‘Buried Love’ by Sara Teasdale expresses a contrast of emotion within the narrator as she grieves a “Love” that was “bittersweet.” No clear indication exists as to if this is a purely figurative play on emotional words or an actual loss of life, but the sentiments within the word choices remain strong, regardless. This narrator feels the need to “bury” this “Love” once and for all, though she knows in her heart that she will never fully move beyond it. Still, she feels she must hide her emotions from others because the relationship was so “cold.” In essence, feeling grief over such a bad relationship is discomfiting, so she must try to hide her past and her sentiments connected to this “Love” as best she can.
Buried Love Analysis
I shall bury my weary Love
Beneath a tree,
In the forest tall and black
Where none can see.
The wording in this first stanza of ‘Buried Love’ creates an immediate contradiction in that the narrator declares she is intending to “bury” her “Love.” What this would logically entail would be emotions of remembered joy, which would be things the narrator would find a reason to showcase. Rather, though, she says she is going to “bury” this “Love” “[i]n the forest tall and black [w]here none can see.” This image does not reveal a great deal of softness or pride that one might feel in regard to a “Love” lost. Instead, the details read as if the narrator wishes to hide her “Love” out of something akin to embarrassment, so that “none can see” it.
This idea gains momentum since even though “Love” is capitalized as a proper noun—showing importance—it is also noted as “weary.” What this could indicate is that while the “Love” was dear, it was also troublesome and burdened, which could be the reason why the narrator holds embarrassment over the sentiment. If such is the case, as well, this could be a figurative “bur[ial]” rather than a physical one, as in no one has actually died. The narrator could simply have decided to leave someone that she cared for, but who was a poor choice for her. This would tie in with the selection of “bur[ial]” site since this man would be a part of her past she wants to leave in the dark—something “none can see”—since the relationship was such a feeble decision on her behalf.
Still, in the end, the “Love” was important enough to capitalize and “bury” in a dignified manner, specifically “[b]eneath a tree.” This is where the contradiction comes heavily into play—that the narrator still holds the affection of which she is ashamed.
I shall put no flowers at his head,
Nor stone at his feet,
For the mouth I loved so much
Whether this is physical death or an emotional departure, the notion that the narrator feels unpleasant things toward this “Love” becomes more solid in this stanza. This is due, in part, to the number of things she insists will not happen. She asserts, for instance, that she “shall put no flowers at his head, [n]or stone at his feet.” As these are both methods of marking graves and honoring those gone on, to neglect them indicates she either wishes to forget him or to keep others from locating him and certainly that she is making the conscious choice not to honor him. She even states why she plans to overlook these details: “For the mouth I loved so much [w]as bittersweet.” This, once more, reflects that she truly cares for this man, but that the relationship was not sublime.
It still cannot be known if this is physical death or an emotional departure, but regardless, the narrator has strong intentions of moving past this relationship as much as possible. There will be no markers to bring him to mind and no decoration to celebrate what was because, as it happens, the relationship was “bittersweet.” By “bury[ing]” him in a “forest tall and black” and neglecting to mark where he stays, she is effectively placing him in a position where she—or others—will never be able to locate him again, which is a fairly concrete way of moving past the relationship.
I shall go no more to his grave,
For the woods are cold.
I shall gather as much of joy
As my hands can hold.
The first line of this stanza adds a further reason for not marking “his grave”—that the narrator plans to “go no more” there. This strengthens the notion that she wishes this relationship to remain in the past, giving an additional rationale for this desire in the following line: “For the woods are cold.” This declaration, after all, cannot describe the “forest” she “shall bury” him in since that logic does not stand as a reason why she would not go to “his grave.” If “the woods [being] cold” were the reason, she only needed to “bury” him in a warmer area to make visiting “his grave” easier. It can be inferred, then, that “the woods” refer to the relationship itself rather than “the forest” in which he will be “bur[ied].” The “Love” was “cold,” and this is why she “shall go no more to his grave.”
There is strength in the third and fourth lines of this stanza of ‘Buried Love’ in that she means to press forward with her life. Specifically, she plans to “gather as much of joy [a]s [her] hands can hold.” This idea, however, embraces lingering sadness since it seems uncertain how much happiness she will encounter in the future. She does not know for certain—only that it will be “[a]s much of” it as she can manage. That “of” is also telling since it expresses that the “joy” will not be full. Rather, she will experience “of joy,” like a small part of the overall experience.
It is also worth noting that she uses her “hands” as the measuring tool for how much “joy” she will find. This takes the romantic notion out of the emotional realm of the heart, which indicates she is not letting her emotions control her any longer. Rather, she is in control of her life and “Love” since she has quite literally placed related details in her own “hands.” Additionally, the “hands” physically cannot hold a large number of things on their own. This aspect implies she does not mean to “Love” as large as she has for this “bittersweet” romance, which again hints at control over the situation. She does not want to hurt like this another time, so she will limit the amount of emotion she grants any upcoming relationship.
I shall stay all day in the sun
Where the wide winds blow,
But oh, I shall weep at night
When none will know.
The beginning half of this stanza paints a picture of possibility and hope for the future, that she “shall stay all day in the sun [w]here the wide winds blow.” For this passage, it is the “wide winds” that show how to open her future is, as the “wind” itself is elusive and free. When adding the unnecessary adjective of “wide” to the equation, the situation becomes even more representative of possibility, though the wording also adds an impossible quality. The “wind” is intangible, so it cannot be “wide.” This pairing of words is a hint to the reader that while her future has the possibility, moving past this “Love” can never fully happen.
This concept is stated as well in the final lines of ‘Buried Love’ since she “shall weep at night [w]hen none will know.” Essentially, she knows her efforts will not erase this “Love,” but just as she tried to place him out of sight in a “forest” and without a “stone,” she wishes to keep her emotions from the sight of others. Once more, this detail could be suitable for a deceased person or a left-behind relationship with the basic meaning not changing. She will always “Love” this person, but as the relationship was “bittersweet,” she will try to keep that illogical affection to herself.
About Sara Teasdale
American writer, Sara Teasdale, was born in 1884 and penned a number of works that were met with sincere regard in her time, including Flame and Shadow. Her life ended in 1933 when she committed suicide. She was, however, awarded the Columbia Poetry Prize in 1918.