Treasure Island

Derek Walcott

(23 January 1930 / Castries / St Lucia)

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Love After Love


The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Sunday, July 31, 2011

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Read poems about / on: mirror, smile, love, heart, life, time

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Comments about this poem (Love After Love by Derek Walcott )

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  • Sandra Johnson (8/8/2014 8:05:00 AM)

    I came across a few lines of this poem, in a fictional book, by Amanda Prowse, called what have I done,
    The words immediately spoke to me, like a message, of some one who knew all the ins and outs of my life,
    A friend said to me, their is no such thing, as coincidences, I was meant to read this poem (Report) Reply

  • T W Asma (2/18/2014 7:59:00 AM)

    Learning to love ourselves is the key to happiness... Reflection on ourselves, our past and life opens our hearts, with a whisper, to accepting and appreciating who we are and who we want to be. First. We need to love ourselves before we can attempt to love others. Again. (Report) Reply

  • Liliana ~el (11/30/2013 6:47:00 AM)

    Wow deep like a reflection of yourself, your past, and life in general
    Overtime changed so much so that you have become a stranger to yourself
    Revisiting and embracing yourself is so important in understanding life and growth
    Recount all memories, photos, notes, and messages...Why
    Delve in, indulge, and ponder (Report) Reply

  • Dee Greene (11/12/2013 10:35:00 AM)

    I recently came across this graceful and beautiful poem, again, in a wonderful book, When You're Falling, Dive by Mark Matousek. It found me at a point in my life when I can fully truly appeciate the depth of its truth and beauty, and I am just inexplicably grateful! The words move my heart and my very soul. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Patrick (11/30/2012 4:42:00 PM)

    I really cant say what everyone else has said, eventually we all have to realize that other people can never complete us, or that we become segments with other bodies, our lives are ours and ours alone, if their was ever something which proved existentialism to its basic ingredients it would be this poem, a magical read (Report) Reply

  • Kay Dee (8/24/2012 8:58:00 PM)

    If you read The Mindful Way through Depression (by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn) where it is quoted, I think you'll understand better of what the poem means.
    Your true self is your home, there is only yourself who will always be there if you have a full relationship with yourself. Ultimately, others will always be fleeting or unreliable, as with anything outside ourselves. (Report) Reply

  • Alan Collins (8/10/2012 4:55:00 PM)

    Really: The title gives it away! It is about over-coming the grief of a broken love-affair, and finding the love which you thought was lost for ever; the love you ignored for another (the love you once received from another human being) . The author suggests throwing away the photographs of your ex-lover, together with the desperate notes you exchanged hoping to rekindle that broken love affair, and the old love letters you have collected. After that Love there is another Love to be found. You will love against the stranger who was yourself. This poem is not only about the ending of despair and grief, but the recovery of who you once were before you gave the love in your heart away. The love after love! The recovery of your own loving kindness and self-esteem. If there is no one else, you can begin to take care of yourself, at least! However this is a Christian evangelical poem, because wine and bread refer to the specific Christian Eucharist. I think that Derek Walcott is referring to LOVE as the Christ in you; the hope of glory and the rebirth which follows that death which we know as grief or the valley of the shadow of death, when we have lost the will to live, or faith that life is meaningful. A meaningful feast. Personally I think it does not matter what particular religion you may belong to, for ultimately all religious beliefs are about the love of God, reflected through various spiritual teachers. However this is a poem by a 'born again' Christian, isn't it? The Bible says that to find the stranger who was your self you have to become like a child, again; and I believe this is true (whether or not you belong to any religion) ! But, whether you are a monk or nun, or whatever, you will want to share that innocent love; even if just with a smile. Derek Walcott has shared it with a poem! (Report) Reply

  • Alan Collins (8/10/2012 4:54:00 PM)

    Really: The title gives it away! It is about over-coming the grief of a broken love-affair, and finding the love which you thought was lost for ever; the love you ignored for another (the love you once received from another human being) . The author suggests throwing away the photographs of your ex-lover, together with the desperate notes you exchanged hoping to rekindle that broken love affair, and the old love letters you have collected. After that Love there is another Love to be found. You will love against the stranger who was yourself. This poem is not only about the ending of despair and grief, but the recovery of who you once were before you gave the love in your heart away. The love after love! The recovery of your own loving kindness and self-esteem. If there is no one else, you can begin to take care of yourself, at least! However this is a Christian evangelical poem, because wine and bread refer to the specific Christian Eucharist. I think that Derek Walcott is referring to LOVE as the Christ in you; the hope of glory and the rebirth which follows that death which we know as grief or the valley of the shadow of death, when we have lost the will to live, or faith that life is meaningful. A meaningful feast. Personally I think it does not matter what particular religion you may belong to, for ultimately all religious beliefs are about the love of God, reflected through various spiritual teachers. However this is a poem by a 'born again' Christian, isn't it? The Bible says that to find the stranger who was your self you have to become like a child, again; and I believe this is true (whether or not you belong to any religion) ! But, whether you are a monk or nun, or whatever, you will want to share that innocent love; even if just with a smile. Derek Walcott has shared it with a poem! (Report) Reply

  • Charlotte Sharon Aninion-de Guzman (3/6/2012 12:24:00 AM)

    This poem can be tackled from a postcolonial perspective. The self in exile can be discussed as the self that was overshadowed by western perspectives or the self that was denied into existence and cast out and replaced by western ideologies and standards. The last stanza can simply refer to an awakening or simply a coming to terms with who the person truly is - an acceptance of one's roots and culture. (Report) Reply

  • Courtney English (12/13/2011 2:52:00 AM)

    This poem is so simple yet revealingly true.
    But why do I long to be reconciled with the one I love
    Yet having viewed my own beauty?
    I cannot fulfil my yearning for companionship!
    Is there a poem for this lone man that only looks at other women?
    Yearning only for the mind of her that is gone?
    How can I reach her heart with no given door to open?
    How can I place my heart in view of her wondrous eyes that lead to her emotion?
    How?
    Will I strive for love till I die?
    And the grief is tangible, unending.
    The pool of my tears is dried up.
    My queen … I love you!
    Help! (Report) Reply

  • Lyssa L'Orange (7/29/2011 8:13:00 PM)

    This might be my all-time favorite poem. Words cannot express the emotion and the hope that I felt after reading this for the first time, and many times after that. It makes me think and it makes me want to live. It makes me want to be. It's absolutely wonderful, lovely, incredible; all the while being simple and humble. Thank you, Derek Walcott. (Report) Reply

  • millie kinillie (5/9/2011 4:07:00 AM)

    this poem is about meeting 'self'. we have the self that we present to the world our persona i guess, but we also have a true self. the real self that lies beneath the masks that we put on. we are so busy doing and running that sometimes, maybe all the time, we forget that these masks that we put on for other people are not the real us at all. i feel this poem is about us rediscovering our real true selves. the true self of course is pure love and beauty and i feel the author means that when we finally meet this part of ourself that it is then that we will greet ourselves with elation. it is then that we can truly be. we can sit and feast on our lives, look with love admiration and without judgement on our lives, on ourselves. because when we finally discover who we truly are, finaly meet our true self we go past ego, we can just simply Be. This is probably the most beautiful poem Ii have ever read. (Report) Reply

  • Melissa Corpus (9/5/2010 12:49:00 AM)

    Wow, I thought it was unimaginable to put into words the insight of the soul for lost and the spirit's determination to heal; instead of die alive. To regain yourself, for life is not over. To me this poem is beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Raven Schwan-noble (1/26/2009 6:26:00 PM)

    It is a poem that speaks to your heart, as you imerge like a butterfly, from the depths of grief, after the loss of your heartmate of 30 yrs. (Report) Reply

  • Patrick Lee (8/22/2008 7:56:00 PM)

    Suppose for a moment that I am not alone in my existence, and neither are you. Suppose-consider the possibility-that we loved one another perfectly in time and space and eternity. Once upon a time. Once. And suppose that God drew near to us and showed us the possibilities of lives here in this dimension on earth. No, no wait. Don't turn away. Just imagine for a moment that this might have been. I agreed to live in a body of flesh and bone, and I left you, knowing you would follow, and that our lives would be spent looking for each other-our other half. I missed you, deep, deep in my heart and soul and spirit because you ARE me. I loved you before I even knew your name. And now I have found you. What would I say to you? Perhaps...The time will come, when, with elation...
    Maybe that's what Mr. Walcott meant.
    Read The Time Traveler's Wife. (Report) Reply

Read all 24 comments »

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