“To the Distant One” – A poem by Johann W. Goethe

Context: The German title of the poem is “An die Entfernte”, translated here as “The Distant One”. Written in 1788 and published one year later in Goethes Schriften. Achter Band, G. J. Göschen. 1789; it’s also known as one of Goethes famous Songes (Lieder) and Schubert made some nice music of it. This is my own very humble translation into English.

Themes: Love, obsession, lost love, unanswered love

 

To the Distant One

 

So, have I really lost you?

Are you, o Beautiful, flown away from me?

Still, it rings familiar in the ears

Every word, every tune.

 

Just as the walker’s eye in the morning

In vain pierces into the air

When hidden in the blue space

high above him the lark sings:

 

So pierces anxiously here and there,

Through field and bush and forest, my view:

For you all my songs sings,

O come, my beloved, back to me!


Sources

wikipedia.org [various entries]

The poem in German to be found here [wikisource]

Sonnet 130 – A poem by William Shakespeare

Context: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) needs no further introduction. This sonnet makes fun of the ideals of love. In the final sentence the narrator describes his love for the woman or “mistress” as something that is rare and wish not to compare her to other things associated with love. He’s also ironical. In the previous lines we read:  “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound”. Deeply influenced by the Petrarchan way of writing the perfect poem and the ideal Petrarchan woman in a poem is a goddess. Notice how Shakespeare play with this ideal. His woman, his mistress doesn’t fulfill the ideal. Pay attention to this line: “I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:”. 

Themes: satire of conventional love, female beauty, irony

Words: dun – dull brownish gray; belied – misrepresented

SONNET 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Sources

wikipedia.org [various entries]

“I loved you first” – A poem by Christina Rosetti

Context:  Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. Her brother was the famous pre-rapahel painter Dante Rosetti. Rossetti was educated at home by her mother and father, who had her study religious works, classics, fairy tales and novels. Rossetti delighted in the works of Keats, Scott, Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. The influence of the work of Dante Alighieri, Petrarch and other Italian writers filled the home and would have a deep impact on Rossetti’s later writing.

Themes: Love and becoming one with the one you love despite any other problem. The narrator isn’t foolish. Pay attention to the lines: “I loved and guessed at you, you construed me And loved me for what might or might not be – Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong. For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’” Take time to notice the words “free love” in the poem. What do you think it means? Pay attention to Rosetti’s own time and society. Her literary circle are the pre-Raphaelites. Who were they? And how did they define love? 

I loved you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I  loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

“Rosemounde” : A poem by Geoffrey Chaucer

Context: GEOFFREY CHAUCER (ca. 1340—1400) is the undisputed father of English poetry. Chaucer wrote in continental accentual-syllabic meter, a style which had developed since around the 12th century as an alternative to the alliterative Anglo-Saxon metre. A man of affairs as well as literature, he served as a diplomat and customs officer; when he died, his burial in Westminster Abbey inaugurated Poets’ Corner. This poem is a love ballad dedicated to a lady named Rosamunde.

Themes: Love, maiden, beauty, courtship. Pay attention to the line “Never was pike so imbued in galantine”; it is an allusion to the 15th-century habit of drenching the fish in sauce.😀 There are also references to the epic Tristan and Isolde. The narrator identifies himself as Tristan. Notice how he signs the Ballad with his own name, sweet.


Madame, you are a shrine of all beauty,
As far encircling as the map of the world.
For you shine as the glorious crystal,
And your round cheeks are like Ruby.

Therewith you are so merry and so jocund,
That at a revel when that I see you dance;
It is an ointment unto my wound,
Though you, to me, do no dalliance.

For though I weep a basin of tears,
Yet may that woe not confound my heart.
Your seemly voice that you so delicately bring forth,
Make my thoughts, in joy and bliss, abound.

So courteously I go, with love bound
That, to myself, I say in my penance,
“Suffer me to love you Rosemounde;
Though you, to me, do no dalliance”.

Never was pike so imbued in galantine
As I in love, am imbued and wounded.
For which I very oft, of myself, deign
That I am true Tristam the Second.

My love may not be cooled nor sunk,
I burn in an amourous pleasance.
Do what you like, I bid you find your thrall
Though you, to me, do no dalliance.

very gently,————//————Chaucer

 

Chaucher – The father of English Literature

Notes on “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron

Context: A romantic poem by George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) in honour of his cousin Mrs. Wilmot. “She Walks in Beauty” is a short lyrical poem in iambic tetrameter written in 1813 by Byron and is one of his most famous works.

Notes
: Here are some notes on the use of Old English words in the poem:

climes
– regions

aspect – look

mellow’d – made soft

gaudy – bright in colours

had impair’d – would have damaged

waves – verb here. Moves to and fro.

raven – meaning black as a raven

tress – a lock of hair

serenely – peaceful

brow – forehead

eloquent – to communicate easily

tint – shade

all below – everyone on earth


She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes:

Thus mellow’d to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

“Sonnet 55” – A poem by W. Shakespeare

Context : The English sonnet contains three quatrains followed by a final rhyming couplet. The lines are in iambic pentameter: 10 syllables and 5 stresses per line.

Themes : Love, immortality and memory. The beloved is glorified and compared to worldy goods and riches; but the message is that the beloved is the one who will live forever. Time is depicted as a slut which has done harm to the stone of monuments made by princes. The Old English word slut is non-sexual here and means only that time has made the stones dirty, blackened them. The narrator’s message is that the beloved in his poem in some sense will outlive all these wasted symbols.

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

“The Flea” – A poem by John Donne

Context : The Flea is one of John Donne’s (1572-1631)  most famous poems. Johnny Donnie is perhaps one of the brighest poets ever from the gloriana time as Elizabetan culture produced names like Shakespeare and culture flourished greatly. However, Donne’s family were Catholics and had suffered greatly because of the open prosecution and discrimination against catholics in society. So John converted to Protestantism and became an Anglican priest. He had a happy marriage with Anne More until she died from him in childbirth. Many of the love poems can be traced back to her as an inspiration and muse to the poet. The ryhme scheme in The Flea goes AABBCCDDD, with couplets mostly.

Themes : Love, seduction, Christianity, marriage. Seduction of a chaste lady was a common motif in Elizabetan poetry. Much is going on in this poem and as young man John didn’t deny himself the pleasures of the world. He spent most of his father’s money on courting beautiful ladies, books and travels. As Donne became older much of the poetry changed into ascetic and religious themes.

 

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met,
And cloister’d in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck’d from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
‘Tis true ; then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.

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