Never seek to tell thy love

Here is a poem from William Blake, that outstanding, eccentric pre-Romantic poet and artist, who inspired so many artists, writers and thinkers for a century or more. This poem tackles the conundrum we have all lived through, when we are getting into a serious relationship – should we, or should we not declare our love? Blake comes down clearly on one side of the dilemma in this poem…

Never Seek to Tell thy Love

Never seek to tell thy love
Love that never told can be
For the gentle wind does move
Silently invisibly.

I told my love I told my love
I told her all my heart
Trembling cold in ghastly fears
Ah she doth depart!

Soon as she was gone from me
A traveller came by
Silently invisibly
O was no deny

From <;

And right away, in the first couple of lines, the answer is revealed – do not declare your love openly, for love is mysterious and works only if like the wind it remains silent and invisible. In the second stanza, the poet describes the experience of declaring his love, only for the girl to take fright and run away. The third stanza is more mysterious, describing a traveller, and using the same words as used for the wind in the fourth line of the poem.

Perhaps the traveller is love itself, looking for a new outlet, but this time a love to be left unsaid, and as so it cannot be denied.

The sentiments in the poem ring true if the two lovers are not at the same stage of their recognition of love. A besotted lover blurting out deep feelings can cause the loved one to take fright if he or she is not ready. So, as Blake implies, the trick is to use all the other non-verbal cues in the relationship to judge when the moment is right to make a declaration. In the end, as most romantic novels would agree, I think, you have to say “I love you”.

But Blake’s advice is good, and the poem brings this out.

The Poetry Dude


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