Tag Archives: romantic

‘To a young girl’ by W. B. Yeats

MY dear, my dear, I know
More than another
What makes your heart beat so;
Not even your own mother
Can know it as I know,
Who broke my heart for her
When the wild thought,
That she denies
And has forgot,
Set all her blood astir
And glittered in her eyes.

I absolutely love this poem. It is from Yeats’ 1919 collection, The Wild Swans at Coole, which is amazing, and which contains most of my favourite of his works. I tend to prefer Yeats’ earlier work because I am more drawn to Romantic poetry than I am political poetry. I first read To a young girl when I was a teenager, and it felt to me at the time that Yeats was speaking directly to me, and that he understood me; I remember that feeling distinctly.

For me, this poem is the voice of the older, male poet to a young girl full of Romantic notions. When I was a teenager, I was more besotted with Yeats, Keats and the Bronte sisters than any of the spotty, obnoxious boys in my class! It is only for this reason, I think, that for me this poem was more about a young girl’s wild, Romantic, idealist ambitions fancying herself as a poet, rather than any romantic (with a small ‘r’) ideals of love. I love the way that this wise, worldly voice tells the young girl that he understands “What makes [her] heart beat so” — her Romantic ideas — her naivety? — and that though most adults might have forgotten how they were themselves in youth, he has never forgotten.

There was something very comforting in this poem for my teenage self, to feel that someone as erudite and successful (the absolute pinnacle of what success meant to me at the time) as Yeats could speak in this way to a young girl. It was a comfort to hear in this poem that he valued the “wild” spirit of youth and that idealism, because there is obvious disapproval of the older woman (“she broke [his] heart for her”) and “denies/ And has forgot”. There is the idea here that though youth can be naive and sometimes really cringe-worthy, it is something nevertheless precious and pure. Whenever I read over the poems I wrote as a teenager, many of them do make me cringe at my earnestness and naivety. However, I would never want to lose them and some part of me envies the girl who wrote them.

As always with Yeats, the language is exquisitely lyrical — especially those final two lines, I just love: “Set all her blood astir/ And glittered in her eyes”.

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