If You Come Softly Poem Summary and Line by Line Analysis by Audre Lorde in English


“If You Come Softly” by Lorde is a reflective poetry in which the author addresses the reader about the future and a romantic relationship.

About The Poet

Author, radical feminist, lecturer, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde was of African American descent. She devoted her whole life to confronting and resolving the injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

Rhyme Scheme

Audre Lorde’s poem “If You Come Softly” has five stanzas and is composed of quatrains, which are clusters of four lines. These quatrains have a conventional ABCB rhyme scheme.

Stanza 1

If you come as softly
As the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.

The poet tells this individual (addressed in the poem) that if they move gently through the trees, much like the wind does, they can hear what she hears and “See what sorrow sees.” The idea of these opening lines is having a distinct perspective on the world. Lorde advises the listener to be patient while they explore the world.

Stanza 2

If you come as lightly
As threading dew
I will take you gladly
Nor ask more of you.

She says this time to “Come as softly as threading dew” to the listener. If they comply, the speaker will indeed “take” them without making any further requests. This metaphor is intriguing because it implies that the speaker wants the listener to enter her life, where she will encounter them. 

Stanza 3

You may sit beside me
Silent as a breath
Only those who stay dead
Shall remember death.

The listener can sit next to the speaker and reflect on death. It’s possible that this is the afterlife or that the individual she’s speaking to has tragically died based on her remark that only those who remain in that condition “Shall remember death.”

Stanza 4

And if you come I will be silent
Nor speak harsh words to you.
I will not ask you why now.
Or how, or what you do.

If the person she’s looking for finds her, she will remain “silent.” She won’t be rude or inquire as to why now, how, or what they did. She won’t press this person for any information about themselves or their daily activities. 

Stanza 5

We shall sit here, softly
Beneath two different years
And the rich between us
Shall drink our tears.

She makes mention of the chance that the listener may approach her and they will sit together gently beneath “two different years.” She says that in the space between them, “the rich…Shall drink our tears.” An intriguing poetry has a gloomy conclusion here.