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A Certain Lady

Dorothy Parker

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A certain lady
Added by: Mijanou Dilks
this poem is lovely and has subtle imagery but what i really want to know is, at the end of the poem, is she saying she is HAVING an affair or just upset?
Added by: Dorothy
She's saying she is in terrible emotional upheaval when he is away at his philanderings.
Added by: Sean McRee
Certain Emotion Love, pain, anxiety. How can we keep these feelings hidden? How does it feel to be with someone you love, yet not be able to tell them? Fear. The fear of loosing the friendship, or the fear of being spurned. Dorothy Parker wrote about such feelings in her poem "A Certain Lady". In looking at her work I can see her love, her pain, and her anxiety. As I read her words, I am reminded of my own sorrow and heartbreak. Parker invokes memories of love lost, unrequited, so close yet so far away. The setting here is unimportant. I can envision her almost anywhere. Miss Parker could be at the Algonquin Hotel just thinking to herself, or she could be on the coast, at night, lamenting. The point here being, Miss Parker could think of this in almost any location. Therefore, the setting is not so important here. What is important here is her choice of words."Oh, I can smile for you, and tilt my head,/And drink your rushing words with eager lips". From this I concluded she knows the object of her affection rather well. It would seem to me that she talks often with this person. She loves to hear him talk. How often do you wish to "drink" in another person? This tells me that Miss Parker is very much enamored with her subject. To me it seems that she is talking to herself, but that she is near to her subject. It is as if she is watching him, lamenting to herself."When you rehearse your list of loves to me, Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.And you laugh back, nor can you seeThe thousand little deaths my heart has died."That he tells her of the women he has been with, that is very personal information. She then goes on to explain to herself that what he says kills her, but all she can do is smile and play as if nothing is wrong. Again we see fear enter the picture here. She is afraid to tell him how she feels, always wanting to be the good friend, afraid is she tells him she will miss something. The fear of losing the only intimacy they have. "And all the straining things within my heart/ You’ll never know." This is a painful friendship for her. From the words she uses it seems to me she dies a little every time they meet and talk, yet he also gives her tremendous joy. The pleasure is worth the pain. From her, Miss Parker goes on to tell us more of his "late delights". It seems as though he is a bit of a braggart. He seems very prone to telling Miss Parker everything and often, or so it would seem to her. Nine lines are devoted to this dreading of his conquers. "Oh, I can kiss you blithely as you go…/ and what goes on, my love, while you’re away,/ You’ll never know." These lines point out the fact that they are good friends. She kisses him "blithely," just a feather kiss when he leaves her. Does she want more? I think so, but she knows she cannot. As to what goes on, well, it can go either way there. Does it mean she has a lover herself, or does it refer to her dying inside? This is called ambiguity. The reader is left to decide how Miss Parker meant her parting words. I like to think she dies a little whenever he leaves, it’s just the romantic in me. Love is not always a happy emotion.
Added by: Dodo
There isn't anything ambiguous about this at all. What goes on when he's away is her dying. Pure and Simple. It doesn't get any clearer.
Added by: Lelu
I believe that in this poem, Dorothy Parker is talking about how painful it is for her to put up this facade of happiness in front of her lover--she isn't having an affair, neither is he. It's just that the pressure of having to seem continuously happy and gay and young is troubling for her, because if she were to let her mask slip for just a second, she knows that he would leave her for the next girl.
Added by: Henri
she's cheating
"A Certain Lady"
Added by: ruth
i think both extreems of interpretation -- romantic and cynical -- are right. the poor girl (parker, tha is) seems to have been intensly romantic, feeling everything desperatly, but simultaniously deeply cynical... not a fun combination.
she's doing something in this poem that she also does in alot of others -- she sets up a story about the womans' part in a romantic relationship, and sends the story off where it was/is expected to go, with the love-struck woman behaving like a doormat because even that is worth it if it gets to prolong her time in his company. she hides the things she knows would put him off -- her depression, her jealousy, her desperation -- and pretends to be the bit of fluff he wants.
but! (and this is what saves parker from being tedious) then at the end she twists, very abruptly, and slaps you in the face with her cynicism. the woman in her poem is revealed to have an existance outside of this man she's acting a part for, to have a life that goes on after he leaves.
as to what happens once he leaves.... it could be that she's as duplicitous as he, and also has other lovers. it could just be that she drops the mask once he goes and mopes around the house, chewing her nails and fretting about where he is, and with whom. maybe she's just going shopping.
point is, while he's physically present, she's a romantic, desperate and powerless. but once he leaves, the spell is broken, her cynicism re-surfaces, as she..... who knows? until next time he comes....
Added by: karen
i am amazed at how differently this poem is being interpreted. what seemed immediately obvious to me in the text was that while the narrator cares for the man in question, she is mostly just well "tutored" in being a good friend/lover--in being lovely and attentive, etc. moreover, yes, her lover is most definitely having affairs ("and when in search of novelty, you stray"), and so is she. some comments have suggested that "you'll never know" simplky refers to her heartache, but if you know anything at all about the fabulous dorothy parker, i think it's most reasonable to infer that she's having plenty of her own fun as well.
sean r. mcree
Added by: venus k. cook-mcree
i know what it's like to lose someone. i know what it is to be in love with someone whom you may have not seen for years. when you are finally together, you share everything, love, pain, happiness, sadeness, loneliness, the good with the bad. sometimes things are said we don't mean. the time to make up, to be together. i love you forever. and to mean this, these words, i love you. i do....

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