Last Updated on June 15, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546
The Lengths Lovers Go to for Love
The speaker of this poem goes through quite a process to get to his beloved at her home on a farm—which is implied to be a significant distance from his own home. He must first take a boat, traveling across some expanse of water (which is large enough that he calls it a “sea”). Eventually, he reaches the cove where he will leave his boat, but he still must travel across a mile of beach and then across three fields until he reaches the farm where his beloved lives. Only then does he get to tap at her windowpane and finally see her, at long last. He has gone to great trouble to see her as a result of his love. The speaker’s journey could also be read as symbolic or metaphorical, an illustration of his willingness to do whatever it takes to be with his beloved—whether it involves a literal journey or a figurative one.
Love’s Effect on the Senses
The speaker of the poem notices the colors of everything around him, noting the “grey sea,” “black land,” and “yellow half-moon.” He even attributes life and emotion to the waves which are created by his boat slicing through the water. He describes them as “startled” and says that they “leap” from their sleep. He also describes the waves as “fiery ringlets,” an unusual way to describe water. Fire is often associated with passion, so it makes sense that the lover, on his way to his beloved’s house at night, might have fire on his mind. The amount of imagery used in this poem—descriptions of sensory experience—helps us to see how vividly and significantly the speaker sees the world around him as a result of his heightened emotions. He perceives the slushiness of the sand when his boat reaches the shore, smells the sea and feels the warmth of the air as he crosses the beach, and vividly hears his own tap on the windowpane, the lighting of the match, his lover’s voice, and even the fervent beating of his and his beloved’s hearts when he arrives at the farm.
Fire and Passion
There are two instances where light and fire imagery is used in the poem. The speaker describes the water as “fiery” as he travels toward his beloved, and he also describes the fire that comes from the lighting of a match, calling it a “blue spurt.” In the first instance, fire is often symbolic of passion or lust, so the waves can be seen as a pathetic fallacy for the speaker’s intentions for meeting his love. Furthermore, the “fiery” waves are described as being “awakened.” This is significant, since this is the first stage of his journey; we get a sense of the speaker’s mounting anticipation to meet with his lover.
In the second instance, the imagery of the hot, quiet flame of the match is indicative of the nature of the lovers’ meeting; despite their deep desire for each other, they must be quiet and subdued in order to keep from being discovered. However, they burn with desire (only the hottest part of a fire is blue) despite this unnamed restriction on their love.