The Secret by Denise Levertov


Two girls discover   

the secret of life   

in a sudden line of   


I who don’t know the   

secret wrote   

the line. They   

told me


(through a third person)   

they had found it

but not what it was   

not even


what line it was. No doubt   

by now, more than a week   

later, they have forgotten   

the secret,


the line, the name of   

the poem. I love them   

for finding what   

I can’t find,


and for loving me   

for the line I wrote,   

and for forgetting it   

so that


a thousand times, till death   

finds them, they may   

discover it again, in other   



in other   

happenings. And for   

wanting to know it,   



assuming there is   

such a secret, yes,   

for that   

most of all.




I decided to analyze this poem as its’ title piqued my curiosity. After skimming through the poem, I was interested by the short verses and numerous stanzas, wondering how they could possibly come together to form a cohesive piece. In short, the vague title and unique shape of the piece compelled me to analyze ‘The Secret’.

The poem, told in first person, is about two girls who have discovered the secret to life through reading a line of poetry written by Levertov (assuming the ‘I’ in the poem is referring to Levertov). Levertov supposes that these girls forget this secret as time passes, assuming there is a secret in the first place, as well as the source of discovery, and explains her strong affection for these girls due a variety of reasons. In my opinion, this poem is extremely vague. While it may seem like Levertov is simply relaying a story about two girls who discover a mysterious ‘secret’,  there are many possible hidden metaphors that Levertov may have interwoven into this piece. For example, the two girls could very possibly have been symbolized humankind, and the ‘secret’ may represent the meaning or purpose behind our existence. After all, it is true that human nature is constantly seeking reasons to live, and finding inspiration for this solution from anywhere. However, human nature tends forgets the inspiration quickly, and needs to search for new inspiration and a new purpose for existence after the passage of time.

I believe the piece was intentionally written to be as vague as possible– Levertov might have wanted the reader to formulate their own opinion on ‘The Secret’. Perhaps the meaning of this piece is a secret that Levertov wanted the reader to solve on their own, and the curious formatting of the poem is a secret code to the solution. Perhaps there is no true meaning to the piece– as readers, we should not always rely on the poet to reveal the meaning behind their poetry. Lines 30-36 of ‘The Secret’ ( “[I love them] …for | wanting to know it, | for | assuming there is | such a secret, yes, | for that | most of all.” ) perhaps hinting that Levertov wants the reader to assume and seek the meaning of the piece, which may be the secret that she refers to in the piece. Nonetheless, Levertov was extremely clever to include so many examples of symbolism into this unique piece of poetry, stimulating the reader’s imagination and forcing them to create images and stories of their own.

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