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Aedh Laments the Loss of Love -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem sent in by Kamalika Chowdhury
(Poem #1668) Aedh Laments the Loss of Love
(or The Lover Mourns for the Loss of Love)

 Pale brows, still hands and dim hair,
 I had a beautiful friend
 And dreamed that the old despair
 Would end in love in the end:
 She looked in my heart one day
 And saw your image was there;
 She has gone weeping away.
-- William Butler Yeats
On reading the recent Yeats poem (Poem #1657 - "The Rose of the World"), I
was reminded that the minstrels does not yet have two of my favourite poems
by Yeats.  This gem of a poem, from "The Wind Among the Reeds" (1899), is
one of them.

The poignancy of loss of love has seldom been better expressed in the
English language. Yet the spell of this poem goes beyond that perfect
execution, and into the intriguingly complex play of time and emotion
captured in these few short, heart-stopping lines. No words are wasted here.
Even as the gentle, patient cadence of the opening lines sets the scene, the
powerful simplicity of the final image brings a sudden and immense sense of
permanence. In the end one is left with a picture far wider than the title
promised. Which was the real loss? Whence the haunting despair, and how deep
love's lament? Beautiful.


[Martin adds]

I also love the way the closing "she has gone weeping away" plays against the
incompleteness of the "missing" eighth line. The poem ends on a brief,
expectant  pause, a held breath, perhaps a hope that this is not then end of
the story. And then the realisation that the poem has indeed come to an end
surges back, and the reader is almost compelled to silently reread the last
line, both to lay to rest the feeling that the poem should continue a line
more, and by the very repetition perhaps to supply that closure. (And yet, in
the end, I am unable to read finality into the last line; the more I look at
it, the more I feel the promise of a second chance. And that, too, is perhaps
as it should be.)


54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Kaul Aseem said...

And now for the glass half empty...

While I too love the ending of this poem, I can't bring myself to share
Martin's optimism about the implication of the missing eighth line. For
me the incompleteness of the poem is both a metaphor for promises
unfulfilled and a surrender to the hopelessness of regaining lost love.
The poem ends because it is finished, the line is missing because there
is no point in going on. There is nothing left to say.

Though of course it takes a poet as incredible as Yeats not to say it.

Aseem Kaul

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