The Poetry Place

The Sorrow of True Love - some thoughts

Interesting to see a love poem by Edward Thomas, who is more often represented by poems of place. His relationship with Helen, his wife, was never straightforward and he was not an easy man to live with, as he himself recognised. His love for her and his children was never in doubt, however, and this poem reveals the mixture of love and despair that he must have felt. It dates from 13th January 1917, two days after he had said farewell to his family to join the British forces in France. It was the last poem he wrote. He was killed at Arras on 9th April.

The sorrow of true love is a great sorrow
And true love parting blackens a bright morrow:
Yet almost they equal joys, since their despair
Is but hope blinded by its tears, and clear
5 Above the storm the heavens wait to be seen.
But greater sorrow from less love has been
That can mistake lack of despair for hope
And knows not tempest and the perfect scope
Of summer, but a frozen drizzle perpetual
10 Of drops that from remorse and pity fall
And cannot ever shine in the sun or thaw,
Removed eternally from the sun’s law.

Reduced to its constituent words, it’s easier to see how the vocabulary of hope is intertwined with that of despair. Three sorrows match two hopes and three loves.

a  a  a  Above  almost  And  and  And  and  And  be  been  blackens  blinded  bright  but  But  but  by  can  cannot  clear  despair  despair  drizzle  drops  equal  eternally  ever  fall  for  from  from  from  frozen  great  greater  has  heavens  hope  hope  in  is  Is  its  joys,  knows  lack  law.  less  love  love  love  mistake  morrow:  not  of  of  Of  Of  or  parting  perfect  perpetual  pity  remorse  Removed  scope  seen.  shine  since  sorrow  sorrow  sorrow  storm  summer,  sun  sun’s  tears,  tempest  That  that  thaw,  The  the  the  the  the  the  their  they  to  true  true  wait  Yet 

A simple table enables you to see key words under different headings. Those with a question mark are words which might bear further scrutiny.  What is the significance of the repeated references to endless time? How successful is the extended weather metaphor? Notice the use of but, yet and almost. It’s as if each thought is followed by a contradictory one.

Positive

Negative

?

Positive

Negative

?

bright 

blackens 

 

love 

mistake 

but 

clear 

blinded 

eternally 

love 

less 

But 

heavens 

despair 

ever 

shine 

pity 

but 

hope 

despair 

perpetual 

summer

remorse 

Yet 

hope 

drizzle 

 

sun 

sorrow 

almost

joys

frozen 

thaw

sun’s 

sorrow 

 

love 

lack 

tempest 

true 

sorrow 

 

 

 

storm 

true 

tears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The poem is not merely one of sorrow at parting, together with the added weight of the possibility of the separation being final.  Isn’t the second part of the poem saying that it is better to love more fully and to feel the sorrow more deeply than to have felt things less keenly?  Better bright sun and dark clouds, tempest and calm, than the mediocre drizzle of a less intense relationship? 

 

 

Search:

Archived blogs

   [OPEN/CLOSE]  Parodies and homages


   [OPEN/CLOSE]  How to...


   [OPEN/CLOSE]  Sonnets


   [OPEN/CLOSE]  Topics and themes


   [OPEN/CLOSE]  Different types of poem


    Links

  • Poetry Archive
  • The Poetry Zone
  • Poetry by Heart
  • Forward Poetry
  • British Library
  • Poetryclass
  • The Poetry Society
  • Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award
  • Tower Poetry
    • We use cookies to deliver functionality and provide you with a better service. By continuing to browse our site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more.

      Don't show this message again.