Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Why art thou silent! Is thy love a plant" - William Wordsworth

Why are thou silent! Is thy love a plant
Of such weak fibre that the treacherous air
Of absence withers what was once so fair?
Is there no debt to pay, no boon to grant?
Yet have my thoughts for thee been vigilant -
Bound to thy service with unceasing care,
The mind's least generous wish a mendicant
For nought but what thy happiness could spare.
Speak - though this soft warm heart, once free to hold
A thousand tender pleasures, thine and mine,
Be left more desolate, more dreary cold
Than a forsaken bird's-nest filled with snow
'Mid its own bush of leafless eglantine -
Speak, that my torturing doubts their end may know.

This Wordsworth poem deals with love, its strength, and how we come to doubt love's strength over time.  Presumably spoken to a lover, the narrator asks why they are silent.  He doubts their love ("speak, that my torturing doubts their end may know") and the silence of his lover is unbearable to him.  The basic question is, "Did absence make your love grow weak?"  He compares himself to a beggar (mendicant) in need of whatever happiness his lover can spare.  He begs that his lover speak, or his heart, once able to hold "a thousand tender pleasures" grow as cold as an empty bird's nest filled with snow.

The desperation is palpable, and the likening of the heart and love to natural things is effective.  If love is a plant which grows weak with absence, perhaps it means that there was no water, no food, for it to grow, or that love was planted in infertile soil, a match never meant to prosper.  The heart as an empty, cold nest is also an easy image to understand, for when love is freshly ended, it certainly does feel as though we are empty.

The language of the poem is plain and clear for the most part, and I feel like there isn't much I can do for you, reader, other than encourage you to read the poem slowly so that it can unfold easily.

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