Love Camden's Famous Love Poetry
Love Camden has been looking at poems about love by former Camden residents and have picked seven favourites.
Sylvia Plath - Mad Girl's Love Song (1951)
American Sylvia Plath arrived in London in September 1955 and immediately fell in love with the city. She married Ted Hughes and settled at 3 Chalcot Square, Primrose Hill in 1960. She wrote about it ‘When I came to my beloved Primrose Hill, with the golden leaves, I was full of such joy.’ The poem here is an early work written by Plath while she was still a college student in the US. Plath had a strong sexual appetite that she felt bound to deny and hide in the restrictive dating culture of 1950s America. This poem in the villanelle form with its repetitious structure captures the obsessive nature of the protagonist.
Christina Rossetti - I Wish I Could Remember that First Day
Rossetti was born in 1830 in Charlotte Street to Italian parents. This poem is in sonnet form, often used for love poems. The poet looks back to the first moment of a blossoming love but is unable to remember the details and minutiae of the lovers’ first meeting. Rossetti had three suitors during her life but remained unmarried. Perhaps here we have an expression of her longing for the powerful emotions of youth.
Dylan Thomas - In My Craft or Sullen Art (1964)
In 1951, Welshman Dylan Thomas settled in 54 Delancey Street, Camden Town with his wife Caitlin Macnamara. He wrote of, “our new London house of horror on bus and night lorry route and opposite railway bridge and shunting station.” In this poem Thomas gives us his motivation for writing, and his audience, he writes for ordinary people and for lovers.
Thomas Hardy - The Voice (1912)
Thomas Hardy was a Victorian English novelist and poet (although he started life as an architect). His poetry was influenced by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. In this poem the poet mourns for his dead love. Hardy’s wife Emma died in 1912 and her death had a profound effect on him. They had already become estranged and here he looks back to the love that they had when first courting.
John Keats - Bright Star
The romantic poet Keats lived in Hampstead and you can still visit his house today! Bright Star (also a film about Keats’ life) is a sonnet written around 1819 when he became infatuated with Fanny Brawne. The poet casts himself as a constant star, perhaps the Pole star around which the heavens seem to turn, observing his love.
Paul Verlaine - In Muted Tone
Born in Northern France, Verlaine abandoned his wife and child and fled to Camden with his 17 year-old lover Arthur Rimbaud. They conducted their stormy relationship at 8 Royal College Street until Verlaine slapped Rimbaud with a wet fish during an argument. With some of the same elements as Hardy’s poem, here we see a love, a union, perfected in sleep or death.
Edna St Vincent Millay - I, being born a woman and distressed (1924)
And as an added bonus, here is a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. She’s not a Camden, London resident BUT is from our parallel Camden, Maine in the USA! One of the great sonnets of the 20th century this is a classic, a feminist poem written as early as 1924 where she considers the difficulties of lust without love. She closes the poem by asserting she has no intent to ever speak to her lover again:
… let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.
Written by Anna Lowe