Love Poem by Elizabeth Jennings

Where the British poet Elizabeth Jennings has expressed the theme of generation gap through her poem, “Father to Son“, and “Warning to Parents”, she has also expressed the feeling of love through her poetries like; “Love Poem”, “Winter Love” and many more. This is the reason why she is well-known as one of the finest love poets of twentieth century. In her poem, ‘Love Poem’ she comes up with the same feeling of love. Though as of now, there have been several poets, and even there is a large number of poets who write and has written a lot about the feeling of love, the way Jennings brings    out this feeling it is really amazing.

 

Love Poem Analysis

Stanza 1

In the first stanza of this poem, which you can read in full here, she says that while the love has many facets, it is truly kind and shy. When we love someone, there is feeling of shyness that is generated towards the one who we love most. However, it is to be understood here that the love feeling expressed by Jennings in this poem is not only the love that a loved and beloved has towards each other rather it could be love related to any human relationship.

The poet further says that it is only the shyness that stops us bringing to our mind the face whose each line are known to us. The poet says of course it is only the feeling of love that stops us expressing what we have in our heart. It is really strange that “we cannot bring to mind/A face whose every line we know.” At the end of the stanza, the poet says “O love is kind,/O love is kind.”


Stanza 2

In this stanza of the poem, the poet talks about the role of pain in love. She says where the love is sweeter at initial stage it is also thirsty at the later stage. However, love without pain has no existence. Both are correlated and come together. Pain does play a role in love, but it cannot overpower the feeling of love. It is like a never-quenching thirst that increases with the passage of time, when it comes to all true feeling the pain does have its role to play. However love, on the other hand, is so kind that it relieves you of from every pain. It forgives you for all your committed crimes. It is benevolent, it is true and it is kind like god.

Let me tell you here that the sense of words falling through a reflective silence defines much of Jennings’s poetry, and meaning breathes through the page rather than being stated or declared. The reader can almost feel this breath through the countless ‘O’s that appear throughout her volumes of published works.

While her handwritten manuscripts variously use the spelling ‘O’, a letter that punctures her poems with holes through which their sound whistles, ‘O love is kind, O love is kind’ Jennings sings in ‘Love Poem’, a characteristically Romantic verse that evokes Christian and human affection while also separating her work stylistically and affectively from that of her literary contemporaries.


Stanza 3

In this final stanza of the poem, the poet says love is such a feeling that cannot be kept hidden for long. It cries out its existence no matter how much efforts we make to keep it as hint less, secret. The poet says yes “we should want/Discretion, secrecy, no hint/Of what we share,” but love cries out itself and wants the world to understand it.

Though it remains quite and doesn’t want to be revealed, but at the same time it wants the whole world to know and understand it. It does hold itself in doubt, but it too cries out its existence. However, love is kind; it is generous as it forgives all your sins.

On a suggestive note, the poet may also mean by this stanza that yes love should not be shared, but the love which cries out itself, and wants the world to understand it, is love full of doubts.

 

About Elizabeth Jennings

Elizabeth Jennings was the most unconditionally loved poet of her generation, as compared to other poets of her generation included Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, who were not themselves obviously lovable poets. One may imagine that Larkin might have been rather disappointed to have discovered, posthumously, that he was unconditionally loved, whereas Elizabeth Jennings’ poetry seems to invite just this response. Indeed, so different is the poetry of Elizabeth Jennings to that of Amis and Larkins that it is hard to imagine how she can ever have been seriously associated with them in the minds of critics.

Whether The Movement ever existed at all has been much, but the mature Elizabeth Jennings that we find in the “New Collected Poems” shows what a different trajectory she had followed from that of her laconic and wry contemporaries. The “New Collected Poems” begins, like her Collected Poems and Selected Poems with a dozen poems from her first collected volume of poetry (entitled tentatively Poems).

First and Second are “Delay” and “Winter Love” which seem to set the tone of everything which comes after. They are short poems – the first consisting of two quatrains, the second of a sestet, almost two halves of a divided sonnet – which address two recurrent themes of Elizabeth Jennings’ poetry: love and time.

As Shakespeare wrote, “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/Within his bending sickle’s compass come;’ for true love will outlast buffeting of time and be borne out, “even to the edge of doom.” So in “Delay” Elizabeth Jennings compares the light thrown out by a distant star (which the eye may never see, so distant is the star) to a ray of love which “may not reach me until/Its first desire is spent.”

In “Winter Love’ readers may expect to read of love frozen  or love grown cold, but instead  Elizabeth Jennings presents winter as a time of slow growth that allows the heart ‘to partake/Of the slow pleasure” of the tranquillity of love. Unhurried by the fecundity of spring and allowed to snooze in the too hot eye of heaven of summer, this love comes to rest in sleepy tenderness:

Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, Jennings died on October 26, 2001, Bampton, United Kingdom, and became a writer after completing her graduation. Thought she was greatly influenced by lyrical poets like Hopkins, Auden, Graves and Muir, her imagination was immensely inspired when she spent around three months in Rome, thanks to the Somerset Maugham award that she won by virtue of her second book, A Way of Looking. This proved to be a turning point in her life, and motivated her to climb the stairs of success in the poetry field.

Acclaimed and recognized as traditionalist in place of an innovator, Jennings is famous for her mastery of form and lyric poetry. Her work consists of the simplicity of rhyme and metre shared with Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and Thom Gunn, all members of the group of English poets recognized as The Movement.

 

Personal Comments

The poem, ‘Love Poem’ by Elizabeth Jennings, says that love is both shy and kind. It is such a feeling that prevents us to know even the face whose every line we are known to. It is a very strange feeling with pain and a type of never-quenching thirst that remains for long.

The poet says whether you want to reveal it or not, but it cries out itself and wants the whole world to know about its existence. On the other hand, the love that doesn’t want to be known by the world is a love of doubt, full of pain.

Thus, in the poem, the poet has expressed the feeling of love, which cannot be held hidden for long. Though the type of love the poet has tried to express through this love could also be related to other types of love existing in other relationship, the words like shy, kind, quite, pain make the readers believe that she is really talking about the love between a love and a beloved.

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