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The Look -- Sara Teasdale

       
(Poem #937) The Look
 Strephon kissed me in the spring,
   Robin in the fall,
 But Colin only looked at me
   And never kissed at all.

 Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
   Robin's lost in play,
 But the kiss in Colin's eyes
   Haunts me night and day.
-- Sara Teasdale
A delicately beautiful little poem - I love both the central image, and the
light, sure touch with which Teasdale develops it. And, as usual with
Teasdale's poetry, the combination of quietness and power, both masked by an
apparent simplicity, is nothing short of impressive.

There is, however (and unusually enough that I wonder if I'm misscanning the
poem), a slight roughness to the seventh line - I keep wanting to insert an
'oh,' after the 'but' to restore the regular iambic pattern. Comments?

Links:

 Biography: See Poem #113

 Teasdale poems on Minstrels:
   Poem #464, "Central Park at Dusk"
   Poem #113, "Morning"
   Poem #223, "There Will Come Soft Rains"
   Poem #430, "Wild Asters"

-martin

79 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

amitc said...

* Martin Demello:
> There is, however (and unusually enough that I wonder if I'm misscanning
> the poem), a slight roughness to the seventh line - I keep wanting to
> insert an 'oh,' after the 'but' to restore the regular iambic pattern.
> Comments?

Sure -- the intention is to introduce a pause
before the punchline. Just imagine an inaudible
unstressed syllable before the 'But'.

--Amit

RChamp7927 said...

Strephon...Robin...Colin: these are names that appear in the old Elizabethan
love lyrics, usually as shepherds who manage, between herding the flocks, to
court country maids of the uncoy sort. How interesting that Teasdale would
have borrowed them--probably one of the few poets of her time to do so. The
feeling, though, is Victorian, as the speaker dwells upon the shepherd lost
with a wistfulness the Elizabethans, on the whole, did not find particularly
desirable.

Bob Champ

vivian said...

Dear Martin --

I wouldn't look at this poem as iambic -- basically trochaic, if anything,
with an extra foot at the end of each line :
(STREPH-on) (KISSED me) (IN the) (SPRING )-- but this stops working in lines
3 and 4. I think it would be most helpful to think of this as "ballad meter"
or "hymn meter"-- alternating lines of four and three stresses (not "feet"),
never mind the order of stressed and unstressed syllables within the line
(or the number of unstressed syllables between stresses, which doesn't
happen to be relevant here). This solves the mystery of line 7:

STREPH-on KISSED me IN the SPRING (4)
ROB-in IN the FALL (3)
But CO-lin ON-ly LOOKED at ME (4)
And NEV-er KISSED at ALL (3)

STREPH-on's KISS was LOST in JEST (4)
ROB-in's LOST in PLAY (3)
BUT the KISS in COL-in's EYES (4)
HAUNTS me NIGHT and DAY (3)

I've invented a method for checking whether something is indeed ballad
meter -- you simply sing the words to any well-known ballad or hymn tune,
say "Amazing Grace." Works like a charm.

All the best,
Vivian

Martin DeMello said...

> I wouldn't look at this poem as iambic -- basically trochaic, if anything,
> with an extra foot at the end of each line :

Yes, I fully agree with this, and the poem is pretty clearly in ballad
metre. The bit I was objecting to was the unnatural promotion, in line 7

BUT the KISS in COL-in's EYES (4)

of 'but' to a stressed syllable. Hence my wish for an 'oh' -

but OH, || the KISS in COL-in's EYES

with an almost automatic caesura after the 'oh' to maintain the sense of a
break in the rhythm while, at the same time, not straining the 'natural'
reading of the words.

> I've invented a method for checking whether something is indeed ballad
> meter -- you simply sing the words to any well-known ballad or hymn tune,
> say "Amazing Grace." Works like a charm.

I like this :)

martin

A Pearce said...

Hi, Martin

To me the metre reads perfectly in line seven. If any line is out of step,
for me it would be line three, which scans well without the word 'but'.
Having said that, the first word repetition of lines one to three in the
second verse would be lost if it were removed. And the unstressed 'but' in
line three gives extra emphasis to the stressed 'but' in line seven - very
neat!

It is a little poem which carries a wealth of meaning, and beautifully
crafted. Thank you for including it on your excellent website.

Averil.

--

Diane Eden said...

I learned this poem when I was a young girl . . the words have never left
me. It is "haunting" and wonderful.

McProl said...

the missing syllable takes my breath away and gives me a sense of urgency--i
quite enjoyed that, M

Jasa Penerjemah Tersumpah | Jasa Penerjemah | Penerjemah Resmi said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

Busana Muslim said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

cheap viagra said...

hahaha that guy, Colin seems to were a great stalker with a lot of issue's don't you think?

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Anonymous said...

A really beautiful written short poem (about shy and painful adolescence maybe?) that creeps up on and, then delivers a scary and quite haunting punch-line, which never seems to leave you.

Go well and be lucky.

Kevin.

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