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
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.
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?
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