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Featured Poem: Awake, My Heart by Robert Seymour Bridges

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 4th February 2019

The Reader's Learning and Quality Coordinator, Lisa Spurgin, shares her thoughts on this week's Featured Poem, Awake, My Heart by Robert Seymour Bridges.

The first line of this poem strikes me immediately – it sounds almost like a command, but one which is joyous rather than stern; something which the heart in question would want to do. It brings a few questions to mind: does it mean that this person’s heart (the ‘my’ seems important here) has been closed off before now? Why has the call to ‘awake’ come at this particular moment in time? Perhaps it is to do not just with a change from night into day, but also from one season to another where sluggishness is dissipating and the physical world is experiencing a restarting:

Awake! The land is scattered with light, and see,
Uncanopied sleep is flying from field and tree;
And blossoming boughs of April in laughter shake:
Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake!

The ‘to be loved’ also seems significant, as if being loved in particular is something that the heart in question has been lacking or even shied away from, perhaps on purpose. Is there a battle going on here, between the enthusiastic head – or whatever/whoever is speaking – and the more reluctant heart? The opening command – or should it be called a plea, instead? – is repeated throughout the poem, which seems to suggest that the heart is in need of rallying. It does appear that there is a love lying in wait for the heart, and who is eager to be loved in return:

She too that loveth awaketh and hopes for thee:
Her eyes already have sped the shades that flee,
Already they watch the path thy feet shall take:

If we’re so sure that the heart will be guaranteed love, and indeed will be ‘more adored, O adored for his coming’s sake’ why does it need to keep being told to ‘awake’? Perhaps it’s a question of gaining self-confidence and assurance, which is always needed when it comes to affairs of the heart.

It’s definitely an interesting one to puzzle over!

Awake, My Heart

Awake, my heart, to be loved, awake, awake!
The darkness silvers away, the morn doth break,
It leaps in the sky: unrisen lustres slake
The o'ertaken moon. Awake, O heart, awake!

She too that loveth awaketh and hopes for thee:
Her eyes already have sped the shades that flee,
Already they watch the path thy feet shall take:
Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake!

And if thou tarry from her, - if this could be, -
She cometh herself, O heart, to be loved, to thee;
For thee would unashamed herself forsake:
Awake, to be loved, my heart, awake, awake!

Awake! The land is scattered with light, and see,
Uncanopied sleep is flying from field and tree;
And blossoming boughs of April in laughter shake:
Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake!

Lo, all things wake and tarry and look for thee:
She looketh and saith, "O sun, now bring him to me.
Come, more adored, O adored, for his coming's sake,
And awake, my heart, to be loved, awake, awake!"

by Robert Seymour Bridges

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