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A Subaltern's Love Song by Sir John Betjeman

Categories: LiteraturePoetrySong

“A Subaltern’s Love Song” is a rhapsodic poem that details the poet’s real-life infatuation. Betjeman does not use the military definition of subaltern here, but instead is referring to someone in an inferior position. The author struggles, somewhat happily, against his love interest as she continually bests him at tennis. In Literature, poems can often be very difficult for one to comprehend and interpret the author’s perspective.

Many people grew only being exposed to the basic “Roses are red, violets are blue” form of poetic expression, so anything that fails to employ simple rhythmic phrases can be somewhat aloof to some people.

Poetry is one of the most artistic forms of literature because it influences the author to express big thoughts and imaginations in somewhat of an abbreviated writing style, in contrast to essays, short stories, and many more. A Subaltern’s Love Song by John Betjeman is an example of poetry that takes the reader on a journey of music and a love story.

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It was not until I actually read through the poem once did I realize that the title “A Subaltern’s Love Song” would actually allude to the character of this poem. The context of this poem is most certainly romantic, and indicative of a love story, however the form of the poem actually has a rhythm to it. I am not exactly certain if the author purposefully paralleled the word “song” in the title with music, but it was something that stuck out to me and was one of the things that did capture my interest in this particular poetic work.

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Due to the fact that I am a one who enjoys reading love stories, my imagination was most certainly ignited by reading this poem. Another thing that particularly stuck out to me about this poem was the use of ambiguity regarding the soldier and the love interest. The author was successful in my opinion with his use of ambiguity to “raise questions and suggest outcomes. ” (Clugston, 2010) All of the aforementioned components of “A Subaltern’s Love Song” allowed me to be an active and responsive reader while I was reading this.

The archetypal approach is the best analytical approach that can be used to describe this poem. The poems does not direct it attention to only one sole approach. Because the poem is not just limited to the author’s feelings or way of thinking but it is delivered in a manner that the author has you thinking of different ways to show your love. The archetypal approach is being used in line five where it states “Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! Weakness of joy” (Clugston, 2010). It relates the weakness to as getting older in life and taking a chance on love.

This also shows his progress through life in which he learns to love and finally ask for marriage. Were in the last stanza of the poem it sums up the whole meaning of the poem. A good poem should write in such a way that it does not immediately reveal all of its secrets. But neither should the language be couched in such arcane and esoteric terms that discovering its meaning become impenetrable. Poem is not a synonym for puzzle. When the inherent message of a poem becomes impossible to understand, then it becomes a more of an ordeal than a pleasure.

The references should, in my view, be accessible to scrutiny in such a way that its treasures are unlocked upon careful and considered reading. A deliberately confusing poem serves no purpose other than to prove what a smart Alec the poet is. A Subaltern’s Love Song is a perfect example of a well-structured poem. Upon first reading this seems little more than a clever poem written about a few posh twerps with too much time on their hands. But, there is so much more going on. It’s a love story that was not directly stated and I enjoyed the reading.

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A Subaltern's Love Song by Sir John Betjeman. (2016, Dec 14). Retrieved from

A Subaltern's Love Song by Sir John Betjeman

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