Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
I told my love, I told my love,
I told her all my heart,
Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears.
Ah! she did depart!
Soon after she was gone from me,
A traveller came by,
He took her with a sigh.
Of the Poem:
Love that is desperate is deplorable- it crowds out the emotional rapture that gentle affection evokes. That seems to be the point of Blake's poem here … let me explain.
Advice goes out in the first stanza: Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be. As we’ll see in the following stanza, the ‘telling’ Blake refers to is that unduly adulation that suffocates the beloved; it is that almost servile disposition that begs and begs the for the love of the beloved. Never do this, says Blake’s voice. In modern day terms: desperation is a turn off.
Love, line 2 implores, is made possible where a desperation for it lacks (i.e. love that is not desperate can be). When love is rightly expressed through the silent and invisible speech of affection it is felt much like a “gentle wind” is felt (lines 3 & 4) – indeed, it is itself gentle, and not in the least imposing. But we see the transgression of this made in lines 5 & 6.
“I told!” “I told!” “I told!” … a wearying barrage of proclamations that, as said earlier, suffocates the beloved, and is deplorable. It becomes so unbearable to the young lady that she’s finally reduced to trembling, coldness, and even fear! Invariably he scares her away (line 8).
In the following and final stanza he notices how she’s wooed by a traveler who, following the advice given in the first stanza, expresses his love for her gently- through the silent, invisible speech of affection. (Notice the parallel of words between lines 3 & 4 and lines 11 & 12, and how the ‘sighing’ of line 12 mimics the ‘wind’ of line 3.)
The title of the poem should almost be, The Secret to Attaining Love, or, How Not to Screw It Up. The first stanza is a warning; the second stanza an example of the transgressing the warning; the third, of heeding it and achieving love (all this from the perspective of the transgressor).
Let me know if you guys are digging this poem, or if you have a different take on it (and there are different takes).
Awesome poem, Blake … thanks!