Dead Love

Oh never weep for love that’s dead
Since love is seldom true
But changes his fashion from blue to red,
From brightest red to blue,
And love was born to an early death
And is so seldom true.

Then harbor no smile on your bonny face
To win the deepest sigh.
The fairest words on truest lips
Pass on and surely die,
And you will stand alone, my dear,
When wintry winds draw nigh.

Sweet, never weep for what cannot be,
For this God has not given.
If the merest dream of love were true
Then, sweet, we should be in heaven,
And this is only earth, my dear,
Where true love is not given.

Footnotes

  1. This final statement that love exists only in heaven can be read as a statement that love can only be a love for God. There are no other kinds. Love for other people is fleeting and fades, but love for God in heaven is true.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The referent to “this” here is slightly ambiguous. The speaker could mean that God has not “given,” or allowed, the speaker to weep over love; she could also mean that God has not “given” true love at all. In either reading, the speaker denies her audience’s experience and feelings: God either does not want her to mourn or has not created true love at all. Therefore, the audience should not weep.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. “What cannot be” refers to true love. The speaker concludes her argument by claiming that since God has not given true love to the earth, it can not exist there. Not only is love fickle, but it is also physically impossible on earth because God has not willed it.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. While “wintry winds” can be interpreted as a metaphor for misfortune, it can also symbolize old age and death—a common, poetic metaphor. “Nigh” denotes close proximity in location or time. So, when the speaker tells her audience that they will be alone when “wintry winds draw nigh,” she means that when hardship or old age afflict the audience, love will not be there to protect them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Like the word “bonny” in the previous stanza, “my dear” suggests that the speaker is addressing a beloved youth. In using superlatives such as “deepest,” “fairest,” and “truest,” the speaker is able to convey the importance of her argument to someone who seems less experienced with love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The adjective “bonny” means that something is pleasing to the sight, a type of homely beauty. It is sometimes used as a term of endearment or method of coaxing. The use of this word suggests that the audience is a young person who is close to the speaker, such as a child, relative, or charge.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The use of the pronoun “his” in this line personifies love and suggests that the speaker is talking about Cupid, the God of Love. By personifying the feeling, the speaker makes it an external phenomenon that affects people, rather than something that comes from the actual people in love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. In this line, “red” can be read as a symbol for passionate love; “blue,” for coldness and melancholy. The speaker uses these metaphors to convey love’s fickle nature: it exists in two polar-opposite emotions.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Notice that the speaker uses the word “seldom” rather than “never.” “Seldom” means that true love is unlikely, but still leaves room for it to be plausible. This suggests that the speaker is trying to maintain her audience’s hope and innocence while communicating her experience of love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The “Oh” that begins this poem creates a sarcastic tone. The speaker presumably speaks to a loved one who is weeping over a lost love. Rather than expressing sympathy, the speaker conveys to her audience her jaded perspective on love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff