Ruth Pitter, ‘But for Lust’

‘But for Lust’


But for lust we could be friends

On each other’s neck’s could weep:

In each other’s arms could sleep

In the calm the cradle lends:


Lends awhile, and takes away.

But for hunger, but for fear,

Calm could be our day and year

From the yellow to the grey:


From the gold to the grey hair,

But for passion we could rest,

But for passion we could feast

On compassion everywhere.


Even in this night I know

By the awful living dead,

By this craving tear I shed,

Somewhere, somewhere it is so.


Ruth Pitter (1897 – 1992) was well-regarded in her own time, but in recent years her poetry has fallen into obscurity, probably because she was a traditionalist in terms of style, but she influenced people like Philip Larkin. She lived a quiet life in the countryside with her companion Kathleen O’ Hara.


She seems to be having difficulties with her lesbianism here.  This poem does make me glad to have been born when I was. I mean, I do have my moments of lesbian angst, but nothing on this level. I like the way the poem is so tightly structured though.

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2 thoughts on “Ruth Pitter, ‘But for Lust’

  1. It sounds like she might have been the instigator of said “complicated” lesbian friendships:
    “Why are you upset? We’re NOT dating! We just hang out together all the time. Nothing to see here, move along, la la la la la la la la!”
    Or perhaps I’m just projecting based on my own past experiences.

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