Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul :
(Poem #1721) The Lost Mistress
All's over, then: does truth sound bitter As one at first believes? Hark, 'tis the sparrows' good-night twitter About your cottage eaves! And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly, I noticed that today; One day more bursts them open fully -You know the red turns grey. Tomorrow we meet the same then, dearest? May I take your hand in mine? Mere friends are we,-well, friends the merest Keep much that I resign: For each glance of that eye so bright and black, Though I keep with heart's endeavour,- Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back, Though it stay in my soul for ever!- -Yet I will but say what mere friends say, Or only a thought stronger; I will hold your hand but as long as all may, Or so very little longer!
For sheer dramatic brilliance, there are few poets to match Browning. He has an unparalleled ability to create an image, a scene, which is not simply vivid and moving, but also somehow psychologically accurate. At their best, his poems have this lived-in quality, so that they feel not like visions from some higher plane but rather like things that could happen to you; that, in fact, may already have happened. Today's poem is an excellent example. There are no high thoughts here, no particularly startling word play, no evocation of wondrous images. It's a simple enough poem, the language plain, the tone conversational. And yet it manages to capture and convey such a range of emotions. To begin with, there's the sheer breadth of action and information that these simple lines convey. Browning gives us only a few scattered musings, yet (as in all his greatest poems, see My Last Duchess, Poem #104 or Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, Poem #635) these are enough to lay before us the entire history of the romance and its possible future. What makes this poem truly brilliant, though is the way in which Browning's simple lines manage to convey a number of different emotional states. That abrupt first line conveys the sense of shock, the feeling of having come upon the end of the relationship so abruptly, and what follows is the numbed aftermath of that explosion, in which the lover re-adjusts his shattered senses to the smallness and the silence of the world around him and is amazed to find that, despite everything, the world goes on. This knowledge is what gives him the courage to broach (in the third stanza) the possibility of continued interaction, yet no sooner has he brought this up than the heart within him rebels at the notion of love being so easily changed to friendship, so that the next stanza gives us an unforgettable struggle between longing and restraint, between timidity and scorn, between the desire to survive and the desire to be annhilated. Finally, in the last stanza, the lover comes to terms with this contradiction between the ephemeral and the eternal, arriving at an almost pitiful compromise, ensuring that he will be forever both included and excluded. Overall, then, this is a simple, beautiful poem about coming to terms with the transitory nature of relationships on the one hand and the longevity of the feelings that go with them on the other. Aseem.