‘Syntax’ by Carol Ann Duffy

[  # 81 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]


Carol Ann Duffy (1955- )

‘It is not always easy to speak of love.  The words we use to do so are often tortured and can be made incomprehensible by passion and heedlessness.  So, how then do we speak of love?  How does the poet speak of love?  Is the language of love pre-ordained?  Should it run to a formula?  The formula, perhaps, of formal English speech – syntax in other words?  The expression of love surely by-passes such strict rules, and resides in the lips, the eyes, the heart.

In short, simple precisely to-the-point words, Carol Anne Duffy, Britain’s current Poet Laureate, in this poem, unlike any other love poem I have ever read, conveys the thoughts, desires, hesitations which beset us in the search for a meaningful form of capturing such feelings.’


I want to call you thou, the sound

of the shape of the start
of a kiss  –   like this, thou  –
and to say, after, I love,
thou, I love, thou I love, not
I love you.

Because I so do  –
as we say now  –   I want to say
thee, I adore, I adore thee,
and to know in my lips
the syntax of love resides,
and to gaze In thine eyes.

Love’s language starts, stops, starts;
the right words flowing or clotting in the heart.

Re-printed from ‘The Times’,  Saturday September 3rd, 2005
First published in ‘Rapture’, Duffy’s volume of love poems, first published in 2005. 


Here is a spoken version of the poem “Syntax” by Carol Ann Duffy (read by Tom O’Bedlam) . . .



8 thoughts on “‘Syntax’ by Carol Ann Duffy

  1. Wonderful gift this morning as I sit in the garden surrounded by nature’s love. Wordless but so eloquent.
    Syntax by Ann Duffy is just wonderful. In so few “ancient” words she gives stillness and weight to these important words. Being our Laureate she has also the freedom to use these words that would mark you down as being old and not used.

    The poem will now be copied as one of my favourites too?

    I also love the pre-words : “The expression of love surely by-passes such strict rules, and resides in the lips, the eyes, the heart.”


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roland, thank you for sharing this great poem and as Nigel said, the addition of the audio brings added depth.


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