blank


This poem was first published in 1909, in Songs in Wiltshire, but also appeared in full in Cor Cordium in 1913. Then it was published for a third time in Selected Poems (1925), but shortened by one verse.

Because Cor Cordium was essentially a book of love poems, Alfred decided it was more appropriate for A Kiss to be included in that, even though it had already been published in Songs in Wiltshire, four years earlier. If this suggested a pride in the poem at the time - and he did the same with Leave Me Not Ever - this was confirmed by its subsequent inclusion in Selected Poems. This anthology was the poet's own choice of his best work, of which he said: "Swindon hasn't grasped the fact yet, which is that AW is not in the making, but that his work is for the most part accomplished."

In Selected Poems it appeared in a section he called Love Lyrics.

All entries in Selected Poems were liable to be cut - either because Alfred took the opportunity to edit, or simply because cropping poems made room for more of the others to be included. We can be quite sure that Alfred did not cut the second verse through choice, but rather as an expedient - because he had not taken the opportunity to edit it on its second appearance, in Cor Cordium.

The cutting of the second verse is coldly practical, and obvious enough if we take a look at page 60 of Selected Poems, where A Kiss appears. In its shorter 32-line version, the poem perfectly fills the page, so one verse had to go - and the only debate can be about why Alfred decided that of all the verses, the second should be the one to go.



Longer version (1909):

I AM happy tonight,
   The reason is this,
She stooped from her height
   And yielded a kiss;
Above her the skies
   Their mysteries spread,
And full were her eyes,
   And drooping her head.

And whispered the wind,
   And rustled the breeze,
And, trailing behind,
   Passed over the seas;
I knew by my dreams
   And musings above
They sang to the streams,
   And told of my love.

O pleasure deep-drawn,
   Beginning of bliss,
The joy of a dawn,
   The sweet of a kiss,
The thrill of delight,
   The throb of the brain,
And vision too bright
   To grasp it again!

The gloss of her hair,
   The glow of her cheek,
What flower could share!
   What poem could speak!
Soft lustre of eye,
   Still heaving of breast,
A beam from the sky!
   A breath from the West!

I am happy to night,
   The reason is this,
She stooped from her height
   And yielded a kiss,
That rich treasure-trove,
   Nor glories of ships
Shall ever remove,
   Or snatch from my lips.

Shorter version (1925):

I AM happy tonight,
   The reason is this,
She stooped from her height
   And yielded a kiss;
Above her the skies
   Their mysteries spread,
And full were her eyes,
   And drooping her head.

O pleasure deep-drawn,
   Beginning of bliss,
The joy of a dawn,
   The sweet of a kiss,
The thrill of delight,
   The throb of the brain,
And vision too bright
   To grasp it again!

The gloss of her hair,
   The glow of her cheek,
What flower could share!
   What poem could speak!
Soft lustre of eye,
   Still heaving of breast,
A beam from the sky!
   A breath from the West!

I am happy to night,
   The reason is this,
She stooped from her height
   And yielded a kiss,
That rich treasure-trove,
   Nor glories of ships
Shall ever remove,
   Or snatch from my lips.



A modern reader may find it difficult to tune to the feeling of this romantic poem. A kiss might be cheap in our day, but not so far back, a man of Alfred's intense sensitivity would not take it for granted.

The piece is not only romantic (ie, infused with romance) but Romantic; the wind and breezes tell the streams of the poet's love. There is a unison between the sentiment of the poet and Nature, as if the forces of Nature, personified as sentient beings, responded in empathy.

Moreover, the poet is the Romantic visionary and idealistic hero. He perceives a transcendent reality through dreams and musings, and he discards the worth of material riches as compared to the value of the love expressed in a kiss.

The theme is simple, the images sound overfamiliar, yet there are strands that cue a greater complexity of meaning: the mysterious skies as Alfred senses the wonder of love and existence, the conflicting - and overwelming - emotions expressed by the woman's gestures; that thought-provoking she stooped from her height and yielded, maybe hinting at social disparity, or the poet's impression of undeservedness on his part, or a sudden change of attitude in a previously formal and distant relationship.

The lines are reeled at steady iamb+anapest beat (dah dum dah dah dum), with the pattern switching to spondee+iamb (dum dum dah dah dum) for extra emphasis at the climatic peak of the poem:

What flower could share!
What poem could speak!
Soft lustre of eye,
Still heaving of breast.

The only other exceptions are lines 1 and 33, which can be read either with a strong beat on I to begin with or a more temperate anapestic (dah dah dum) first foot.

In spite of its apparent simplicity, sentimentality and sing-song dittiness, the poem manages to convey the sincerity of Alfred's emotions and is another token of the neatness of his craft.

Introducing Cristina Newton



Poems index

Alphabetical list of poems online