You Captured the Obsessive Lover, Richard Armitage


Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but my Preoccupation with Classic Love Poems has yet to subside. Probably my most listened to poem on the list of classic love poetry narrated by Richard Armitage was Chapter 5: “Maud” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. When I searched for the text of this poem, it became quickly apparent that the “Come into the Garden, Maud” narrated by Richard is only a small part of a much larger epic… we’re talking page after page after page of this poem. I read it. Mostly. The narrative covers everything from the death of the narrator’s father, to his relationship with Maud, which is first fraught with contempt on his part for Maud’s higher station in life, then mellows toward her, and spirals into almost a state of delirium over her, that really treads a fine line between love and obsession, passion and delusion. It goes on to detail the narrator’s hatred for Maud’s father and brother, especially the brother as he disapproves of the narrator, and winds up dead at the narrator’s hand, shortly after the garden scene. The narrator flees, never to see Maud alive again. Now the narrator does topple completely over into insanity and eventually goes to war… that part I confess I skimmed. Anyway, I found out that this poem was Tennyson’s own favorite, and one that he often recited extemporaneously, but that it was not well-received at the time, and was only later celebrated when parts of it, especially the “Come into the Garden, Maud” were turned into ballads.

I didn’t need to do all that reading to perceive the undercurrents of infatuation and instability present in the poem, however. No, Richard Armitage once again got that exactly right, and that’s what interested me about the poem enough to want to read it for myself. Clearly Tennyson was exceptionally adept at painting pictures with words, and even I, no expert on poetry, can hear how carefully crafted the verses are with respect to linguistics. No matter how lyrical the words may be, on Richard’s tongue they became all the more captivating for the dark undercurrents in his tone.

This is as it should be, when you consider what’s being told. Maud’s household is hosting an entertainment, a ball… and her admirer was not invited. He stands in the garden all night, the brooding outsider. He has questionably lucid conversations with the blossoms, which he imagines to be as bewitched by Maud as he… and every now and then, the darkness in him surfaces…

* * *

Excerpt from Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

gardengate1Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.

fadingmoon1For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

nightgarden1All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr’d
To the dancers dancing in tune:
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.

dancingI said to the lily, “There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play.”
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.

sheismineI said to the rose, “The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lordlover, what sighs are those
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine,” so I sware to the rose,
“For ever and ever, mine.”

souloftheroseAnd the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash’d in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;

violetsFrom the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewelprint of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.

acaciablossomThe slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake,
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
They sigh’d for the dawn and thee.

sunningoverQueen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
To the flowers, and be their sun.

PassionflowerThere has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;”
And the white rose weeps, “She is late;”
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;”
And the lily whispers, “I wait.”

blossominpurpleandredShe is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

* * *

This one really whet my appetite for Richard Armitage in another darkly brooding lover role. Maybe with an edge of obsession and instability.  


  1. Servetus · February 17, 2015

    This poem was suspect in its own day (published in a collection that was banned at time of publication), but it took on the harmlessness of “classic” poetry after Tennyson’s death. Interesting random Armitage synchronicity: “Come into the garden, Maud,” (which had become a song by then) was apparently one of Marie Lloyd’s trademark numbers.


    • jholland · February 17, 2015

      I always feel bad on the part of the artist when their work only becomes “classic” after their death. Not that it exactly applies to Tennyson, Poet Laureate, but that his own favorite should be poorly received and even banned, must have been tough. I did read that about Marie Lloyd, and it gave me a smile. Haven’t watched that yet.


      • Servetus · February 17, 2015

        Yeah, I don’t think he suffered for lack of accolades in his life time. The film is interesting to watch but it’s kind of an also ran … except that I love Armitage as rake!


  2. linnetmoss · February 19, 2015

    Definitely a current of obsession in the poem! I enjoyed your match of photographs and stanzas.


  3. jholland · February 19, 2015

    Yes… some dark currents in there, but managed to be romantic as well. The idea of a gorgeous, poetic and passionate lover who would stand outside all night waiting for a glimpse and a moment of your time is appealing, even if in real life such obsession would be unsettling at best and could easily become disturbing and problematic. =)


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