Three poets write about love

I will present poems about love written by three very different poets.

I start with John Clare, known for his tender verses about shy and sentimental love. The following well-known poem illustrates perfectly his view of “timid love, more fond than free,” indeed “True love, it is no daring bird, / But like the little timid wren.”

by John Clare

Love, though it is not chill and cold,
 But burning like eternal fire,
Is yet not of approaches bold,
 Which gay dramatic tastes admire.
Oh timid love, more fond than free,
 In daring song is ill pourtrayed,
Where, as in war, the devotee
 By valour wins each captive maid;—

Where hearts are prest to hearts in glee,
 As they could tell each other’s mind;
Where ruby lips are kissed as free,
 As flowers are by the summer wind.
No! gentle love, that timid dream,
 With hopes and fears at foil and play,
Works like a skiff against the stream,
 And thinking most finds least to say.

It lives in blushes and in sighs,
 In hopes for which no words are found;
Thoughts dare not speak but in the eyes,
 The tongue is left without a sound.
The pert and forward things that dare
 Their talk in every maiden’s ear,
Feel no more than their shadows there—
 Mere things of form, with nought of fear.

True passion, that so burns to plead,
 Is timid as the dove’s disguise;
Tis for the murder-aiming gleed
 To dart at every thing that flies.
True love, it is no daring bird,
 But like the little timid wren,
That in the new-leaved thorns of spring
 Shrinks farther from the sight of men.

The idol of his musing mind,
 The worship of his lonely hour,
Love woos her in the summer wind,
 And tells her name to every flower;
But in her sight, no open word
 Escapes, his fondness to declare;
The sighs by beauty’s magic stirred
 Are all that speak his passion there.

Source: Poems Chiefly from Manuscript by John Clare, in the part “Middle Period, 1824-1836”, see the transcription Project Gutenberg ebook or the digitization of the original on Internet Archive.

His next poem presents love as a flower growing in any country and under any climate or any weather, which makes every girl beautiful, indeed the “first of flowers.”

Augustus Edwin Mulready - The Flower Girl (1872) - from Wikimedia Commons

Augustus Edwin Mulready – The Flower Girl (1872) – from Wikimedia Commons

A Tender flower
by John Clare

THERE is a tender flower,
rose Yet found in every clime,
That decks the rudest bower,
rose Nor stays for place or time:
In caves or desert sands,
rose Unblest with sun or shower,
Wherever life expands.
rose Is found this tender flower.

Where storms with keenest breath
rose Bids stranger-flowers decay—
Where suns e’en shun its birth,
rose It is content to stay:
In sunshine and in gloom,
rose As if ’twere Sorrow’s dower,
In Grief’s lap it will bloom,
rose Or die, a lovely flower.

Within life’s wilderness,
rose This fond and tender flower
Doth every bosom bless,
rose And garlands Sorrow’s bower.
Rude Falsehood may despise
rose Its bloom, when in its power,
And idle themes devise,
rose To mock this injured flower.

Yet Truth hath long agreed
rose To call it first of flowers,
Though treated like a weed
rose Too oft in Folly’s bowers.
On earth it loves to dwell,
rose Though blest with heavenly power,
And sure I need not tell
rose That LOVE’S the lauded flower.

Source: The Rural Muse, part “Poems”, transcription by Simon Sanada in his John Clare Poems: The Lifetime Published Poetry (2009).

Next we meet our old acquaintance Ernest Dowson, for whom love always mixes with nostalgia. Here love lives with spring and dies with autumn, bringing regrets and a longing for its rebirth.

by Ernest Dowson

In Autumn when the leaf is sere,
In that still season of the year,
Shall we not meet once more we twain,
Who parted in the Spring of pain?
With eyes of passion long grown clear,
When youth is gone and Winter near,
May we not meet once more my dear,
Touch hands, forgive and part again,
  In Autumn?
Tho’ bitter anger still doth blear,
The glory of the days that were,
x       .       .       .       .       .       .       x
In rare still hours are you not fain
To cry a truce to dear disdain,
  In Autumn?

Source: Ernest Dowson, Poésie Schublade, in Ernest Dowson Collected Poems, Robert Kelsey Rought Thornton and Caroline Dowson (editors), Birmingham University Press, 2003.

Dowson wrote many beautiful love poems in his collection Verses, for instance “A Coronal,” “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae,” “April Love,” “The Garden of Shadow,” “A Valediction” and “Cease smiling, Dear! a little while be sad.”

We end with Aleister Crowley, for whom love is passionate, intense, erotic, but always short-lived, as he repeats “we must part, and love must die.”

Alex Stevenson Diaz - Young Girl - from

Alex Stevenson Diaz – Young Girl – from

Ballade de la jolie Marion
by Aleister Crowley

It is a sweet thing to be loved,
Although my sighs in absence wake,
Although my saddening heart is moved,
I smile and bear for love’s dear sake.
My songs their wonted music make,
Joyous and careless, songs of youth,
Because the sacred lips of both
Are met to kiss the last good-bye,
Because sweet glances weep for ruth
That we must part, and love must die.

Remembrance of love’s long delights
Is to remember sighs and tears,
Yet I will think upon the nights
I whispered into passionate ears
The fond desires, the sweet faint fears.
My lover’s limbs of lissome white
Gleamed in the darkness and strange light,
The wondrous orbs voluptuously
Bent on me all unearthly bright:
But we must part, and love must die.

Fond limbs with mine were intertwined,
A hand lascivious fondled me;
My ears grew deaf, my eyes grew blind,
My tongue was hot from kisses free,
Short madness, and we lazily
Lolled back upon the bed of fire.
I was a-weary — her desire
Drew her upon me — Marion, fie!
You work our pleasure till I tire:
But we must part, and love must die.

Nor thus did love’s embraces wane,
Though lusty limbs grow idle quite;
Our mouths’ red valves are over-fain
To suck the sweetnest from the night;
And amorously, with touches light,
Steal passion from reluctant pain.
So has the daystar fled again
Before the blushes of the sky,
So did I clasp thy knees in vain:
For we must part, and love must die.

You say another’s sensuous lips
Shall open to my kisses there:
When weary, steal those luscious sips;
Another’s hands play in my hair
And find delight for me to bare
The bosom, and the passionate mound
White and, for Venus’ temple, round,
A garden of wild thyme whose eye
My sword shall piece, and never wound:
For we must part, and love must die.

You say — but Oh! my Marion’s kiss
Shall linger on my palate still,
No joy on earth is like to this
That we have tasted to our fill
Of all our sweet lascivious will.
The cup is drained of lust’s delight,
Yet wells with pleasure, and by night
I’ll come once more and loving lie
Between thine amorous limbs, despite
That we must part and love must die.

Source: White Stains (1898), transcribed on Ra-Hoor-Khuit Network’s Magickal Library.


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