To continue Barbara Pym’s Centenary celebrations here’s a poem by Keats (picture from here) that gave her the title of one of her novels, The Sweet Dove Died. It’s a melancholy novel about an older woman, a younger man who she fancies & an older man who fancies her. I haven’t read it for many years. I thought it was out of print but it seems Bello have just reprinted several Pyms, including this one as ebooks & paperbacks. I’m tempted to reread it although it is such a melancholy book & I didn’t find Leonora a very sympathetic character. Of course, I was much younger when I read it. I may have more sympathy for a middle-aged woman now!
The poem always strikes me as sad & naive. The speaker is so unaware. As Sting so memorably sang, If you love someone, set them free. I wonder if he had Keats in mind when he wrote that? The book, the poem & the song are all entwined for me.
I had a dove and the sweet dove died;
And I have thought it died of grieving:
O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied,
With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving;
Sweet little red feet! why should you die –
Why should you leave me, sweet bird! why?
You liv’d alone in the forest-tree,
Why, pretty thing! would you not live with me?
I kiss’d you oft and gave you white peas;
Why not live sweetly, as in the green trees?