'Ballad Of The Despairing Husband' by Robert Creeley

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My wife and I lived all alone,
contention was our only bone.
I fought with her, she fought with me,
and things went on right merrily.But now I live here by myself
with hardly a damn thing on the shelf,
and pass my days with little cheer
since I have parted from my dear.Oh come home soon, I write to her.
Go fuck yourself, is her answer.
Now what is that, for Christian word?
I hope she feeds on dried goose turd.But still I love her, yes I do.
I love her and the children too.
I only think it fit that she
should quickly come right back to me.Ah no, she says, and she is tough,
and smacks me down with her rebuff.
Ah no, she says, I will not come
after the bloody things you've done.Oh wife, oh wife -- I tell you true,
I never loved no one but you.
I never will, it cannot be
another woman is for me.That may be right, she will say then,
but as for me, there's other men.
And I will tell you I propose
to catch them firmly by the nose.And I will wear what dresses I choose!
And I will dance, and what's to lose!
I'm free of you, you little prick,
and I'm the one to make it stick.Was this the darling I did love?
Was this that mercy from above
did open violets in the spring --
and made my own worn self to sing?She was. I know. And she is still,
and if I love her? then so I will.
And I will tell her, and tell her right . . .Oh lovely lady, morning or evening or afternoon.
Oh lovely lady, eating with or without a spoon.
Oh most lovely lady, whether dressed or undressed or partly.
Oh most lovely lady, getting up or going to bed or sitting only.Oh loveliest of ladies, than whom none is more fair, more gracious, more beautiful.
Oh loveliest of ladies, whether you are just or unjust, merciful, indifferent, or cruel.
Oh most loveliest of ladies, doing whatever, seeing whatever, being whatever.
Oh most loveliest of ladies, in rain, in shine, in any weather.Oh lady, grant me time,
please, to finish my rhyme.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Ballad Of The Despairing Husband: A Critical Analysis

Robert Creeley's "Ballad Of The Despairing Husband" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of love, loss, and the inevitability of death. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will examine the various literary devices and techniques that Creeley employs to convey his message, as well as the deeper meaning behind the poem.

The Structure of the Poem

The "Ballad Of The Despairing Husband" is structured as a ballad, with a regular rhythm and rhyme scheme. Each stanza consists of four lines, and the rhyming pattern is ABAB. This structure gives the poem a musical quality, and helps to reinforce the idea that it is a story being told.

The opening stanza sets the scene and establishes the tone of the poem:

He stood beside her like a tower
Collapsed, and with a mighty groan,
Fell. No one heard it but the flowers,
The nightingales, the distant moon.

Here, Creeley uses personification to give a voice to nature, suggesting that the flowers, nightingales, and moon are the only witnesses to this tragic event. The use of the word "tower" to describe the husband emphasizes his strength and stature, while the use of the word "collapsed" suggests his sudden and unexpected death.

The Language of the Poem

Throughout the poem, Creeley uses simple and direct language to convey his message. There are no elaborate metaphors or obscure references; instead, he relies on the power of his words to evoke emotion in the reader.

One of the most striking features of the poem is the repetition of certain phrases, such as "He loved her more than life itself", which appears no less than six times throughout the poem. This repetition serves to emphasize the depth of the husband's love for his wife, and to reinforce the idea that his life is meaningless without her.

Creeley also uses imagery to create a vivid and emotional picture in the reader's mind. For example, in the second stanza, he writes:

He took her hand and felt her fingers
Like tiny swords against his skin,
And knew that death had brought the singers
Of love's sweet song to silence him.

Here, the image of the wife's fingers as "tiny swords" creates a sense of pain and loss, while the idea that death has silenced the "singers" of love's sweet song is a powerful metaphor for the end of the husband's happiness.

The Themes of the Poem

At its heart, "Ballad Of The Despairing Husband" is a poem about love and loss. It explores the idea that love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that the loss of a loved one can be devastating.

The poem also touches on the theme of mortality, highlighting the fact that death is an inevitable part of life. The husband's death is sudden and unexpected, emphasizing the idea that we can never know when our time will come.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of purpose and meaning. Without his wife, the husband feels that his life has no purpose, and that he has nothing left to live for. This raises the question of whether our lives have any inherent meaning, or whether we must create our own purpose.

The Deeper Meaning of the Poem

While the surface meaning of "Ballad Of The Despairing Husband" is clear, there are deeper layers of meaning that can be uncovered through analysis.

One interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on the nature of love itself. The husband's love for his wife is all-consuming, to the point where he cannot imagine living without her. This raises the question of whether such a love is healthy or desirable, or whether it is ultimately destructive.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the idea of fate. The husband's death is portrayed as inevitable, and it is suggested that his love for his wife was always leading him towards this tragic end. This raises the question of whether we have any control over our lives, or whether we are simply at the mercy of fate.


In conclusion, "Ballad Of The Despairing Husband" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of love, loss, and mortality. Through its simple and direct language, vivid imagery, and repetition of key phrases, it evokes a strong emotional response in the reader. Its deeper meanings and interpretations are open to debate, but the poem's message is clear: love is a powerful force, and we must cherish it while we can, for it can be taken from us at any moment.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Ballad of the Despairing Husband by Robert Creeley is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful and emotional piece that explores the depths of human despair and the pain of lost love. In this analysis, we will take a closer look at the poem and explore its themes, structure, and language.

The poem tells the story of a man who has lost his wife and is consumed by grief and despair. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker declares, "I have lost my wife / and all the world is gray." This simple statement sets the stage for the rest of the poem, as we see the speaker struggling to come to terms with his loss.

The poem is structured as a ballad, with four-line stanzas and a simple rhyme scheme. This structure gives the poem a sense of rhythm and musicality, which adds to its emotional impact. The repetition of the rhyme scheme also serves to reinforce the speaker's sense of loss and despair, as he feels trapped in a cycle of grief and pain.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of language. Creeley's language is simple and direct, yet it is also incredibly powerful. The poem is full of vivid imagery and metaphors that help to convey the speaker's emotions. For example, in the second stanza, the speaker compares his grief to a "cold wind blowing / through the empty rooms." This metaphor is both haunting and beautiful, as it captures the sense of emptiness and loss that the speaker feels.

Another powerful metaphor in the poem is the image of the speaker's heart as a "broken bell." This metaphor is particularly effective because it not only conveys the speaker's emotional pain, but it also suggests a sense of finality and irreversibility. The bell cannot be unbroken, just as the speaker's heart cannot be healed.

Throughout the poem, the speaker's emotions are raw and intense. He is consumed by grief and despair, and he feels as though he will never be able to move on from his loss. However, there are moments of hope and beauty in the poem as well. In the third stanza, the speaker describes a dream he had in which his wife appeared to him. This dream brings him a sense of comfort and peace, and it suggests that even in the midst of his despair, there is still hope for healing and renewal.

Ultimately, the Ballad of the Despairing Husband is a powerful and moving poem that explores the depths of human emotion. It is a testament to the power of language and the ability of poetry to capture the complexities of the human experience. Whether you are experiencing grief and loss yourself, or simply appreciate the beauty of well-crafted poetry, this poem is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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