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‘My Love Is Like to Ice, and I to Fire’: A Poem by Edmund Spenser

Taken from Edmund Spenser’s 1590s sonnet sequence Amoretti, this poem opens with a paradox: how come the poet’s fiery desire for his ice-cold beloved doesn’t thaw her coldness, but actually makes her even icier and more standoffish? Similarly, how come her coldness doesn’t cool his fire?

My Love is like to ice, and I to fire:
How comes it then that this her cold so great
Is not dissolved through my so hot desire,
But harder grows the more I her entreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
Is not allayed by her heart-frozen cold,
But that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
And feel my flames augmented manifold? Read the rest of this entry

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‘To a Louse’: A Poem by Robert Burns

‘To a Louse’, a poem written in the Habbie dialect, sees Robert Burns musing upon the louse that he spots crawling on a lady’s bonnet in church – the louse does not observe class distinctions and regards all human beings equally, as potential hosts. As Burns concludes, ‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!’ Such a power or ability would save us a lot of bother and ‘foolish notions’; but we cannot see ourselves as others see us. The one thing we cannot do is take the view of that louse.

To a Louse

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place. Read the rest of this entry

‘Stars, I have seen them fall’: A Poem by A. E. Housman

‘Stars, I have seen them fall…’: this short eight-line poem by A. E. Housman (1859-1936) is untitled, so we’ve given its first line here. Although the stars seem to fall, they remain in the sky; although rain falls into the sea, the sea remains the same saltwater it has always been. Housman’s poem is about futility, and offers a less celebratory take on the stars in the night sky than the one we tend to get from much (especially Romantic) poetry.

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault; Read the rest of this entry