Now, how good is your French everyone?
Fin means the end of something. Fete, with that little thing over the e is a celebration of sorts, in my book anyway, so this means that this poem should be about the end of a celebration of some sort and because it is in the love and relationships section of the anthology, we have to assume this poem will be about the end of the relationship that existed between one person and another, the end of the celebration of love they shared. Such is the power of a title eh?
But that does not mean to say that any poem links so obviously to its title. Look for example, at An Arundel Tomb. Yes, it is about a tomb, but it is also about undying love, eternal love shown in the edifice of the two lovers still together after death.
So, what is this poem about? What is being shared here within? Well, let’s take it line by line as we usually do [I urge you to write a short response to each of the poems in the section you are studying, for revision purposes, and so you are able to compare and contrast one with another in the section].
Upon first reading, the striking word used is the first one, especially because of the comma straight after it. Pausing after the first word is almost like the poet, or the speaker, is trying to make a point about something. Is the word “sweetheart” meant with affection, or with sarcasm? Different people will read this differently; such is the joy of poetry for we all come to a poem from different world and social viewpoints. “Sweetheart,” says the speaker, as if to make a point in the next few words. Then we see the words “for such a day” as this, “one mustn’t grudge the score.”
The point the speaker is making is about the day that this was written, a day when something ended, if we stick with the title. It is a day of pain and heartache to the speaker. But he or she says we must not begrudge anything when we are grieving or in pain. In the here and now, the speaker is saying, is the best place to be so from one person to another, “it is good night at the door.” Best to end this amicably, peacefully, without malice. If however, the word “sweetheart” is meant in malice and sarcasm, then we see the alternate meaning, one where the word “goodbye” suddenly is said with venom. Have you ever said goodbye to someone like that? If so, then you will know the sentiment shared here. You will know what it is like to lose something special. You will know what it is like to feel that this is the end of a celebration of love. This is what is being shared here.
Then we get verse two and the repetition of the words “good night” but this time, there is a little more venom in the tonal quality because “good night and good dreams to you” can be taken more in the antagonistic, venomous way than it can any sweet fashion. Yes, good and happy dreams are being asked for here, but only in a sarcastic tone, from one lover who wishes the opposite to what s/he is asking for the partner. When we are hurting, we do such things don’t we? We say things with so much sarcastic intent, showing the true nature of our feelings and sharing with the world how we truly feel. Social media, especially Facebook, is rife with comments of such a nature as this each day.
Then the speaker asks the former lover if they remember certain things about their relationship; the “picture book thieves,” the “sleeping children” and how “the birds came down and covered them with leaves.” All these are pictorial images made in the mind of the reader, created by the poet to show tender times of love between one person and another in a former relationship. Times were good, so it seems, but now, they have soured. Once again, the heart has been broken. Once again, something has come to an end. In a world where people tend to end relationships at a whim, such as this should resonate well with a modern audience, who are quick to tell someone they think they love to be gone from their side.
The speaker suggests that when things were good, they “should have slept,” or more likely, that they should have ignored the things happening around them, ignored the signs that things were coming to an end, for in this time now, the speaker feels so lonely and the line that shows this the most is the one where we see the words “oh what a lonely head.” Where once there were two heads on pillows sharing a bed, now there is only one. It is very reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream here, with Oberon and Titania [Google the story] where one is suddenly alone in the forest asleep, but what is shown is that “with just the shadow of a waving bough in the moonlight over your bed” there is a sense of loneliness to something that once was peaceful slumber. In essence, this is a sad, almost depressing poem, but it is a love poem. It does show the depths of true love, how when the celebration ends, only pain can follow. In this sense, it truly shows the extent of the human condition.