Tag Archives: romance

‘The good morrow’ by John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a
dream of thee.

And now good morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one,
and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp North, without declining West?
Whatever dies was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.

This is the first poem by John Donne that I have posted on this site, and it is a beautiful and spiritual love poem. Donne lived from 1572-1631 and is probably the most famous of the metaphysical poets.

The good morrow begins with the speaker reflecting on what his life was like “before we loved” — before he loved the woman to whom this poem is addressed. The answer to this question is that his life was meaningless, before her. He may have enjoyed “country pleasures” before, but these were merely physical, and “childish”. My favourite lines in the whole poem are at the end of this first stanza: “If every any beauty I did see,/ Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a/ Dream of thee”. Any love the poet thought he felt before her — any liaisons he may have had before he met her — they were “but a/ Dream of thee”. They were not real, and only a shadow of what love can be.

Stanza two goes on to describe how this woman has become the speaker’s entire world, and the spiritual bond that they enjoy together. Their souls are “waking” — coming alive — because of this love that has opened their eyes and filled them with joy. They have no “fear”, and their “little room” becomes “an everywhere”. They may spend their time cooped in one small room together, but being together in this space means that it is more than enough. Donne goes on to write that he no longer cares about sea farers discovering new worlds (as was literally happening in Donne’s day, as the Americas and other new lands were being discovered.) The discovery of new worlds means nothing to the speaker in this poem, for he possesses his own new world: his lady.

When we arrive at the final verse, Donne writes beautifully about seeing himself reflected in the eyes of his lover, and she in his: “My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears”. This third stanza fascinates me because there seems to be a desire for equality with his lover, which was perhaps unusual in Donne’s era. As he states, “Whatever dies was not mixed equally”. If the two love each other in equal measure then their love will not fade; “If our two loves be one, or, thou and I/ Love so alike than none do slacken, none can die”. I adore this ending to the piece, as it describes so beautifully how the spiritual marriage of minds and hearts can create an unbreakable bond of love.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘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

‘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