Monday, January 03, 2005

A Sonnet by Mathilde Blind

I am so glad I asked for poetry suggestions, because I am learning a great deal about poets I have not yet studied. Today's poem is by Mathilde Blind, a "late-Victorian poet, biographer, novelist, essayist, translator and editor" born in Germany. (Check out this page for a biography of Blind.)

The following sonnet is from Blind's Song's and Sonnets, published in 1893:


XI.
Dost thou remember ever, for my sake,
When we two rowed upon the rock-bound lake?
How the wind-fretted waters blew their spray
About our brows like blossom-falls of May
One memorable day?

Dost thou remember the glad mouth that cried--
"Were it not sweet to die now side by side,
To lie together tangled in the deep
Close as the heart-beat to the heart--so keep
The everlasting sleep?"

Dost thou remember? Ah, such death as this
Had set the seal upon my heart's young bliss!
But, wrenched asunder, severed and apart,
Life knew a deadlier death: the blighting smart
Which only kills the heart.


The speaker in this poem states that a broken heart is worse than death; that is is, in fact, "a deadlier death" than death of the body. It is a poignant statment about the crushing sensation of being rejected by one who once claimed to love you intnesely, but now does not. The speaker's lover had "set the seal" of love on her young heart, but the seal was ripped open and her heart wounded by the lover's desertion.

Because Blind was a fervent feminist and socialist who chose never to marry, I can't help searching for some irony in this poem. Was Blind, who had a great love for the standard male romantic poets, just creating her own sonnet about love and loss, in one of her last published works? It seems to me that is the case. It is not a political turning the tables on the sonnet form, but a participation in it, creating a beautiful, painful illustration of the feeling of love, abandonment, and grief.

Thoughts?

1 comment:

cj white said...

The use of older english seems to make the poem that much more poignant. The use of "Dost thou remember" to begin each stanza places the events described even futher into the past. This has the effect of lessening the sharp pain of love lost, and concentrating more on the prolonged agony of living with a dead heart.

Amy, I really enjoy the inset photos that you so carefully choose to accompany your selected poems. They work well to set the tone. I find it an interesting commentary on its own.