We have walked in Love's land a little way,
We have learnt his lesson a little while,
And shall we not part at the end of day,
With a sigh, a smile?
A little while in the shine of the sun,
We were twined together, joined lips, forgot
How the shadows fall when the day is done,
And when Love is not.
We have made no vows--there will none be broke,
Our love was free as the wind on the hill,
There was no word said we need wish unspoken,
We have wrought no ill.
So shall we not part at the end of day,
Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
With a sigh, a smile?
This love poem from Ernest Dowson, short and pleasant as a passing romance or a summer breeze, reminds me greatly of one of my favorite poems by Michael Drayton, about which I've written before. That poem, too, is about lovers parting with a goodbye kiss, seeking to leave with no animosity or hard feelings. There, as here, it feels somewhat as if the narrator is trying to convince himself that it is indeed possible to part with a kiss and not feel some measure of sadness and heartbreak. The difference for me is that this is a more positive poem, evoking pleasant memories of a pleasant, passing romance.
Dowson seems fairly well able to convince himself that such a love, an "April Love" as the title suggests, is possible. The bright, simple language of the poem evokes all the niceties of springl The sun shines, the breeze on the hill blows, "shadows fall when the day is done, and when Love is not." It's a lovely image. Lovers twined, lips joined, a beautiful springtime. There is no malice in their parting, no desperate hope for a rekindling of romance. Still, as the poem is framed as a series of questions, I read it with a hint of self-convincing. "We can kiss, smile, and part without heartbreak...right?"
Even with that seed of doubt and the questioning nature of the poem, I am hopelessly charmed by the idea of two people meeting, becoming lovers, and parting friends with a happy sigh and a watery-eyed smile. A goodbye kiss without drama, so to speak. Maybe it's the springtime loving imagery of the poem, or the warm feeling imagining the loving parting last kiss, but I like to think that such a thing is possible. A romance doesn't have to be long and dramatic to be meaningful, and if it feels like a warm spring breeze, then letting it be that free and easy can only be beautiful, just like this poem.