Poems/songs about a geographically distant beloved?
July 8, 2008 2:34 PM   Subscribe

What are some good poems (or songs) about a beloved person traveling very far away (from the speaker of the poem/song)?

I'm trying to find appropriate things to read or listen to when I'm feeling all soppy about my boyfriend being in Syria for the next few months.

The only ones I've been able to think of are the words to Alasdair Roberts's rendition of the traditional song Lord Gregory and a song my mom used to sing, which is apparently taken from Tennyson. But it would be nice to find some others (and I'm sure there are many better ones out there!)
posted by bubukaba to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Brad Paisley's "I Wish You'd Stay."
posted by PFL at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2008

Missing - Everything But the Girl.
posted by Liosliath at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2008

And, thought it's not part of your original question - start researching phone cards. I have quite a bit of experience with long-distance relationships, and nothing replaces hearing the sound of their voice. (not email, not text msgs, not letters, nada.)
posted by Liosliath at 2:40 PM on July 8, 2008

Transatlanticism- Death Cab for Cutie
posted by inconsequentialist at 2:40 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: Well, it's probably got the opposite message from what you want, but Bob Dylan's "Boots Of Spanish Leather" must be among the best songs about a distant love ever written.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:41 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Fear of Ghosts" by the Cure.

"The further I get from the things I care about the less I care about how much further away I get."


Probably not the sentiment you were going for, but still one of my 80's guilty pleasures and one of their best songs. Googling it tells me it's from a book by the same title, but no author is listed, so off to figure that one out!
posted by cjorgensen at 2:49 PM on July 8, 2008

It's got some profanity and is borderline rap, not sure if that's okay by you or not, but Fort Minor's "Where'd You Go" is an old favorite of mine. Here it is on Youtube.
posted by fogster at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2008

Oh Danny Boy? Leaving on a jet plane?

Seems like this is a really common question. A lot of suggestions are pretty crummy - Nickelback, anyone? - but there's a lot to look through.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:56 PM on July 8, 2008

Simon and Garfunkel, "Kathy's Song"
Bob Dylan, "Boots of Spanish Leather"
John Denver, "Leaving on a Jet Plane"
Wyclef Jean, "Gone til November"
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:57 PM on July 8, 2008

this one is a bit obscure but great:

Queen, "Teo Torriate"
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: To clarify, I know that questions about songs are common - but I'm most interested in poems (though I included songs since those were the only ones I could think of myself!)
posted by bubukaba at 3:01 PM on July 8, 2008

great big sea's song "Boston and St. John's"
posted by rmd1023 at 3:09 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: Donne's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning"
posted by Bromius at 3:09 PM on July 8, 2008

"The Sky Road" by the Beggarmen

Celtic and very pretty
posted by Planet F at 3:20 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: Penelope

In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.

Dorothy Parker
posted by macadamiaranch at 3:22 PM on July 8, 2008 [6 favorites]

Here's several songs by The Innocence Mission. They may not be specifically and literally about your situation, but they embody the familiar spirit of longing. They are very poetic and beautifully sung if you can track them down.

Tomorrow on the Runway
Our Harry
I Never Knew You From the Sun
and, a little different take:
Black Sheep Wall
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:25 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: It's another song I'm afraid, but the lyrics are appropriate:

Swim to me through the deep blue sea
upon the scattered stars set sail
Fly to me through this love-lit night
from one thousand miles away
And come into my sleep
Come into my sleep oh yeah
As midnight nears and shadows creep
Come into my sleep

Come Into My Sleep, Nick Cave
posted by twistedonion at 3:28 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: I fully expected someone beat me to it, as Bromius did - but Donne's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is my answer, as well.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:39 PM on July 8, 2008

Best ever: Colin Blunstone - Though You Are Far Away.

Though you are far away
I'm with you in every way
Close your eyes
You will see

Sleepy head so close to mine
And I'll whisper quietly in your ear
Close your eyes
You will see

If you're ever feeling sad, down and lonely
Think of me thinking of you
If you ever feel you need somebody close to you
Think of me thinking of you

So between you and I
Time and miles are not to cry
Close your eyes
And you will see

Though you are far away
I'm with you in every way
Oh, close your eyes
You will see

posted by rhizome at 4:11 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: Seventeenth-century longing: Anne Bradstreet, A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment.
posted by andraste at 4:27 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: nthing Boots of Spanish Leather by Bob Dylan. The lyrics alone may not properly convey how completely he can build a narrative over the course of a song.
posted by doppleradar at 4:34 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: John Donne, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
posted by bluenausea at 4:42 PM on July 8, 2008

Lots of folk songs, Celtic songs:

"Shenandoah," "Fair Thee Well My Own True Love," "Johnny's Gone For a Soldier"
Most of these have several versions.

"the sea is wide/I can't cross over
neither have I wings to fly..."

I'll try to think of some more, also poems.

Hexatron's Wife
posted by hexatron at 4:58 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: One of my favorites:

Western wind, when will thou blow
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
~Anonymous, 16th century

When I was in college, my future husband lived 700 miles away. As a gift he gave me a beautiful book of love poems illustrated with classic artwork. (This one - thank you Google!) As a gift back to him, I kept a journal of our relationship while we were so far away, each entry starting with one of the poems chosen from the book. It was the only journal I've ever really stuck to. Aww, now I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy, I need to go pull that out of storage again and flip through it with my hubby.
posted by platinum at 5:01 PM on July 8, 2008

darlin' be home soon, originally by john sebastian (youtube dropped the version of him singing it at woodstock). covered here by the barra mcneils.

tomorrow is a long time, bob dylan.

water is wide, old.
posted by klanawa at 6:00 PM on July 8, 2008

—Isabella Gardner

Here where you left me alone
the soft wind sighs through my wishbone
the sun is lapping at my flesh
I couple with the ripples of the fresh
pond water I am rolled by the roiling sea.
Love, in our wide bed, do you lie lonely?
The spoon of longing stirs my marrow
and I thank God this bed is narrow.
posted by Mender at 8:00 PM on July 8, 2008

Dire Straits, "So Far Away"
posted by kirkaracha at 11:03 PM on July 8, 2008


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

-- W.S. Merwin
posted by tallus at 5:15 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: Ooh, one of my favorite poems, by Marilyn Hacker:

Rondeau After a Transatlantic Phone Call

Love, it was good to talk to you tonight.
You lather me like summer though. I light
up, sip smoke. Insistent through walls comes
the downstairs neighbor’s double-bass. It thrums
like toothache. I will shower away the sweat,

smoke, summer, sound. Slick, soapy, dripping wet,
I scrub the sharp edge off my appetite.
I want: crisp toast, cold wine prickling my gums,
love. It was good

imagining around your voice, you, late-
awake there. (It isn’t midnight yet
here.) This last glass washes down the crumbs.
I wish that I could lie down in your arms
and, turned toward sleep there (later), say, “Goodnight,
love. It was good.”
posted by CiaoMela at 6:52 AM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

Oh, and I know you're less interested in songs, but Joan Baez's Jesse helped me through a long-distance relationship, once (link to lyrics as I can't access YouTube at work).
posted by CiaoMela at 7:08 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: Shakespeare's sonnet XLIV:

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth remov'd from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But, ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with my moan;
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.
posted by Evangeline at 9:05 AM on July 9, 2008

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