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Henry David Thoreau

(12 July 1817 – 6 May 1862 / Concord, Massachusetts)

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Indeed, Indeed I Cannot Tell


Indeed indeed, I cannot tell,
Though I ponder on it well,
Which were easier to state,
All my love or all my hate.
Surely, surely, thou wilt trust me
When I say thou dost disgust me.
O, I hate thee with a hate
That would fain annihilate;
Yet sometimes against my will,
My dear friend, I love thee still.
It were treason to our love,
And a sin to God above,
One iota to abate
Of a pure impartial hate.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bronze Star - 5,740 Points Frank Avon (10/7/2014 9:01:00 PM)

    Thoreau was a better writer of prose than of poetry. However, overall, he is one my most admired writers of all time. What I like much better than his poetry is a book of excerpts from his journal, rewritten in lines and preseted as found poetry: All Nature Is My Bride. If had simply written such poetry in his lifetime, he would have beaten Whitman at his own game. Thoreau's prose is very poetic, even the impromptu writings in his journals, from which these found poems are taken. What a master writer he was. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 695 Points Alice Cordy (10/7/2014 5:41:00 PM)

    Mixed feelings of love and hate, I can relate to your feeling within this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 695 Points Alice Cordy (10/7/2014 5:39:00 PM)

    Strong mixed feels between love and hate, I can relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading. Excellent. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 606 Points John Richter (10/7/2014 12:37:00 PM)

    I'm thinking his wife must have hogged the covers on that previous eve.... Quite a distillation of feelings in whatever relationship he pondered here..... Pleasantly presented in somewhat steady meter and the humor in his heart appears very loudly to me. I suspect Henry had a grand time divining this one. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 6,576 Points Soulful Heart (10/7/2014 8:14:00 AM)

    the dilema of a human heart.....the tragedy of loving a person inspite of being hurt the most by the same individual....hatred and love two sides of the same coin....u hatred and love are usually directly proportional...all these themes in one poem..... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 823 Points Sagnik Chakraborty (10/7/2014 2:34:00 AM)

    Extreme love mixed with extreme hatred; the bipolar aspect of a stormy relation beautifully expressed through sublime verse. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 2,634 Points Terry Craddock (10/7/2014 1:20:00 AM)

    Surely, surely, thou wilt trust me
    When I say thou dost disgust me.

    No trust does not enter into this equation, hating to the point of annihilating, does not equate to sometimes against my will, / My dear friend, I love thee still. This is more than being of two minds, split personality cannot calm such volatile waters, such an on going love hate relationship of such intensity, would ultimately lead to the hate annihilating persona killing the beloved hated friend in one of the explosive hate cycles; thus killing the one loved, conflict solved in explosive emotive action. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 78 Points Queeny Gona (10/7/2013 7:37:00 AM)

    Treason to love
    A sin to God


    Inevitable to love
    Against the will of protagonists


    Superb read...... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Manohar Bhatia (10/7/2013 7:28:00 AM)

    The poet ponders that even if his love betrays him, he will still love her, rather indulge in pure impartial hate. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (10/7/2012 11:03:00 AM)

    How can his hate for one person be impartial. An impartial hate would be given equally to two or more people. You cannot be impartial towards one person. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Herman Chiu (10/7/2009 7:58:00 PM)

    All I have to say is that I have a friend whose face I sometimes wish to punch in.
    'Indeed, I cannot tell', but I can relate.
    Good poem! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 10 Points Milica Franchi De Luri (10/7/2009 4:14:00 PM)

    This poem is easy to understand. It is not philosophy, it is not split personality.It is simple honesty. There is some people in our life that we love and hate, for a reason that they can be very charming at times and very annoying at other times, you can not live with them, nor live with out them (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Pruchnicki (10/7/2009 10:04:00 AM)

    Is the poet Thoreau writing here as a poet or as the philosopher he so clearly was in such works as his renowned WALDEN? Was he using the literary device of a split persona in 'Indeed I Cannot Tell' to express his own doubts as to his various positions and stances - sometimes for /sometimes against // love vs hate? Does this poem of 14 lines indicate his struggle with doubt? How does one possess strongly held convictions without becoming a fanatic in the process? Was Thoreau like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn in his discovery that the runaway slave was a human being like himself and should not be a slave at all?

    I find the questions the speaker (the persona in the poem!) puts forth as typical of a divided personality, one who cannot find ground to stand on in the shifting winds of his own doubt. Indeed, self-loathing is often the result of such an interior struggle as anyone who has experienced such severe self-doubt can testify to. The 'loved one' that Straw posits is most likely that other self that can so irritate and annoy! How could I have been so blind? the victim cries silently in his anguish. But then again, if I was correct that first time, then what? And so on back and forth, until one cries for release! Am I 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice'? Am I my own DNA? Which has the rights when all is said and done?

    I am suggesting that both Thoreau and Twain (and other serious writers!) were always struggling with such doubts! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Joseph Poewhit (10/7/2009 6:07:00 AM)

    Words walk the tightrope of love and hate, which is such a thin line. Hate to the point of love or love to the point of hate. (Report) Reply

Read all 23 comments »

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