Francis Thompson: The Poppy

My favourite of the Thompson poems posted here so far: but it makes me depressed to see how our everyday language has been impoverished since his time. I know he was a poet, with a heightened sense of language – but you really need this ability to express the nuances he could express….

Agapeta

Vladislav Nagornov - Enfant - from lusile17.centerblog.netVladislav Nagornov – Enfant – from lusile17.centerblog.net

This well-known poem appeared in Thompson’s first volume Poems in 1893. It is dedicated to Monica, the eldest of the four Meynell daughters. It was probably written in 1891 when she was 11 years old.

A man (Thompson) and a child (Monica) walk together. She picks a poppy and offers it to him, saying “Keep it, long as you live!” This is her childish way of expressing her spontaneous love. “But between the clasp of his hand and hers / Lay, felt not, twenty withered years.” Indeed, he thinks that at her age she does not really understand love and that her feelings will change with the years; he repeatedly stresses her fickleness:

But you, who love nor know at all
[…]
Who know not love from amity,
[…]
Do you know what the days will do to you?

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