Friday, 14 February 2014

Day 573: The Love Poem

When I started posting love themed poems this week, I kept thinking what I would post today on Valentine's. What would be the ultimate love poem? 

Last year the day's post was Carol Ann Duffy's witty 'Valentine', a poem in which she talks about giving her lover an onion as a gift. (Intriguing yes, you can read it here )

This year, it has to be Carol Ann Duffy again, this time with a poem from her collection 'Rapture'. 'The Love Poem' I think, is the ultimate in love poems. Its content is composed of references from all the popular love poems throughout the centuries, lines from the likes of Shakespeare, Donne, and Wordsworth mixed in to the poet's own text. See if you can spot them all!

Happy Valentine's!

The Love Poem - Carol Ann Duffy

Till love exhausts itself, longs
for the sleep of words - 
                                          my mistress' eyes - 
to lie on a white sheet, at rest
in the language - 
                             let me count the ways - 
or shrink to a phrase like an epitaph - 
                                                                come live
with me - 
or fall from its own high cloud as syllables
in a pool of verse - 
                                    one hour with thee. 

Till love gives in and speaks
in the whisper of art - 
                                        dear heart,
how like you this? - 
love's lips pursed to quotation marks
kissing a line - 
                             look in thy heart
and write - 
love's light fading, darkening, 
black as ink on a page - 
                                           there is a garden
in her face.

Till love is all in the mind - 
                                                 O my America!
my new-found land - 
or all in the pen
in the writer's hand - 
                                      behold, thou art fair - 
not there, except in a poem,
known by heart like a prayer,
both near and far,
near and far - 
                           the desire of the moth
for the star.


  1. It's about love turning into a poem, 'a pool of verse,' and how deeply sad it is when that is all that is left. It directly contrasts with Shakespeare's assertions in his sonnets that his poetry will make his subjects immortal. Here a love poem is only an 'epitaph' - a poor compensation for a dead or dying relationship.

  2. Can someone please help me understand this poem? Im doing it for my lit exam and having trouble finding which exact poems this poem uses intertextually?

    1. "my mistress' eyes" - Sonnet 130, Shakespeare.
      "let me count the ways" - Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Browning.
      "come live with me" - The Bait, John Donne.
      "one hour with thee." - An Hour with Thee, Sir Walter Scott.
      "dear heart, how like you this?" - They Flee From Me, Sir Thomas Wyatt.
      "look in thy heart and write" - Loving in Truth, Sir Phillip Sydney.
      "there is a garden in her face." - There is a Garden in her Face, Thomas Campion.
      "O my America! my new-found land" - To His Mistress Going to Bed, John Donne.
      "behold, thou art fair" - Song of Solomon 4, Hebrew Bible scroll/Christian Old Testament book.
      "the desire of the moth for the star." - One Word is too often Profaned, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

      We're also doing this for langlit! Some quick points my teacher mentioned include:
      - that "let me count the ways" internally rhymes with "or shrink to a phrase" right after.
      - "look in thy heart and write" is at the very end of Sir Phillip Sydney's poem (end of his poem/end of Duffy and her lover's relationship?)
      - her inclusion of Song of Solomon 4 is notable because Duffy was raised Catholic Christian, so this is a point of context to keep in mind!

      Hope this was useful, and good luck in your exam! :)

    2. Actually it is "come live with me" - The Passionate Lover to His Love, Christopher Marlowe.

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  4. Its really nice poem, I like this line "Till love gives in and speaks
    in the whisper of art" Can you share love poems for girlfriend


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