Wendy Cope

After the Lunch by Wendy Cope

‘After the Lunch’ is an internal monologue taking place upon Waterloo Bridge after a first date. The poem is broken into three four-line, quatrain, stanzas with a regular ABAB rhyme scheme. Cope frames her changing attitude to falling in love across its stanzas – from denial to reasoning, and finally to acceptance. The full poem can be read here.

After the Lunch by Wendy Cope



The structure of ‘After the Lunch’ follows an AABB rhyme scheme that flows throughout the whole poem. This use of rhyming couplets is classic to the love poetry which Cope is drawing upon, with the image of two lovers being reflected through the paired couplets. Moreover, the songlike rhythm evoked by the rhyme scheme gives the poem a childlike cadence, further relating to the idea of falling in love and the giddy emotions surrounding it.

The breaking up of the poem into three stanzas allows for a progression of thought to be displayed. In the first stanza, Cope is trying to repress her newfound love and talk herself down. In the second, she gives reason to her emotions, listening to her heart, ‘And when was it wrong?’. By the final stanza, Cope has accepted that she’s fallen in love, ‘admit[ting] it before I am halfway across’. This final line shows that the mental argument has only taken a few moments, arriving at her conclusion before she even reaches halfway across the bridge.


Stylistic Elements

The triple repetition of ‘Waterloo Bridge’ is used to center the poem on a physical landmark. By using an iconic site of London, Cope allows the reader to visualize the bustling commotion of the bridge as she almost ‘skips’ across. Not only does this give the poem a sense of chaos from the bustle of London, reflected in the short sentences used by Cope, but also allows for the physical distance, referenced in the last line, to be illustrated more effectively. Falling in love in the poem is as quick as strolling across the bridge.

Short sentences are employed by Cope to reflect the rapid workings of her internal monologue argument. By using sentences that consist of few syllables, the poem reads incredibly quickly, reflecting the rapid thought process which Cope has gone through before she gets halfway across the bridge.

‘After the Lunch’ is written, apart from within the first line, exclusively using ‘you’ and ‘I’ pronouns. The use of ‘I’ gives the poem an intimate feeling, reflecting its personal content. The inter-splicing of the second person ‘you’ allows Cope to question her emotions, conversing directly with herself. The toying of the two personal pronouns also allows the two sides to the poem to be explored, the personal and heart reflected through ‘I’, and the questioning reason reflected through ‘you’. The double repetition of ‘I’ within the last line and the lack of ‘you’ symbolizes the winning of the ‘heart’, the acceptance of love by the poet, and the relinquishing of reason.


Analysis of After the Lunch

Stanza One

On Waterloo Bridge, where we said our goodbyes,
And try not to notice I’ve fallen in love.

Cope begins ‘After the Lunch’ by situating the reader upon ‘Waterloo Bridge’, bringing in atmospheric factors into the poem such as the ‘weather conditions’ and the purpose for being upon the bridge, ‘where we said our goodbyes’, with the poet walking away after a date. The stanza finishes on the word ‘love’, both surprising the reader – and seemingly the persona of the poem – by how quickly we are thrown into the subject matter. This sudden emergence of ‘love’ is made more impactful by the enjambment of the third line, meaning the rhythm of the stanza propels the reader onto the sudden end stop following ‘love’, elevating the word through poetic rhythm.

Cope attempts to minimize her newfound feelings, ‘try[ing] not to notice’ that she’s falling in love, rejecting the idea and instead focusing on the logic of the situation instead of her emotions. The use of ‘try’ suggests that already cracks are beginning to form in her resistance to love, with a suggestion that she is failing at repressing her feelings. It is interesting to note that in the first line, the first pronouns used to focus on the couple together, ‘we’ and ‘our’, putting the idea of the relationship before that of the self, hinting at the budding romance before it is expressly said.


Stanza Two

On Waterloo Bridge I am trying to think:
That says something different. And when was it wrong?

The second stanza houses the reason for Cope’s argument. She tries to suggest to herself that her feelings aren’t real, she’s ‘high on the charm and the drink’. Yet, through her internal monologue, the other side of her argument is also discussed. By using ‘song’, Cope draws upon archetypes of romantic poetry to strengthen the intensity of falling in love in her poem. The use of ‘juke-box’ could also be a representation of Cope’s heart, with the sing-song joy evoked by the music box a symbol of the glee she feels at falling in love. It could also be argued that the use of ‘juke-box’ instead of just ‘heart’ (as in stanza 3) is another part of the slight reluctance Cope feels to her newfound feelings, not totally accepting of herself falling in love at this point in the poem.

This stanza finishes with a rhetorical question, ‘when was it wrong?’, signifying that she herself cannot give a good reason to hold back from falling in love. This marks a slight tonal shift, her heart pulling her into acceptance moving into stanza 3.


Stanza Three

On Waterloo Bridge with the wind in my hair
I admit it before I am halfway across.

The third stanza is about the acceptance of falling in love, with the final ‘admit[ting]’ arriving within the last line. This stanza begins by pairing an image of humanity and nature, ‘the wind in my hair’, with the almost playful description of the wind reflecting the joyful glee of the persona. There is a slight resistance from the poet, ‘You’re a fool.’, yet this sentiment is quickly overpowered. The following ‘I don’t care’ can be understood as the point where she relinquishes all resistance, telling herself it’s okay to act ‘a fool’ when falling in love.

This poem comes down to dance between ‘head’ and ‘heart’, with the heart being ‘the boss’. This poem is about falling in love, even if against all reason.


About Wendy Cope

Wendy Cope was born in 1945 and has made a name for herself in the world of poetry through her tongue-in-cheek ridicule of love, men, and contemporary life. Cope has published five very successful collections of poetry, winning several awards for her work. In 2010 she was appointed as OBE due to her contribution to the arts. She currently lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband and Scottish poet, Lachlan Mackinnon, where she continues writing to this day.

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Jack is undertaking a degree in World Literature and joined the Poem Analysis team in 2019. Poetry is the intersection of his greatest passions, languages and literature, with his focus on translation bridging the gap.
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