to possess a certain romantic quality, as well as a tragic element and indifference towards politics, in fact it was written on the death of the US president Abraham Lincoln. The poem is closely related to the drama film “Dead Poets Society” directed by Peter Weir. The movie received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, while the British Academy of Film and Television Arts named it the best film and the best soundtrack. Characters cite the poem more than once, revealing their devotion to the completely new value system opposed to conservatism. Freedom and development are the basic principles of Whitman’s poetry.

This poem was used by the creators of the computer game Mass Effect. Its lines can also be heard in one of the episodes of the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman series.

Whitman’s verses in general, including “O captain! My Captain!..”, lack common rhythm, fixed meter pattern, and end rhyme. They are, however, rich in inner harmonies and enumerations. The author himself described his verses in the following way: “it should be as natural as human breathing”. The poem is actually based on the uneven rhythm that can be compared to the irregular breathing of a person or a group of people who are going through a great loss. The fact that the captain lost his life neither in a battle nor fighting against the elements, but when the port is already quivering on the horizon, makes this loss even greater.

The seaman on whose behalf the poem is written does not say just “Captain”, but “My Captain”, which emphasizes his devotion to the principles, that were leading the late captain through his life. To give this idea even more emphasis, Whitman used the image of a father: “Here Captain! dear father!” Father is a person whom the son entirely trusts and who would never betray his trust. This image shows that this devotion has no limits. Devotion to the person who led the “ship”, the United States of America, from slavery to the rise of democratic freedoms.

Reviewed by Katerina Sidoruk

‘Spared’ by Wendy Cope

“That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love… ”
Emily Dickinson

It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me,
Up there, two thousand feet above
A New York street. We’re safe and free,
A little while, to live and love,

Imagining what might have been –
The phone-call from the blazing tower,
A last farewell on the machine,
While someone sleeps another hour,

Or worse, perhaps, to say goodbye
And listen to each other’s pain,
Send helpless love across the sky,
Knowing we’ll never meet again,

Or jump together, hand in hand,
To certain death. Spared all of this
For now, how well I understand
That love is all, is all there is.
 

This poem by Wendy Cope is one that she apparently wrote as a response to the atrocities of 9/11. I think it is a really special, beautiful poem and meditation on an unspeakably tragic event.

The poem expresses great sadness, but it is also triumphant; the conclusion of the poet’s musings is that “love is all, is all there is.” I love the inclusion of the quote from Emily Dickinson, as it reminds us that this is not a new revelation, but that the truth that “love is all” is something we have always known. Faced with inhuman acts of violence, we cannot help but feel our sense of love reinforced, because it is our natural reaction to such happenings to feel compassion, and the think about our own loved ones.

I love the way that Cope emphasises the idea of the mortality of each one of us in this poem. In the first stanza she talks about being “safe and free” as a survivor (“It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me”), but then she undercuts this feeling of being “Spared” with phrases such as “a little while” and “for now”; we are all mortal, she reminds us.

What is important in this poem is the love that triumphs over an act of evil. There is a sense of fervent admiration for those who have died, and who continued to love until the end (the “last farewell on the machine” and the “sending helpless love across the sky”, and even those who “Jump together… To certain death”). I also think the poem delivers a strong sense of the desire to make the most of life, particularly with the image of somebody who “sleeps another hour” and so misses a message of love…

I think this is such a touching poem; I hope you enjoy it!

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Echo’ by Christina Rossetti

Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

This is such a hauntingly melancholy poem by Christina Rossetti. It is a beautiful expression of grief and longing to find a loved one again after they have died. My personal feeling is that this is about a dead child (perhaps it’s something about the “soft, rounded cheeks”), though it could be read with any departed loved-one in mind.

I love the repetition of “Come” in the first stanza (“Come to me”, “Come in”, “Come with”, “Come back”), and the rhyme scheme; all of this makes the poem so enchanting, almost like a self-sung lullaby. My favourite phrase in the whole poem, is “eyes as bright/ as sunlight on a stream”. It’s such a gorgeous image, and the sibilance really makes the words sparkle…

Notice that the speaker begs her departed love to “Come back in tears”. I think that she uses these words because she yearns for her child (or whoever it is!) to come back by any means, so long and she comes back. If the only way to keep her connection to her dead child is to be constantly grieving, or “in tears”, then so be it.

I love the description of Paradise, in the second stanza. Rossetti wrote a lot of religious poetry, and I think that an element of her faith almost always shines through all her poems. I just think that the image of the “slow door/ That opening, letting in, lets out no more” is incredibly stunning. What a wonderful image of Heaven. It is the dream of a place where nobody has to depart — nobody has to die.

In the final verse the poet repeats her “Come to me” and “come back”; she is happy that her loved one is in Paradise, but she still longs to be with them, and she cannot help calling for them. She begs them to return, “that I may live/ My very life again, though cold in death.” I think this is a very significant phrase because it shows us how much this person means to the poet — they are everything: “my very life”! She cannot live herself with this consuming grief. I love the way the poem ends on a nostalgic note: “As long ago, my love, so long ago”. The repetition in this final line is really effective, I think, because it delivers the sense that, though this death happened such a long time ago, the speaker continues to be troubled and consumed by it, and by the absence of the loved one.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Don’t go far off’ by Pablo Neruda

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

I really love this poem by Pablo Neruda. I feel bad about not reading it in the original Spanish, but my Spanish is very rusty these days, so this translation will have to do. As it happens, I think this is a wonderful translation, that reads absolutely beautifully…

So, from what I have read by Neruda, it is his love poems that excite me most. I love so many of them that it is difficult to choose which one to post on here first. This poem is achingly gorgeous. I love the image in the first stanza where the poet waiting for his absent lover as in an empty station, “when the trains are off parked somewhere else, asleep”. What a sweet, unique image; without his lover, the speaker feels completely lost, with no way of getting back to her. I love the pleading “Don’t go far off”, “don’t leave me” and “don’t leave me for a second”, because it displays how desperate we can all become, when we are truly in love. In this poem, one lover, without the other, feels himself to be “dying”. It’s so dramatic, and I love that!

In the second stanza of this poem I particularly like the image of “the smoke that roams looking for a home” (which so beautifully embodies loneliness) choking the speaker if his lover ever stays away too long. Even “for a second”, if his lover leaves him, the speaker will begin to wander through the world, choking on loneliness, disbelief, and “dying”. I love the drama of this poem — it’s what really attracts me to Neruda’s work.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘I thought of you’ by Sara Teasdale

I thought of you and how you love this beauty,
And walking up the long beach all alone
I heard the waves breaking in measured thunder
As you and I once heard their monotone.

Around me were the echoing dunes, beyond me
The cold and sparkling silver of the sea –
We two will pass through death and ages lengthen
Before you hear that sound again with me.

Here is a poem by Sara Teasdale, whose work never fails to touch me with its simplicity and its beauty. This is, of course, a very sad poem, because it evokes a love that is in many ways impossible (the lovers will never meet again in this life). I think it delivers an incredibly true sense of what it is to be separated from the one you love, and describes so beautifully the simplicity of what it is we need or miss in that person when they are gone…

In the poem, the poet is walking along the beach “all alone”, surrounded by the “beauty” of the “echoing dunes,” and the “cold and sparkling silver of the sea”. The scene is beautiful, but nonetheless empty and cold, and her heart is full of the one who she longs to share her experience with. She tells us that she and her loved one will “pass through death and ages lengthen” before they can listen to the sound of the waves again together.

This a terribly sad scene that is presented in Teasdale’s poem, but what I love about this is the simplicity of what the speaker longs for. This is what we miss when our Other is far away: just their presence. All the poet wants in this poem is to hear the waves with him… to see this scene with him…  it’s just the togetherness that matters to her. I love this because there’s nothing fancy about it, and that feels real and true to me.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh