On one of Keats’s less famous poems about unrequited love
‘O love me truly!’ as a poetic refrain is likely to inspire disgust at the poet’s desperation rather than sympathy, but then desperation can be dangerously close to despair, and John Keats (1795-1821) knew better than most what it felt like to experience the pain of hopeless love. In his short and little-known poem ‘You Say You Love’, Keats addresses a woman who doesn’t return his love.
You say you love; but with a voice
Chaster than a nun’s, who singeth
The soft Vespers to herself
While the chime-bell ringeth –
O love me truly!
You say you love; but with a smile
Cold as sunrise in September, Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle investigates the Victorian world of a neglected ‘psychic detective’
The popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, published in The Strand magazine from 1891 until the 1920s, led to many imitators. As well as such creations as Ernest Bramah’s Max Carrados, the blind detective, and the psychological detective, Dr John Dollar (created by Doyle’s own brother-in-law, Raffles creator E. W. Hornung), a mini sub-genre of fictional detective also emerged: the psychic detective or paranormal investigator. Flaxman Low was not the most successful of these, but he is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable.
Although numerous scholars of the ghost story and psychic detective tale have traced the fictional paranormal investigator back to Dr Martin Hesselius, the creation of the Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu (whose 1869 story ‘Green Tea’ remains popular), it was not until the turn of the century, and in the first few years of the twentieth century, that the fictional psychic detective really took off. This was partly, as I explore in my academic study Bewilderments of Vision, a result of Read the rest of this entry
The finest poems about grief
Grief is a part of life, and we will all know what it is to mourn at some point in our lives. Here are ten of the finest poems about the experience of grieving and mourning, taken from over 600 years of poetry…
Anonymous, ‘Why have ye no routhe on my child?’ This poem is a lament for a lost child: ‘rode’ is the ‘rood’ or Cross, and ‘routhe’ is ‘ruth’ or compassion – which is why someone who lacks compassion is described as ‘ruthless’. Click on the link above to read the poem, which is the sixth on our list of the best medieval poems. It’s the oldest poem on this list, dating back at least six centuries to the late fourteenth century, though it may be even older.
John Donne, ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. As this poem’s title suggests, it’s a poem of farewell, written by Donne for his wife Anne in 1611-12 before he left England to go on a mission to Europe. Utilising metaphors of compass points and alchemical processes to describe the relationship between the husband and wife, ‘A Valediction’ is one of the finest examples of Metaphysical poetry. Read the rest of this entry