Down, Wanton, Down! by Robert von Ranke Graves: Summary and Critical Analysis

The poem Down, Wanton, Down! composed by Robert Graves shows a serious point about the blindness of lust. He also draws the difference between love and beauty and the Wanton’s feeling towards beauty and love.

Robert Graves (1895-1985)

In the first stanza of this poem the speaker abuses the wanton because he takes an interest in love and beauty shamelessly. He is impatient because whenever the name of love or beauty is taken he raises his angry head and looks constantly. He does not like these concepts of love and beauty which are inspiring, aesthetic and creative. The second stanza mentions the destructive and violent effects of the wanton. Wanton is like the poor bombard captain in charge of his desire, the captain who is sworn to reach the fortification to disturb and destroy the things.

Likewise the wanton is carried away and overpowered by his carnal lust (sexual energy) and impetuous emotions. The third stanza talks of the negative aspects of love and beauty. Love may be blind but it can make a distinction between what is man (spiritual possibility) and what is “beast” (physical and wild) in us. Similarly, a beauty may be unstable and sometimes can be a source of pride, but she expects that the leader should have better character than hers. In the fourth stanza the poet addresses the wanton “witless “(fool) ironically implying that it lacks intelligence and firmness in attitude. In the last stanza the speaker again wonders if the beauty will come to accept his practical approach and if love will remain faithful to his best quality. Therefore he asks the wanton to go away and get lost.

The speaker in this poem is addressing the sexually immoral person as “my witless” in this poem. The person lacks a sense because he does not know the difference between human love and animal lust. He shamelessly takes interest in love and beauty. He is involved in a sexual act, but is indifferent afterwards. He is not a talented person. He wants the women to bow to his sexual desire. Graves is making fun of stupid, animal lust. He says that love may be blind but it knows what love is and what lust is. Likewise, the beauty also expects the good character of others. But the Wanton is shamelessly involved in love and beauty.

There are five stanzas in this poem. Every stanza has four lines. The rhyme scheme of every stanza is similar. The first two lines rhyme with each other and so do the last two lines. The rhyming pattern of the first stanza is: aa bb. All other stanzas follow the same rhyming scheme.

Related Topics

The Persian Version: Summary and Analysis

Robert Graves: Biography