J James Fenton

In Paris With You by James Fenton

In Paris With You is ostensibly about a person who we presume has recently split from their lover and is enjoying a fling in Paris. It is clear the person wants to live in the present and “live for the moment”. Perhaps this is escapism for the narrator, or a way of reclaiming their life after what one might assume was a messy breakup. The narrator does talk about their sadness of their lost relationship but does so in a light-hearted tone. It seems like they are trying to move on with their life and the refrain “I’m in Paris with you” is their way of reminding themselves that they have moved on.

In Paris With You by James Fenton


Form and Tone

This poem, which can be read in full here, is presented in six stanzas of varying length. It utilizes rhyme throughout the poem which helps add to the poem’s charming and humorous tone, coupled with the British colloquialisms, this is quite a witty piece. It has a nice rhythm and an almost musical feel. Given the narrator’s mental state, the feelings of anger due to the end of his former relationship, it would be easy for the poem to have a somber, morose tone. But it is full of positivity. It’s effectively a poem about the process of moving on.


Analysis of In Paris With You

First Stanza

Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
But I’m in Paris with you.

Straight away we see the use of rhyme, which not only gives the poem an attractive rhythm but helps to put across the humour. From this opening line, one might assume the poem is going to be a somber affair, however, this is not the case. Note the use of colloquial language: “I’ve had an earful” clearly this person is not in a place where they are interested in love. This lends credence to the idea that the person has recently been through a breakup.

The next two lines could come across as melodramatic but the playful misspelling of marooned in order to force the rhyme gives the lines a glibness that helps us feel sorry for the character, yes he is hurt, and he is “hamming up” his feelings, but in a playful way. The last line of the stanza “but  I’m in Paris with you” Is repeated several times and acts as a refrain. Could this be the narrator trying to convince themselves they are over their former lover? Constantly reminding themselves they are moving on.


Second Stanza

Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
I’m in Paris with you.

It could be construed that in this stanza the narrator is addressing the concerns of the person who he is with. Addressing him, let’s say “sexual partner” as “you” puts the reader in the shoes of this character and creates an intimacy with the narrator, of course, this could be a very real intimacy!

It is clear that the narrator has been through the wringer. He (I assume the narrator is male, though this is not stated) seemingly is trying to reassure his partner that they are not taking advantage of him. It is in this stanza it is revealed that the narrator is in fact on the “rebound”. There is a quirky choice of words as the narrator uses the word “bound” To denote their location, but this has sexual connotations of being tied up. Once more we see the refrain about being “in Paris with you” at the end of the stanza.


Third Stanza

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
And remain here in this sleazy

This stanza is slightly longer than the rest. There are no periods so the stanza moves at a breakneck pace. This imitates the narrator’s emotions, perhaps being a bit sheepish and awkward, which is unsurprising seeing as in this stanza he is effectively requesting that they blow off the site seeing in order to, presumably spend the day having sex (I wanted to use the term making love, but given the narrators disdain for the L word, it didn’t seem appropriate!)


Fourth Stanza

Old hotel room
Learning what I am.

It is notable that the narrator refers to doing “this and that” which one would assume is a euphemism for sex but then says to “what and whom” Is he referring to himself as a what? Or rather his partner? Is he de-humanizing someone? Perhaps this is down to an element of guilt? There is further evidence to support this self-discovery as the narrator adds “learning what I am” This once again is an interesting choice of words. The narrator doesn’t want to know who they are, but what they are.


Fifth Stanza

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,
And I’m in Paris with you.

Here we see the narrator repeat the line “don’t talk to me of love” and then repeat the refrain. This gives the opening line a reflective quality and can be seen to signify a slight change in the poem’s timeline. The narrator has made his request and it would appear it has been granted as we presume the narrator is lying on his back staring at the ceiling, there is no mention of what is going on, but it’s easy to fill in the blanks. Steamy stuff! This stanza also offers an interesting contrast to the previous stanza which offers a list of the glamorous locations Paris has to offer, the louvre, the Champs Elysse etc., and that compares in this stanza to cracked ceilings and flaky paint.


Sixth Stanza

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
I’m in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
Am I embarrassing you?
I’m in Paris with you.

In this stanza, the phrase “I’m in Paris” almost acts as a euphemism for being in ecstasy. The narrator lists the things that bring him to that state, including their partner’s eyes and mouth and “all points south” once again a euphemism, this time for their partner’s sexual organs! But this isn’t meant to be too crude, rather it is meant to be taken in a playful nature. We can see this from the line that follows, as the narrator teasingly asks “am I embarrassing you?” before tying up the poem nicely by ending on the refrain.


About James Fenton

James Fenton is an English author and poet, who has previously acted as the Oxford professor of poetry, a prestigious honour teaching at one of the world’s most famous and respected universities. He also works as a literary critic, working for several notable publications including The Guardian and Independent newspapers. Amongst his awards are the Faber Memorial Prize.

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Lee-James, a.k.a. LJ, has been a Poem Analysis team member ever since Novemer 2015, providing critical analysis of poems from the past and present. Nowadays, he helps manage the team and the website.
  • Jean-François Brunet says:

    Certainly the poem eludes the issue, but Fenton is gay, the very fact of insisting on eluding the issue of the sexual identity of the characters of a sexual episode is fairly gay (“The narrator doesn’t want US to know who they are” like you almost say), the situation fits best with a gay encounter (consensually casual sex encounters are not that frequent in heterosexual literature). I am not sure an analysis of this poem should be silent about the poem’s very silence…

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      I had never really considered that way and certainly wasn’t aware that Fenton was gay. That does add to how the poem is digested. Thank you.

  • I’ve been using your website for my GCSE work on these poems and I wanted to say thank you so much for all the amazing analysis which is going to and has already helped me greatly

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      aww that’s so lovely. I’m really pleased that we have been able to help you with your education.

  • Great analysis but you have missed out stanza three (Do you mind if we…)

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      Actually, I think it was an issue with the headings! but nice spot. Incidentally, this is one of my favourite poems! Gave me a nice excuse to have a read once more!

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