Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me,
Though the word repeated
Should seem a “cuckoo-song,” as dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, “Speak once more–thou lovest!” Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me–toll
The silver iterance!–only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.
It is tempting upon first reading to write this off merely as the insecurities of being female, especially when relating to one’s significant other. It is very tempting to do this as a female who has experienced precisely the same anxieties about feeling loved or being told enough that she is.
However, we should be careful as students of literature to not just slap a label of “oh-well-she’s-a-woman” on this. This is a poem that I think everyone can relate to, even though it was penned hundreds of years ago. And when I mean everyone, I mean everyone.
Although I have not been inside the mind of a male–I’m sure a very frightening place–I can relate from my own experience with my ex-boyfriend that men can be just as insecure about relationships as women can. In fact, I just hate reiterating the idea that this beyond just a female trait. This trait is a human trait. People across the planet are insecure about how they feel about their relationships. If we consider the idea that all gender is a social construct anyway (probably a topic for a different entry) then we should realize that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to have feelings of doubt in this regard. In fact, it is probably very healthy in a relationship to do this. If one was just secure about everything, then I think there would be a lack of willingness to keep trying. Insecurities exist for a reason.
Recently, in my relationship with the gentleman I am dating, I experienced this severe anxiety demonstrated in this poem. After awhile, I had to realize that I should pull myself up out of my pit of dispair to realize that what I was feeling was unfounded. Due to his style of caring not being verbally demonstrative, I had to adjust myself to being in a relationship that mainly demonstrated caring through his actions, not his words.
And I’m okay with this. In fact, I think it’s helping me a lot more than either of us realize.
So, perhaps my suggestion to Browning’s speaker is to keep this concept in mind. Not every syllable he or she utters has to be full of the throws of adoration. People demonstrate love and caring in different ways. Maybe his touch says he loves you? Maybe her smile says she cares? And maybe, over time, they will learn to express how they feel toward you in a verbal way. But if it is unnatural to them, who is to say you should try and change who they are to make yourself feel better?