From “Love’s Labour’s Lost”
The text as you can read in this article isn’t the full version of this poem. It’s part of the play “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” This poem is possibly written somewhere around 1590. It’s one of the first Shakespearean comedies. According to more recent studies, this play was written in 1594 or 1595. This would date the play in the same period as “Romeo and Juliet”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Richard II.” These plays get more attention than “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
What makes this play different from the other ones is that there are no clear sources for this play. If you take a look at the story of “Romeo and Juliet”, you will notice that this story is based on “Pyramus and Thisbe” (from “Ovid’s Metamorphoses”).
The play has similarities to the other ones of that time when it comes to the stylistics of this play. Well, the play as we know it today. It’s probably an edited version. The first print was lost forever, so we’re stuck with the one published by Cuthbert Burby of 1598. The title page of this version was clear enough because it claimed that this was a revised version. It’s believed that Shakespeare himself changed some things around 1597.
If we take a look at the text that is often referred to as “The Blossom” we must be careful. There is another poem with this title. That’s William Blake’s – rather sexual orientated – “The Blossom”, as published in “Songs of Innocence” (1789).
Again, the question…
Again, the question: is this such a terrible poem?
Well, it starts nicely. The winds ruffles through the petals of a flower. A lover imagines the flower as his lover. He finds himself becoming jealous of the wind, that touches her. He made a promise not to get physical with his lover. Sexual abstinence probably until marriage. The words “Pluck thee from thy thorn” is a reference to this ‘touching.’ The usage of these words, implicate something sexual, making it a poem such as that one of William Blake, right?
The vow he made seems to be a burden. How is escape even possible? Well, the last lines will not give you a clear answer. If the “thou” is the blossom, so his lover, why is he comparing her to Juno? Juno was Jupiter’s wife and she wasn’t considered beautiful. We should be very careful about what we say here. In these days, dark skin wasn’t considered to be beautiful. Rubbish of course! According to modern-day standards, this cannot only be considered offensive. You could also consider it racist!
Then there is the mentioning of Jove. Is he denying himself from Jove? Or is that someone else? Is there someone else? If Jove is the same person as the poet, then he pictures himself to be immortal. Perhaps this is an outcry that it will never work, the two of them, and he will be SFL (Single For Life). Or better: SFE (Single For Eternity).
Talk about an unexpected ending…
But it’s Shakespeare and all of us should love poems such as these. It’s all a matter of interpretation, I guess. Perhaps you’ve got a far better analysis than this one. Share it with The Ministry of Poetic Affairs.
ON a day–alack the day!–
Love, whose month is ever May,
Spied a blossom passing fair
Playing in the wanton air:
Through the velvet leaves the wind
All unseen ‘gan passage find;
That the lover, sick to death,
Wish’d himself the heaven’s breath.
Air, quoth he, thy cheeks may blow;
Air, would I might triumph so!
But, alack, my hand is sworn
Ne’er to pluck thee from thy thorn:
Vow, alack, for youth unmeet;
Youth so apt to pluck a sweet!
Do not call it sin in me
That I am forsworn for thee;
Thou for whom e’en Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiop were;
And deny himself for Jove,
Turning mortal for thy love.
— William Shakespeare