Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
7:58 AM 20th January 2024

Poem Of The Week: She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep By Robert Graves (1895-1985)

She tells her love while half asleep

She tells her love while half asleep
In the dark hours,
With half-words whispered low:
As earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.

Image by Sunflair from Pixabay
Image by Sunflair from Pixabay
As snowdrops and crocuses force their tentative flame through the resistless ‘green fuse’ of biological purpose, and we marvel at their indefatigable resilience, we can look with renewed interest on Robert Graves’ short but perfectly-formed paean to the inexorability of nature.

A rhyming septet whose rhythms negotiate a gentle passage across the two terrains of the human and the intensely personal, and the boundless seasonal energy of nature, Graves’ poem is artfully and affectingly constructed.

The figure who ‘tells’ her love in the half-light of shadowy consciousness is one half of a poetic diptych as surely as Mariana’s existence in Tennyson is overshadowed by the poplar which casts shadows on her bed. The lover’s words insinuate a way through the slumberous underworld in despite, yielding a material connection as palpably as a kiss. The colour of the flowers, the dynamic chlorophylls, give vitality to a monochrome terrain, make a metaphor of renewal, of love and hope uttered in whispers.

‘She tells her love while half asleep’ is taken from The New Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1950 published by the Oxford University Press (1972).