Love Is Somewhere Or Other
Sometimes a poem finds you. Such was the case when I read Julian Peter’s Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry and discovered Christina Rossetti’s “Somewhere or Other.”
Somewhere or Other
Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
Made answer to my word.
Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night.
Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year
Fallen on a turf grown green.
I’ve read Rossetti before — her poem Up-Hill is in The Joy of Poetry. This poem probably would not have grabbed me if I’d found it online, in black and white. I needed it in full color.
Christina Rossetti lived in England, in the 19th century, during the Victorian era. Her poems are simple and lyrical and have always had a place among poetry-lovers. If you think you’ve never heard of her, you probably know one of her poems that has become a Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter.
“Somewhere or Other” is a poem about waiting for someone. But the emphasis is not on the person waited for but on where they are — “somewhere or other.” The interpretation Peters brings to the poem through his art is a focus on the person waiting.
In his illustrations it is a man who waits. He looks up stairs, he looks down stairs, he looks at empty sky and out to sea as one boat pulls away. He looks from outer space at a planet and its moon and a star “that tracks her night by night.” He looks from a park bench, even when his eyes are closed.
And suddenly, at the final line, he opens his eyes and looks over his shoulder.
What does he see? Is it his beloved, returned “with just the last leaves of the dying year”? I like to think so.
But although the poem is done, Peters isn’t. He gives us two more panels, one of autumn leaves adorning green grass, followed by one of a cloud-filled sky. We’ve been pulled away from this reunion — too intimate for spectators. We, the readers, look down at beauty, look up at beauty, look away from this beautiful love of people too-long separated.
Wherever we wait, whether we are waiting far or waiting near, waiting with a sigh of “ah me!” or waiting beside a hedge, there is beauty. The beauty keeps the hope alive. The conviction that “there must surely be” is draped in the surety of sky and sea. Beauty is all over Rossetti’s poem. But I needed an artist to help me see it.
By Heart for October
For the next By Heart gathering, October 29, we’ll learn “Sea Poppies” by H.D. By Heart.
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,
spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:
your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?
Photo by Gabriel Caparó, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Megan Willome.
Browse more By Heart
I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro
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