Love is a strange poem as it is full of complex metaphors and this makes it quite hard to interpret. A lot of the comparisons compare large facets of nature to each other. These comparisons emphasise the importance of love. The theme throughout the poem is feeling that their lover isn’t there. In the final stanza when they actually are there it seems to create a discord. It is described quite dramatically: Losing of light, the seasons seem to end. It is difficult to see if the suggestion here is that the relationship is destructive.
Form and Tone
Not unlike other poems from the Rapture collection, including You, this is a love poem. Just like in the poem “You” Duffy employs this structure that whilst technically free verse bears some of the hallmarks of a sonnet, despite not actually being a sonnet. for example the amount of and length of the stanzas (four stanzas, three of them are quatrains and one of them a couplet), and the subject matter which is love. However there is no set line length and no discernible rhyming pattern. The poem has elements from a romantic-style poem drawing on nature for a lot for it’s imagery. It is quite a serious and dramatic poem and isn’t at all light-hearted which is unusual for Duffy’s poetry which is often (but not always) quite fun and playful.
This is a very striking start to the poem, which can be read in full here, and helps to grab a reader’s attention straight away. It starts by claiming love is talent, but then the following section claims that the world love’s metaphor, this lets us know that the previous statement was indeed a metaphor. In fact most of what follows that section of the first line is indeed metaphorical.
Duffy describes the autumnal leaves as being aflame which is an elegant way of describing the colouration of the leaves. She then says that they love the wind. Perhaps trying to make the point about what a loving relationship look like. She is effectively saying that love between two people is what the wind is to an autumn leaf. The line runs on and is subverted by saying that the wind effectively takes leaves to their death. This is a startling contrast but perhaps describes the turbulent nature of love. How one minute it can make a person feel euphoric and the next moment make them feel depressed.
The closing line is interesting as it sort of contradicts itself. I think the point being made is that even when your loved one isn’t with you that it still feels like they are as everything reminds you of them.
It is notable that the phrase “The evening sky” is given it’s own line. This could be to emphasise it’s importance or could be to create an instant visual in the mind of the reader. Whatever the reason for it, once again it is a hook that grabs the reader in and forces them to engage with the piece. It is tricks like this that make Duffy such a highly regarded poet and a master of her craft. This entire stanza consists of three sentences. Two of those sentences are an in-depth description of the relationship between the evening sky and the ground. The suggestion is that the two things depend on one another. The sky worships the ground and the ground yearns back. It is a reciprocal feeling. This is what love is in the eyes of the narrator. Both of these things need one another.
Duffy suggests that the night is “there for” the ground, that it shows empathy. Personifying such an expansive item like the night sky gives Duffy’s ideas a very deliberate grandeur. The final line is intriguing. Is the suggestion that the relationship between the hills and night sky is a positive relationship and it is not what the narrator has? In the previous stanza Duffy said “not here” as well but followed it up with “you’re everywhere” that second part is not included here.
This third stanza seems to take over where the previous one left off. The “you’re everywhere” was left unsaid in the previous stanza and isn’t said in this stanza but is most certainly hinted at. The enjambment line is used perfectly here to create a tension, it makes the previous stanza seem like it was negative and then it is revealed that the narrator hasn’t finished saying what they had to say. We see further examples of Duffy drawing on nature taking cues from the great romantic poets as she evokes the sea, the shore, the moon. Once again this is grandiose stuff. She isn’t comparing relationships to how a bee needs nectar! These are global scale comparisons.
The description of the moon pining over the earth is particularly profound, using the words “ache and fret” creates an image of the fact that love can be really hard at times. Sure there is a euphoria but then there are the self-doubts, the jealousy, the paranoia! Your hormone levels are on overdrive and you experience heightened levels of tension and anxiety as well as heightened levels of joy and happiness.
The description that Duffy uses in the third and fourth line is beautiful. Describing how the sun covers the trees in gold. What a wonderful piece of imagery. The use of ardent is clever here too as it describes a bright, shining, but also enthusiasm and passion. The stanza ends on another enjambment line and just like the previous ones it creates a tension. The phrase “you walk” could be used to mean that the other person is walking away. This lack of clarity creates a tension.
out of the season, out of the light love reasons
The tension from the previous stanza is alleviated as it is revealed the loved one is moving towards the narrator. However perhaps that isn’t the end of the tension. The last line is hard to interpret but it seems to suggest that the presence of the love one upsets the harmony. Or that their lover leaves those things behind when they approach them.
About the Poet (Carol Ann Duffy)
Carol Ann Duffy is a contemporary poet, born in Glasgow and raised in England. She is very successful and holds many accolades among these is having the title of Britain’s poet Laureate. Duffy is a big support of LGBT rights and this as well as many other contemporary issues often feature in her poetry. She often writes from a first person perspective and has created some really colourful narrative voices during her tenure as a poet. She is a clever poet who often uses double entendres and has a mastery of creating meaning by the clever use of structure.