A Fixed Idea – Amy Lowell

Here is an early poem by Amy Lowell

A Fixed Idea

What torture lurks within a single thought
When grown too constant; and however kind,
However welcome still, the weary mind
Aches with its presence. Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined,
Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest
Heavy on my life. I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.

Amy Lowell

This poem is a Petrarchan sonnet with rhyming scheme ‘ABBAABBACDCDCD’.

The first eight lines give emphasis to the mind reflecting – thinking of a time when there was joy/delight. Thinking about it being a poor substitute to the actual experience … however the experience is such that you cannot get it out of the mind … it was that important and that emotionally charged that it dominates your life … in summary trapped in the dull pain of remembrance … the recurring joy is now ‘pain refined’. Interesting words defining the type of pain being experienced … to me it seems like a grieving … a loss has taken place and can never return. So it leads to questions such as – what to do to escape the relapse to the past? … how to incorporate a highly emotional experience in on-going living in a positive way?

The last six lines are the turn in the sonnet. Now we clearly know that this is a love experience and the lover (=you) is clearly identified. And you lie on the heart as a nest … you have made your home upon my heart and settled down at peace … but you don’t know how terrible this is to me now that you have gone … (we don’t know the circumstances – nor do we know whether the person concerned is alive or if alive whether he or she has any comprehension of how important the relationship was to the other person.)

This love can’t be ignored … a plea to find a way for it to be dissolved … for it to take flight as a bird leaving a nest. Drooping wings a very appropriate word … freedom is needed … for the wings to be activated.

Well how do you ‘deal with life’ after a relationship ends … after a death … after any other major event which dominates the mind.

And can you ever stop love?


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