Sometimes a mention of an unfamiliar poet can uncover a tragic history. Thomas Lovell Beddoes (picture from here) was unknown to me before I came across this pretty poem in my anthology. Looking for some more information on his life led me to the Thomas Lovell Beddoes Society website where I discovered a little more about his unfulfilled life & tragic end. He was a nephew of the Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth & seems to have spent much of his short life wandering through Europe. He studied medicine & also wrote poetry & plays. His themes are love, death & the macabre. His death was shocking. He fell ill, supposedly from an infection caught from a cadaver he was dissecting. He tried to commit suicide as his health declined by severing an artery in his leg. The wound developed gangrene & the leg was amputated. Eventually he poisoned himself & died in 1849 at the age of 45.
His poetry was praised by many, including Lytton Strachey who called him “the last Elizabethan” as he was part of a movement to bring back Elizabethan drama. This poem, with its gentle tone & imagery from nature, seems far removed from the more macabre aspects of Beddoes’s life & work.
How many times do I love thee, dear?
Tell me how many thoughts there be
In the atmosphere
Of a new-fallen year,
Whose white and sable hours appear
The latest flake of Eternity:
So many times do I love thee, dear.
How many times do I love again?
Tell me how many beads there are
In a silver chain
Of evening rain,
Unravelled from the tumbling main,
And threading the eye of a yellow star:
So many times do I love again.