17 pages 34 minutes read

Derek Walcott

A Careful Passion

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2014

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Incompleteness of Love

“A Careful Passion” examines a failing romantic relationship from the perspective of a detached, unhappy lover. The poem conveys a one-sided conversation between a married woman and her lover, as she ends their relationship. Rather than reacting in an emotional manner, the speaker maintains aloofness, never speaking anything aloud in response to her statements, and focuses on the landscape around him. His intentions are often unclear: Is he simply unsatisfied in their relationship, and thus authentically detached and unbothered by the breakup? Or is he acting in a self-preserving way, shutting himself off from her to protect his own heart? He accedes, “Hearts learn to die well that have died before” (Line 23), suggesting that he has experience with heartbreak and understands that life will go on. However, he is also haunted by the “self-seeking heart / So desperate for some mirror to believe” (Lines 37-38), suggesting that he craves romantic love and companionship, and that the failure of this relationship has also been a disappointment in its incompleteness.

Failure to Communicate

Throughout “A Careful Passion,” both the speaker and his lover fail to communicate effectively with each other. Walcott’s use of ambiguous dialogue, not assigned to either party, heightens this sense and draws attention to the fact that when the lover speaks, the other party does not reply.