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A Leave-Taking Analysis

Author: poem of Algernon Charles Swinburne Type: poem Views: 5

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Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear.

Let us go hence together without fear;

Keep silence now, for singing-time is over,

And over all old things and all things dear.

She loves not you nor me as all we love her.

Yea, though we sang as angels in her ear,

      She would not hear.

Let us rise up and part; she will not know.

Let us go seaward as the great winds go,

Full of blown sand and foam; what help is here?

There is no help, for all these things are so,

And all the world is bitter as a tear.

And how these things are, though ye strove to show,

      She would not know.

Let us go home and hence; she will not weep.

We gave love many dreams and days to keep,

Flowers without scent, and fruits that would not grow,

Saying 'If thou wilt, thrust in thy sickle and reap.'

All is reaped now; no grass is left to mow;

And we that sowed, though all we fell on sleep,

      She would not weep.

Let us go hence and rest; she will not love.

She shall not hear us if we sing hereof,

Nor see love's ways, how sore they are and steep.

Come hence, let be, lie still; it is enough.

Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep;

And though she saw all heaven in flower above,

      She would not love.

Let us give up, go down; she will not care.

Though all the stars made gold of all the air,

And the sea moving saw before it move

One moon-flower making all the foam-flowers fair;

Though all those waves went over us, and drove

Deep down the stifling lips and drowning hair,

      She would not care.

Let us go hence, go hence; she will not see.

Sing all once more together; surely she,

She too, remembering days and words that were,

Will turn a little toward us, sighing; but we,

We are hence, we are gone, as though we had not been there.

Nay, and though all men seeing had pity on me,

      She would not see.


Submitted by Rose Haynes


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: Heartbreak :.

This has been one of my favorite poems since I was a teenager, and in my opinion, Swinburne's finest. The mystery of who the woman is key to interpreting the poem. Is she (as in "Long Day's Journey Into Night, where I first discovered it)his wife, lost into some kind of dementia or other mental malady that makes her no longer recognize her loved ones? Or is she the ever "elusive" female who is to be lusted after, but never to be had? Or is it something far more mystical, such as: is she Nature, God, whatever word you would use for the force that governs the Earth, and in Swinburne's poem, is deaf to mankind's pleas?

I have never read a formal critique or analysis of the poem, for which I'm grateful, for Swinburne's writing is so open to personal interpretation that it's as if it's YOUR poem. I mean by that, if we have hearts, we can all relate to the heartbreak as described, with the incessant beating rhythm with each verse of all the many ways she is no longer present--not dead--simply no longer cognizant or aware in any way of the narrator.

I have always found this poem to be one of the most heartbreaking I know, and his modern style is clearly an influence on poets of the early half of the 20th century. How can anyone read that final line and not "weep" for the narrator and those he includes in his speech, urging them to come with him, sing with him, etc.? So apparently he is not the only one deserted by the departure of his love, while still alive, dead to him. This poem has the power to break my heart today just as much as it did when I first read it 25 years ago. I have never read a more stark and painful expression of both lost love (perhaps lost through dementia?), and the human condition, filled with suffering, as described so achingly by Swinburne. From that point of view, you could almost call it a Buddhist poem, examining the many ways we suffer as humans with hearts.

| Posted on 2007-07-05 | by a guest

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