I am revisiting this analysis as I have just been reading through the AQA English Anthology and this Carol Ann Duffy poem is included in the ‘relationships’ section. The poem encourages students to re-evaluate their relationship with time, especially where intimacy is concerned.
The intensity of the poem stems from the secrecy of the relationship and the language is lyrical in its representation of the transient proximity of the lovers. Proximity is preciously enjoyed as it is hijacked away from the routines and commitments of the day. The language is an ostensible reflection of the inspired gift of their ecstatic ‘hour’ with each other.
I am not sure how far the bathetic use of the ‘ditch’ convinces me of the physical reality of the surroundings. It seems jarring to me and even though I acknowledge the long tradition of pastoral settings for love’s expression, I am not seduced by alfresco seduction like ‘cuckoo spit’ when it seems so much a contrivance of the poem.
The breathlessness of the repetition of ‘gold’ also breathes awkwardness rather than ecstasy into the poem for me. The hyperbolic flattery of the beloved seems destined for disappointment; I know flattery is part of courtship and attentiveness, but this seems rather overcooked , as if the ending has to be already in sight? In other words the poet wants to suggest that they are already aware of the faults of the beloved and is building the beloved up with all this pastoral excess, in order to give apt expression to the ‘tragic’ fal of their orginally Edenic relationship.
And how far we sympathise with the fall when there has hardly been a limb or scent of sweat glimpsed throughout the course of the collection? The poem fails to convince because it is so self consciously flattering, that it seems cloying rather than deeply felt.
Give me Warming her Pearls ANYDAY!
Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour,
bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich.
We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers
or wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.
For thousands of seconds we kiss; your hair
like treasure on the ground; the Midas light
turning your limbs to gold. Time slows, for here
we are millonaires, backhanding the night
so nothing dark will end our shining hour,
no jewel hold a candle to the cuckoo spit
hung from the blade of grass at your ear,
no chandelier or spotlight see you better lit
than here. Now. Time hates love, wants love poor,
but love spins gold, gold, gold from straw.
Carol Ann Duffy’s Hour, embraces the scope and vista of love. Duffy captures the elation and eroticism of love’s horizon; ‘but the whole of the summer sky’ captures the grandeur of reciprocation yet also the fragility of such moments against the relentlessness of time.
The bathos of ‘a grass ditch’ has a practicality and honesty too…and juxtaposed to the sensual delight and extended perfection of the kiss for ‘thousands of seconds’ and yet how brilliantly and ironically Duffy ensnares us with the ‘Midas light.’..frozen time, frozen delight..aridity in the midst of ecstasy..how retrospective is this poem or is it a case of Eliot’s in the end is my beginning one wonders?
Duffy loves hair I have realised and the golden hair of the beloved lover haunts this collection..it stands for everything the poet adores about the elusive pimpernel figure of the beloved…the poet testifying to the dazzling,sauntering singularity of the being who has put her under a spell with her (my assumption of course) ‘jackpot laugh’ and yet who rarely if ever seems to speak or even to show any flesh at all in this collection…and this like Winterson’s experiment in Written on the Body dilutes the rapture of ‘Rapture.’
I am also aware that Duffy spends much of her time ‘outside’ with the beloved either literally or more often metaphorically and whilst accepting Duffy’s desire perhaps to trace her lover’s contours within a pastoral setting..it does serve to disembody the romance…I wanted more flesh and grit.. ..and hot sweaty love…. competent hands …warming her pearls this is not…I was very glad when they rowed as it brought a reality and flesh to the poems…
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