W Wendy Cope

1st Date She and 1st Date He by Wendy Cope

First Date She and First Date He’ is a classic comparison between a male and female perspective. It shows that we are not always as unlike as is suggested. The first person narrative for both poems works really well. It is fun to see things from two different perspectives. The fact that the poem from the male perspective is longer suggests that perhaps he has more to say? Or perhaps that he is overthinking, although the content suggests they are both doing that. The poem is filled with irony in that the two characters are clearly very similar and clearly enamored by one another but are both pretending to like classical music when in reality the fact that neither of them actually does is something that they have in common.

1st Date She and 1st Date He by Wendy Cope


Form and Tone

First Date is effectively two poems that are connected. The first poem is four stanzas long. Each stanza contains four lines with the second and fourth line rhyming. This gives the poem a nice rhythm and helps to emphasize the gentle comic tone. The second poem is six stanzas long but mirrors the pattern of the first poem. This is unsurprising given that the two narrators mirror each other’s feelings to an extent.


First Date – She analysis

In this first stanza, the narrator talks about why she said she liked classical music. It’s clear from this first stanza that she is trying to impress her date, to make him think that she is cultured and classy. I’d suggest that she doesn’t like lying but only sees it as a little “white” lie. The evidence for this is she tries to justify it by saying it wasn’t “exactly” a lie.

The second stanza seems to be the woman describing how she muddled through the conversation about her views on classical music. There is a sense of dramatic irony here, once you have read both poems that becomes very clear. It would appear she knows enough to be able to muddle through as she can name a couple of famous composers. The final line of the stanza about sitting in the “half-dark” seems dismissive like she isn’t exactly enjoying the experience.

It is quite clear in the third stanza that she is into her male counterpart. When she says she was thrilled to be asked to the concert I don’t think she is being sarcastic (Although it certainly could be construed that way.) I think this line is used to emphasize that whilst she doesn’t like the music she is pleased to have the man’s company. She does claim she is listening intently though. This again points to the fact that she clearly wants to impress this guy.

Then glancing at his face once, in the fourth stanza, again, shows that she is seemingly keen on this fella. However, it would appear she’s having that feeling a person can sometimes get on a first date where they don’t think the other person is really into them. I think the line “quite undistracted by me.” Is supposed to be read in a disappointed fashion. Having said that, the previous line seems like it may be the narrator showing their disappointment too.


First Date – He analysis

Straight away you will be able to see a pattern here. The first stanza of the second poem almost completely mirrors the sentiments from the first two lines of the first poem. It, therefore, becomes clear that the man too is lying about love for classical music, and not unlike his female counterpart he tries to suggest that it was only partially a lie. He also tries to alleviate his guilt by suggesting he only implied he liked classical music.

It is clear from the tone of this second stanza that the date has started in a manner that can only be described as less-then-successful. Any first date where you turn up late is probably a bad one. This act in itself is possibly part of the reason the woman senses that the man is disinterested in her.

Again the third stanza is a stanza that mirrors part of the first poem. The man begins by saying that he hasn’t had much chance to talk with his date, but then finishes by pointing out that she doesn’t seem particularly interested in him. However, we have yet to see the man suggest that he is really interested in the woman yet. The woman was more explicit early in her poem, making it obvious she wanted to make a good impression.

In the fourth stanza, it becomes quite clear that the man does indeed desire the woman. His description of her in the first two lines of the stanza are very complimentary and create an image of, for want of a better word, a sexy lady. This is classic dramatic irony. He is clearly flustered by the fact that she is attractive and starts to worry that she is out of his league, I.e too good for him. He uses the word besotted which is quite a powerful way of describing his emotions. The irony here is he is trying to play it cool so as to not put her off, but judging by her comments she thinks he is disinterested as a result of this.

In the fifth stanza, clearly, the man has spent too much time with his thoughts (this is probably why he looks like he is “picture of rapt concentration”) and glances at his program only to realize that he hasn’t even got his glasses on. He finishes by saying that he needs to pay attention or he won’t have anything to say, once again mirroring the woman.


About Wendy Cope

Wendy Cope is a contemporary poet who was born in Kent in 1945. Her poems are mostly light-hearted and involve a lot of humor. They can be witty and sarcastic. She has a created a persona called Jason Strugnell who is a struggling poet and sometimes writes in this persona. Cope has an OBE and has won several awards for her poetry including the Cholmondeley Award which has been won by several high-profile poets such as Seamus Heaney (read Heaney’s poetry). You can read more poems by Wendy Cope.

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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.
  • how does the poet presents the personas feelings about the date ?

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      The poem isn’t big on metaphor. It presents the feelings of the two personas by sharing with the reader their unique viewpoints.

  • Thank you sooooo much, my English teacher can’t quite analyse a poem like you – she just waffles and annotation is homework so I always use what you say and she thinks my points are always great so thanks again! =)

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      Love it. What is it that Bill Gates says, something along the lines of that he would always hire someone who cheats because they will find the most efficient way to do something.

  • It’s 2019 and the poems in the Edexcel anthology are still printed the same – the ‘He’ part is still longer!
    Also, I find this poem to be a fun take on a newly forming relationship but it certainly isn’t fun for us students to potentially have to find decent points from it to use it in an essay. It’s rather empty of good and clear language and structural points, in my opinion. Also I’ve found that the contextual points don’t really have relevance to the poem’s content.

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      I guess you’re right. I read a lot of poetry so I seldom look at it from the perspective of writing essays. Thankfully those days are long gone and now I can just enjoy poetry!

  • Liz Croft says:

    Your comment on the HE version being longer is unfortunately based on an erroneous printing of this poem by Edexcel. The poem is in fact in two parts, both of which have five stanzas. It is being corrected by Edexcel for examinations in 2019. The full version is available in the collection “Family Values” published in 2011.

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      Thanks for the feedback -so the poem has the same content, it’s just technically two poems?

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      I really like it too. Not my favourite but definitely a contender.

  • Joel Hughes says:

    This poem is a disgrace to the modern day poem community. Its not only boring but it represents relationships in a negative manor and inst setting a strong influence for our younger generation yet to come. Me and my colleague Paula have both agreed this poem is a sin to the world ,its clearly not suitable for schools and children .One student of mine(who should not be named for privacy reason)started crying in a lesson and i couldn’t help but see the sorrow in his eyes.He said it reminds of a relationship full of lies. Like his parents he said
    Your Sincerely
    Joel Hughes Head of English

    • Lee-James Bovey says:

      Wow, really? Quite strong criticism indeed! At the risk of playing devil’s advocate, I rather like it. As a sort of commentary on what dating is like these days it is pretty apt. That feeling of putting on pretenses because you want the other person to think you are special is one I am all too familiar with. Although that’s just my humble opinion. Personally I like anything that examines the complexities of human emotions, especially as pertains to love.

    • Well it’s not really this poem that is the worst, it is boring but I haven’t seen anyone cry about it. But there are other poems which actually have more of an effect on a larger amounts of students which would often cry.

      • Lee-James Bovey says:

        I have honestly never seen a student cry because of a poem. I do think some poems create a strong emotional attachment, but some are just meant to be fun, some or meant to be clever, it is this that really appeals to me. Poetry is so versatile.

    • lol, you are taking this a little deep, it’s just a poem – the moral of it being honesty (something we all need to learn)

      • Lee-James Bovey says:

        I think the mark of a great poem is one that can be enjoyed on several levels. As a poet I know that sometimes you do mean things to have all the hidden levels that teachers bang on about.

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