Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Love Without Hope": Two Poems On The Same Theme

The following poem is one of Robert Graves's best-known poems -- at any rate, it seems to pop up in anthologies quite a bit.  It shows that, when he isn't in one of his moony, mythological, exasperating "White Goddess" moods, Graves is very good indeed.

                      Love Without Hope

Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher
Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter,
So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly
Singing about her head, as she rode by.

Robert Graves, The Welchman's Hose (1925).

For some reason, I thought of "Love Without Hope" in connection with a poem by Joan Barton.  But now I wonder if these two poems are in fact "on the same theme."  In any event . . .

                           The Mistress

The short cut home lay through the cemetery --
A suburban shrubbery swallowing up old graves
Iron palings tipped with rusted fleur-de-lys
A sort of cottage orne at the gates,
Ridiculous and sad;

And lost in their laurel groves,
Eaten up by moss,
Stained marble, flaking stone like hatches down,
The unloved unvisited dead:

In the no-man's-land of dusk a short cut home --
The exultant sense of life a trail of fire
Drawn into that tunnel roofed with the cypress smell
And walled with silence adding year to year:

Too far, too far: always
Under the smothering boughs in airless dark
The spirit dwindled, and the fire
Flickered then failed:

Gently implacably from the shade
The indecipherable dedications spoke
'Dear wife' . . . 'devoted mother' . . .
'Beloved child' . . .

Joan Barton, The Mistress and Other Poems (1972).

                                     Richard Eurich, "Sea Wall" (1985)           


zmkc said...

Having just read your earlier post containing Auden's poem about Edward Thomas, I can't help thinking of Eleanor Farjeon reading this one.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you, zmkc -- I hadn't thought of that.

There is a passage in Farjeon's Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years which your thought brings to mind. In one of his last letters to her, Thomas wrote: 'What is coming is to be worse than anything I know so far. It is worse for you and for Helen [his wife] and Mother, I know.'

In her book, Farjeon writes: 'In those two words "For you", Edward laid by his reserve for the only time in our friendship, and allowed me to know that he knew how much I loved him.' (Page 259.)

As always, thanks for stopping by.