Never seek to tell thy love,
Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
I told my love, I told my love,
I told her all my heart,
Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears.
Ah! she did depart!
Soon after she was gone from me,
A traveller came by,
He took her with a sigh.
I was looking for a poem to analyse for my blogpost and randomly came across this one. No surprises that I picked this one. Two reasons – William Blake is a master poet and we ought to read him more and this poem has the universal theme of love, something we all crave for.
It’s a short poem with three, four-line stanzas. From the title it is clear that Blake is going to talk about some sort of secret concerning love. About love, Blake says that one should not try to explain such love in words that can not be explained in words. Most of us will be all too familiar with this emotion where we feel that a certain feeling, more often than not love, could not be fully explained in words. Blake compares love to wind which always present around us, as an inherent part of nature and yet it remains invisible. What Blake suggests that love as true and as great as the wind need not be told in words.
In the second stanza poet tells about his attempt to tell his lover about his love and how it turns out. Fearful and trembling the poet tells his love all that is in his heart and his fears come true when his lover departs. In the third stanza, the poet tells that soon after her lover went away from him, she was taken up by another invisible traveler.
Now coming to my understanding of the poem, I feel their are two underlying themes in the poem – unrequited love and death. The poem largely talks about unrequited and prohibited love. The poet gives voice to the fears of a lover who is sure of rejection. He terms his love as great but also knows that it shouldn’t be disclosed but left unsaid like the wind. The poet’s fearfulness is an indication that he already knows what the outcome would be. Perhaps he is in love with a lady who is unattainable in the sense that she is either already married (a recurring theme in earlier courtly poems) or that she is of a higher social status.
The poem also echoes with the tone of death. Though the overtones of death are not direct it’s definitely present like the word “ghastly”. Ghastly means extreme horror and it also means extremely unwell. It seems that the poet’s lover is afflicted with some kind of disease. The poet fears that telling her about his love might be too much for her heart and mind to bear. Yet he goes ahead and tells all that is in his heart. As anticipated the lover couldn’t bear the burden of it. The traveler of the third stanza is death who “silently” and “invisibly” takes the lover with him.