The Poets

November 28, 2011

Love's Secret

Never seek to tell thy love,
Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
Silently, invisibly.

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,
Silently, invisibly:
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!


BerlinerinPoet said...

I dig the poem, and the explanation is good. But sometimes you have to take that risk to succeed. I mean, how will you know unless you try?

It IS really good though. Especially the "I told..I told..I told" Lovely!

Kendra Lise said...

I love you how analyze these poems (as you know). It is rare I pick them apart or even read that much (as you also know, I just write then post.)
I wrote a poem a bit ago that speaks to this subject: {}
Blake's piece definitely describes the infuriating game of chase that so many of us play in search of the right relationship.
In the second stanza, I feel like the trembling, cold, ghastly fears are his; judging by punctuation and how I interpret the poem. It seems he told (he told! he told!) out of fear - as though his fear of losing her was the motivation behind telling her.
Those subtle, silent winds in the third stanza... they really can be tricky and alluring. It's difficult to find a balance between alluring and outspoken when it comes to love.
I do love this poem. I'm definitely a Blake fan (thank you for helping me explore all these classic poets! I wouldn't read this much poetry if it weren't for you, John.)

As of April 9th, 2010