Guest poem submitted by Gerry Rowe:
(Poem #820) Love bade me welcome
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning If I lack'd anything. "A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here"; Love said, "You shall be he." "I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear, I cannot look on thee." Love took my hand and smiling did reply, "Who made the eyes but I?" "Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame Go where it doth deserve." "And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?" "My dear, then I will serve." "You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat." So I did sit and eat.
This poem may have a strong appeal even to those who, like me, are not practitioners of religion but who are not entirely averse thereto, and sometimes wish that they could find some of what is so attractively described in its verses. In the first verse Love is presented as a person of unknown gender, appearance or occupation to be imagined as you will. This is not the love laid down as an obligation in the Christian Ten Commandments (love thy neighbour); still less is it the passionate love that may entail so much struggle and potential hardship. It is a soothing love of welcome, an observant, encouraging, solicitous, hospitable love that provides exactly what the narrator needs (acceptance, anticipation and painless removal of feelings of unworthiness) and demands nothing more than that the narrator sit down and partake of a meal of love itself! What love could better that? In the course of the second and third verses it becomes clear that this Love is in fact the christian god, a vision of a version of Christ. In this poem Love leads the narrator to self-acceptance. "My dear, then I will serve." 'Serve' is used interestingly here: more, in my opinion, in the sense of 'to be sufficient, good enough' than in the more obvious one. The metrical scheme (iambic pentameters alternating with lines of three feet of two syllables) allows for enjambement (but without creating long phrases) and also for short, stand-alone questions and statements. Excellent for the variations required by dialogue. I know of two choral settings of this poem from the twentieth century: by Vaughan Williams in his Five Mystical Songs and by John Tavener in a standalone version. The latter is exceptionally good and contributes a good deal to my appreciation of this beautiful poem. Gerry Rowe. [Minstrels Links] Poem #391, The Pulley -- George Herbert Poem #567, Easter Wings -- George Herbert Poem #546, The Sick Rose -- William Blake Poem #771, The Divine Image -- William Blake Poem #26, Jerusalem -- William Blake Poem #66, The Tyger -- William Blake Poem #97, The Fly -- William Blake Poem #368, Auguries of Innocence -- William Blake Poem #330, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning -- John Donne Poem #384, Song -- John Donne Poem #403, A Lame Beggar -- John Donne Poem #465, The Sun Rising -- John Donne Poem #796, Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnets: X) -- John Donne