W Walt Whitman

Sometimes with One I Love by Walt Whitman

In ‘Sometimes with One I Love,’ Whitman explores themes of love, love unrequited, and the nature of human emotions. The poem’s speaker depicts his emotions directly and clearly. He’s very much aware of the reality of his situation and is willing to accept it if there is no chance he’s going to be loved in return. 

Sometimes with One I Love by Walt Whitman


Summary of Sometimes with One I Love 

‘Sometimes with One I Love’ by Walt Whitman is a simple poem that explores the power of unrequited love to stimulate one’s life in other ways. 

The poem speaks clearly and directly on the nature of love that is “unreturn’d”. The speaker is aware that the love he bears a “certain person” may not be returned. This is something that concerns him and brings him fear. But, it has also taught him something else. That loving, even if not returned, is worth it. He has gotten “these songs,” or poems, out of the emotional state he’s been inhabiting. 


Structure of Sometimes with One I Love

Sometimes with One I Love’ by Walt Whitman is a four-line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The lines are written in classic Whitman style. There is no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, a technique known as free verse and for which Whitman is well-known for. This poem also exhibits another characteristic that Whitman s known for, the sporadic use of end-punctuation. This is evident in the fact that all four lines contain one example, at the very end of the poem. 

Despite the lack of a rhyme scheme unifying these four lines, there are examples of full and half-rhyme within the lines. The latter, for example, can be seen in the second line with “pay” and “way”. Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “myself” and “I” in line one both of which make use of the long “i” vowel sound.


Poetic Techniques in Sometimes with One I Love

Whitman makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sometimes with One I Love’. These include, but are not limited to, syncope, alliteration, caesura, and 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “fill” and “fear” in line one and “pay” and “person” in lines two and three. 

Syncope refers to a literary device that is defined as a shortening of a word by removing or omitting letters. This usually occurs within the middle of words and can refer to the removal of consonants, vowels, and multiple letters one after another. In the place of the dropped letter, the poet uses an apostrophe. In this case, Whitman uses it three times, with “unreturn’d” in lines one and two and “return’d” in line three. 

Caesura occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might proceed an important turn or transition in the text. The second line is a good example. It reads: “But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one way or another” and introduces the reader to the main idea of the poem, that love is worth it, returned or not. 


Analysis of Sometimes with One I Love

Lines 1-2 

Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn’d love,

But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one way or another,

In the first lines of ‘Sometimes with One I Love’ the speaker begins by making use of the phrase that later came to be used as the title. He expresses an emotion he experiences when he is with the “one” he loves. This person, who may or may not love him back, worries him. He sees them and grows concerned, fearful, that the love he “effuse[s],” or gives off, is not returned. 

The fact that Whitman does not use names, or give any detail about who the person out whom he is speaking is, allows this poem to apply to a wide variety of narrators and situations. Any reader, no matter where they’re from or who they are, can read these lines and place themselves in the speaker’s shoes. 

In the second line of the poem he comes to the realization that whether the love is returned or not, it is worth it. The act of moving his given the speaker a great deal, as the final two lines depict.


Lines 3-4 

(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return’d,

Yet out of that I have written these songs).

While he might not have the love of another person, the speaker in these lines acknowledges that he has gotten something else, “these songs”. This is a reference to the poem the reader is engaged within that moment. Plus, all other “songs” (poems) that flowed from these emotions. 

No matter how the relationship is turning out or will turn out in the future, he has benefited from it. Plus, the speaker knows that he has loved this person to the best of his abilities. There was nothing else he could’ve done. 

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Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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