Identity & Sara Teasdale's I Am Not Yours

What is your favorite poem by Sara Teasdale?

  • I Am Not Yours
  • A Ballad of the Two Knights
  • While I May
  • Love and Death
  • Spring in Wartime
  • It's one you didn't list.
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How Do You Identify?

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love -- put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

-Sara Teasdale-

When reading the poem I Am Not Yours by the American poet, Sara Teasdale, you are immediately made aware of a conflict/a struggle. The narrator wants something deeply, but she is afraid of having it. She is not alone in this as many of us battle with the same fear.

In the first stanza, the narrator states, “I am not yours, not lost in you, Not lost, although I long to be.” At first, we think it’s because she is in love with someone she can’t have. They are taken by someone else and the narrator will never get to experience what it’s like to be in a relationship with them. It is quite tragic.

However, in the second stanza, we learn that this person loves the narrator. It is the narrator not the other person that is keeping the narrator from experiencing what she/he wants to experience. What is keeping the narrator from giving in to her/his desires?

The final stanza is a prayer that the narrator will be able to allow themselves to fall hopelessly in love, “Oh plunge me deep in love”. They wish to no longer navigate through life doing the sensible thing/ using only their mind (“put out My senses, leave me deaf and blind,”). Instead, they want to concentrate on what their heart wants. They are ready for love, but are still waiting for the thumbs up.

When one enters a relationship, they feel as if they need to make a decision about identity. Now that they are dating so and so are they only to be thought of/ spoken of in connection to their partner or can they still be the person they were prior to commitment? Yes, ideally, no one is supposed to lose their self-identity in a relationship. However, often we are so centered on making the relationship work that we lose sight of who we once were. You spend so much time with them that invitations that once were only extended to you are now extended to “the happy couple.” Everyday nonsense now involves not one person, but two. Even if you and your partner are not joined at hip, this question of identity still comes up. By falling deeply in love with our special someone are we also falling away from everything we’ve accomplished and identified ourselves as until now?

Though I’m not an expert when it comes to history, I’m pretty sure that when Sara Teasdale wrote this poem, women were still being treated as objects (They still are to some extent I suppose.), but were also beginning to have lives of their own. By allowing herself to fall for another human being, she was compromising her freedom. Were they to wed, Sara Teasdale would no longer be known as Sara Teasdale, but as Mrs. Man I Married. How could Sara reconcile her new identity with her old one? For women of this time period, falling in love at the expense of losing all they had accomplished was too much of a sacrifice. For some women, that is still a sacrifice today.

Our hearts don’t understand such a complex concept of identity. When we fall in love, they don’t allow us to forget how the sight of that certain someone makes us feel. As hard it is, we have to be cautious when falling so that we don’t lose the unique qualities that make us who we are. If we’re with the right person, this need to retain a personal identity shouldn’t be an issue. Yet, if it is, you must make the decision to fight for yourself and find the one who values your independence as much as you do. In a sense, that is what separates true love from infatuation.


To read more poetry analysis by this writer, please click on the link below.
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