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Featured Poem: To Her Lovers Complaint by Jane Barker

Written by Rachael Norris, 13th January 2020

This week's Featured Poem is To Her Lovers Complaint by Jane Barker, chosen by The Reader's Head of Learning and Quality Clare Ellis.

First thoughts? Well, it woke me up! Is there something about what it feels like to be fully alive here in this poem? And if so, I wonder if this is quite a rare feeling in reality? I felt there was an urgency, even perhaps over-dominance, in the person's voice - perhaps the voice of someone who hasn't got time to waste in digressions, who knows life is short, and that we need to be awake to what is real, good and true in it?

'For strongest Spirits scorch us not
Their flames we can endure.'

I am next interested in the linking of love and zeal. What is zeal? An enthusiasm that can be too big for the day to day but that we all nevertheless need in some way at some point in our lives? It feels like we are being presented with the idea of a particular type of energy here, or perhaps approach to life - which is ardent, and which is prepared to make an appearance even in the coldest and bleakest of times? 'Love, like Zeal, should be divine/ And ardent as the same/ Like Stars, which in cold Weather shine/ Or like a Lambent Flame.' I've not heard the word 'lambent' before. I wonder what it means?

'It should be like the Morning Rays
which quickens, but not burns.'

Ah, I recognise this feeling from my morning allotment visits - the kind of warm light that brings me to mind as a whole sentient being in the present but which doesn't overwhelm or demand. Is there something about the kind of balancing act we need to bring to our emotions then, or what might be needed if we are to make the decision to open ourselves up to receive those of another?

I'm surprised by 'the innocence of Childrens plays' coming into all this and not sure at all how they might link to the 'lamps in Ancient urns.' Can anyone offer any help here? Innocence and ancient initially strike me as opposites but perhaps that is not the case? This is definitely one I will need to re-read.

To Her Lovers Complaint

A Song

If you complain your Flames are hot,
‘Tis cause they are impure
For strongest Spirits scorch us not,
Their Flames we can endure.

Love, like Zeal, should be divine
And ardent as the same;
Like Stars, which in cold Weather shine,
Or like a Lambent Flame.

It shou’d be like the Morning Rays
Which quickens, but not burns;
Or th’ innocence of Childrens plays,
Or Lamps in Antient urns.

Jane Barker

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