Love – George Herbert – Analysis

Love

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593 – 1633)

The poem consists of three six line stanzas with rhyming scheme ‘ababcc’. The poem is more than just the personification of ‘love’. For ‘love’ is representative of God. This is defined in poetic terms as metonymy. This can be clearly seen by replacing ‘love’ by God in the text and rereading the poem. And in (L13) ‘love’ is explicitly stated as ‘Lord’.

Metonymy = a figure of speech in which an attribute of something is used to stand for the thing itself, e.g. ‘laurels’ when it stands for ‘glory’ or ‘brass’ when it stands for ‘military officers’

The ‘guest’ can be regarded as being equivalent to humanity (unkind and ungrateful) and not worthy of the welcome but with a humble ring to the words of the guest.  An interesting concept that we are a guest in this world. Included is the religious notion of mankind being guilty of sin (L2).

The whole poem is a conversation between God and humanity. God counteracting the unworthy nature of man by stating – who made you. And then the taking of the blameand know you not who bore the blame’ – implying ‘love’ or God bore the blame (the blame for his creation). The creator taking responsiblity for the nature of creation.

Then the crucial line in the conversation, an acceptance of this fact by the guest. Acceptance of the faulty nature of humanity and that there is a God-given correction, and in response – then I will serve (L16)

And finally ‘love’ or God says you must sit down at my table and taste my meat (Jesus). Love is seen as a compensating force for the weakness of humanity epitomised by the sacrifice in the death of Christ.

This poetic portrait of Christianity shows God as Love as being central in the support of all in coming to terms with indiscretions. A case of working together for a better world on the basis of love. And George Herbert certainly lived accordingly to this doctrine –

From Wikipedia – He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill and providing food and clothing for those in need.

George Herbert on Wikipedia

Love’s Coming – John Shaw Neilson – Analysis

Love’s Coming

Quietly as rosebuds
Talk to thin air,
Love came so lightly
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as lovers
Creep at the middle noon,
Softly as players tremble
In the tears of a tune;

Quietly as lilies
Their faint vows declare,
Came the shy pilgrim:
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as tears fall
On a wild sin,
Softly as griefs call
In a violin;

Without hail or tempest,
Blue sword or flame,
Love came so lightly
I knew not that he came.

John Shaw Neilson (1872 -1942)

This simple poem concentrates on one aspect of ‘Love’ namely that it is of an imperceptible quiet background nature. Latent to life but not readily recognised.

The four four line opening stanzas are a poetic transfer of this thought in terms of rosebuds, lovers, lilies and tears. The emphasis is on ‘quiet’ the first word of each opening line. The second and last lines of these stanzas rhyme and in a way a ‘list’ introduction.

It is a case of hearing or not hearing love’s coming as it gives subtle voice to its underlying existence. Love’s coming requires an acute sensitivity for any awareness.
There is no fanfare – without hail or tempest.

And the last stanza states that perhaps recognition is only known in retrospect. Love came so lightly / I knew not that he came. It is personified as masculine, I think feminine would be more appropriate given the quiet soft nature described. Perhaps when we look back on life we see how we have been cared for in terms of our spiritual understanding of life.

Now God and ‘Love’ are often equated. If this is the case then perhaps God has a similar subtle positive imperceptible influence on life as it evolves. Many believe that God created the world. However, some think that God then sat back on a cloud and switched to a different channel!

A link to John Shaw Neilson on Wikipedia

The Sunne Rising – John Donne

The Sunne Rising

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She’s all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Three ten line stanza with rhyming scheme ‘abbacdcdee’. The sun personified she is indeed quiet ‘unruly’ highly emotional in her flaring and of course very old and busy. I do like that word ‘wink’ in the second stanza our lifespan so infinitesimal in comparison.

Well the Solar System does sort of control life or the way life is lived. We do have to operate on a time and season basis. But love is beyond such bounds quite independent and outside such realms of the artificial breakup so eloquently defined as ‘the rags of time’. Love is a timeless entity.

Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clim
Hours, days, months, which are the rags of time

The eyes of the sun are blind compared to the personal eyes of love which retains history. Not like the inanimate sun who knows nothing of yesterday.

If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, …

The world is so much more. The the sun creates life, and bountiful meaning to life. And the sun has a duty to give warmth and life to humanity. It is the centre of everything.

Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

From memory on the nature of the sun millions of sub-atomic particles actually pass through our thumb nail every second!

And from a spiritual Christian perspective there is a lot of similarity between sun and son; and John Donne being the master of the metaphysical.

The Pains of Sleep – Coleridge – Prayer

From – The Pains of Sleep

Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication;
A sense o’er all my soul imprest
That I am weak, yet not unblest,
Since in me, round me, every where
Eternal strength and Wisdom are.

This is the first stanza of a poem written by Coleridge. And this is a little different to have as a Christmas piece. The full poem was written by Coleridge when under the influence of opium and wishing to have a restful night.

Coleridge is lying on his bed he decides to pray not in the conventional way; there are no bended knees and no words uttered. It is a prayer from the mind as he composes thoughts to ‘Love’. In this respect he has a reverential resignation and a sense of supplication. A humble and sincere appeal in his weakness. Note that Love is capitalised.

But the great thing is he recognises that he is not unblest since Eternal strength and Wisdom abound and are everywhere including within his frail weak body. This is such a marvellous statement that honours the creator of life; that honours God.

Today the Christian religion recognises the son of man and the son of God in the birth of Jesus. The wonderful thing about this is the personal human connectivity that this provides.

Truly this is a day for celebration.

Meeting at Night – Robert Browning – Analysis

Meeting at Night

I
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

II
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

Parting at Morning

Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain’s rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.

Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)

These two poems go together. Initially, the first poem contained an extra stanza, and it was called ‘Night and Morning’ where the last stanza denoted the morning departure. Browning eventually split ‘Night and Morning’ into the above two poems.

Many have interpreted these poems in relation to Barret and Browning’s courtship. It certainly highlights an intense love affair that was highly secretive and Elizabeth Barret Browning’s father did not approve of Robert Browning or of marriage.

On the 10th of January 1845 Robert Browning wrote the following to Elizabeth in response to reading her work – ‘I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett … this great living poetry of yours … the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos, and true new brave thought … I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart, and I love you too’ then followed much communication in writing not meeting in person until 20 May. They eventually married in secret on 12th of September 1846 before eloping to Italy.  (Reference – Robert Browning – his life and work by F. E. Halliday)

Clearly the sentiments expressed in ‘Meeting at Night’ parallel his personal love journey.

The poem ‘Parting at Morning’ is worthily placed as a separate entity for it expresses the need to move on from the dominant emotive love feeling to the ‘world of men’ and everyday life. Life is perhaps the mix of the mountain top and the mundane.

Robert Browning on Wikipedia.

When my love swears – Sonnet 138 – Shakespeare

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

William Shakespeare (Sonnet 138)

This sonnet is all about acceptance … acceptance of the imperfections of another that they too will accept the imperfections that exist in you.

In a way it is a love sonnet for love totally disregards the faults of others … well, perhaps not quite… may be a subtle approach is needed if correction is warranted … timing is important and at this moment there is total acceptance to the extent that both parties delight in a pretense – in imaging the untruth as true.

So perhaps love is a ‘trading of imperfections’ – though we can hardly call age an imperfection but a nice trade to be seen as young again and age to be ignored – And age in love loves not to have years told!

 

The Garden of Love – William Blake – Analysis

The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not, writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

William Blake (1757 – 1827)

A poem of innocence to experience … youth, represented by playwhere I used to play on the green … to age and church restriction … the freedom of love desecrated as flowers became tombstones.

The gates to the ‘Chapel’ shut … (the term chapel usually refers to a place of prayer and worship that is attached to a larger, often nonreligious institution) … the original ‘Chapel’ was a much different ‘Chapel’ that of the glorious flower of innocent love as a child.

The ABCB rhyme scheme is broken in the last stanza … perhaps in line with the break of innocence. Note also that green in the first stanza has been replaced by black.

The duality of Blake is clearly expressed by his distaste of the restrictions of religion in suffocating the natural expression of human desire.

In Australia in 2017, over 200 years since the birth of Blake, we have approval of same sex marriage (marriage-equality). Enjoy the freedom of love this Valentines Day.

… William Blake on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Love after Love – Derek Walcott – Analysis

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott (1930 -2017)

S1 … a time of joy (hopefully) when you confront yourself … this is not a daily mirror glance … we see as we read the poem that this is an end of life reflection on who you really are … the face in the mirror who has known you all through your life now speaks back with a smile as you and your personified reflection welcomes each other … it is the door that opens to eternity … that time will come for all of us … but of course there is nothing stopping us reflecting at any stage on our journey … as we get older we have more to reflect on and we become more reflective as we slowdown in life.

S2 … it is only through life and living that you really come to know yourself … this person is a stranger at the start … at the end of life it is a time to love this person with wine and bread like a holy sacrament … the person that has loved you from the start … love being an inherent attribute in your creation – from a religious perspective

S3/4 … whom you ignored for another suggests a coming to a terms with yourself … in becoming you … who you really are … and independent of traditional trappings that define life such as letters and photographs … peel back the image that is you – your own image … then sit back and feast on you – forget those mistakes and all those parts not to your liking and celebrate your existence as you would sitting down at a table for a meal with a friend – that wonderful friend that is you.

Sir Derek Walcott was a West Indian poet and dramatist who died this year on 17 March. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992.

More background on this eminent poet via Wikipedia