Love After Love by Derek Walcott, Analysis & Summary

This study guide provides a detailed analysis of the poem "Love After Love" by Derek Walcott. The guide explores the meaning and themes of each stanza, examines the poet's background, offers a critical analysis of the poem, discusses the use of symbols, language, structure, sound devices, and other literary devices. Additionally, it highlights the attitudes and feelings conveyed in the poem and suggests similar poems that share common themes.

Poem Text

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.


Stanza 1: The speaker anticipates a moment in the future when they will experience joy and self-acceptance. They imagine greeting themselves as a stranger, acknowledging their own reflection in the mirror, and finding mutual contentment.
Stanza 2: The speaker encourages self-nurturing and rediscovery. They invite the reader to sit and partake in a metaphorical feast, symbolizing a celebration of life. They emphasize the importance of self-love and reconnecting with one's true essence.
Stanza 3: The speaker advises the reader to let go of past attachments and open themselves to self-love. They suggest removing reminders of previous relationships, such as love letters and photographs, to create space for personal growth and acceptance.
Stanza 4: The speaker concludes by urging the reader to embrace their own life fully. They encourage the reader to feast upon their experiences, embracing their individuality and finding fulfillment within themselves.

Major Themes

- Self-discovery and self-acceptance: The poem explores the transformative journey of rediscovering oneself and finding contentment in embracing one's true identity.
- Self-love and self-care: The speaker emphasizes the importance of nurturing oneself and recognizing the value of self-love as a foundation for happiness.
- Letting go of past attachments: The poem suggests releasing the burdens of past relationships and allowing oneself to move forward, creating space for personal growth and acceptance.
- Embracing individuality: The speaker encourages the reader to celebrate their unique experiences and to find fulfillment by fully embracing their own life.

Derek Walcott

1. Derek Walcott was a renowned poet and playwright born on January 23, 1930, in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island.
2. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992 for his poetic works, which explore themes of Caribbean identity, colonialism, and cultural heritage.
3. Walcott's writing often reflects his mixed racial and cultural background, incorporating elements of European and African traditions.
4. He co-founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959 and served as its artistic director for many years, contributing to the development of Caribbean theater.
5. Walcott's works frequently examine the complexities of postcolonialism and the challenges faced by individuals in reconciling their cultural heritage with contemporary influences.
6. In addition to his poetry and plays, Walcott also wrote essays and was a respected professor, teaching at various institutions, including Boston University.

Critical Analysis

The poem "Love After Love" celebrates the transformative power of self-discovery and self-love. The speaker guides the reader through a journey of reconnecting with their true self and finding fulfillment in embracing their individuality. The poem's language, structure, and sound devices contribute to its overall impact.

"Love After Love" presents a profound message of self-acceptance and personal growth. The poem captures the transformative moment when one learns to love oneself and embrace their individuality. It encourages readers to let go of past attachments and invites them to celebrate their own lives. Through vivid imagery and introspective language, the poem evokes a sense of joy and liberation.


- "Your own door, in your own mirror" symbolizes the metaphorical threshold of self-discovery (stanza 1).
- "Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself" symbolizes nourishment and self-care (stanza 2).
- "Love letters from the bookshelf" represent past relationships and attachments that should be released (stanza 3).
- "Peel your own image from the mirror" symbolizes shedding the layers of false identity and embracing one's true self (stanza 4).


- The use of second-person pronouns ("you," "yourself") creates a personal and intimate tone, engaging the reader in self-reflection.
- Descriptive language, such as "greet yourself arriving," "smile at the other's welcome," and "feast on your life," paints vivid images that evoke a sense of joy and self-fulfillment.


- The poem consists of four stanzas of varying lengths, reflecting the progression of the speaker's thoughts and emotions.
- The repetition of the word "love" in the title and throughout the poem emphasizes its central theme.
- The gradual build-up of imagery and ideas culminates in the final stanza, where the imperative verb "Sit" emphasizes the importance of fully experiencing and embracing one's life.

Sound devices

- The use of alliteration in phrases like "greet yourself arriving" and "Give wine. Give bread" creates a musical quality and enhances the poem's rhythm.
- The repetition of the "L" sound in "Love After Love" and "peel your own image" adds a lyrical quality and emphasizes key ideas.

Other Literary Devices

- Metaphor: The poem employs metaphors, such as the mirror and the feast, to represent self-reflection and self-nurturing.
- Anaphora: The repetition of "Give" in stanza 2 emphasizes the act of generosity and self-care.
- Personification: The mirror is personified when the speaker suggests peeling "your own image" from it, conveying a sense of shedding false identities.


- Anticipation: The speaker looks forward to a future moment of self-acceptance and joy.
- Encouragement: The speaker urges the reader to embrace self-love and celebrate their own life.
- Reflection: The poem evokes introspection and self-examination, inviting the reader to confront their own attitudes and feelings.

Similar Poems

- "The Journey" by Mary Oliver: Both poems explore themes of self-discovery, personal growth, and the transformative power of self-love.
- "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou: These poems share themes of liberation, resilience, and the importance of embracing one's true self.
- "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley: Like "Love After Love," this poem emphasizes the strength and determination found within oneself in the face of adversity.
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