Throughout the vast works of literature, undoubtedly a majority of them are devoted to, in some manner, the subject of love. Why? Because love is the all-powerful force. In it's many forms, it compels us to do things we would never do otherwise. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes this is bad. It always makes for a good story. The poets, those troubadors of love, have spent countless hours attempting to describe the feelings evoked in one being by another. And while love of family and friends is most certainly worth celebrating, today we are concerned with the more romantic version of the phenomenon.
W.B. Yeats is eloquent on the subject of unrequited and lost loves. Below, A Drinking Song, paints such a poignant picture. Yeats is brilliant; here is a story in the poem neatly folded into six lines. You want to sit down next to him on the barstool and ask him what it is. Except we've already experienced it in our early twenties. Even if you didn't spend any time physically in taverns or bars, this poem will let you know that at least emotionally, you were there.
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
And then there is the one that got away; the betrayal, real or imagined - it hurts either way. Yeats has something for this, too.
Others because you did not keep
That deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine;
Yet always when I look death in the face,
When I clamber to the heights of sleep,
Or when I grow excited with wine,
Suddenly, I meet your face.
We move then to the euphoria of infatuation much of which has found its way onto the radio in the form of pop music. And the depth of the infatuation is only rivaled by that of the lyrics themselves. I will forebear and not share any of those with you today.
Even when things do work out, don't suppose that the courtship has been without it's own amount of drama. My own happily-ever-after had it's share of ups and downs, which led to many journal entries, though not quite as pathetic as the many written by my eighteen year-old self. Seven years will do wonders for one's philosphical and dramatic nature. But despite Marianne Dashwood's own propensity for drama she was right about Shakespeare's 116th sonnet. It's a good guide for what true love ought to be.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds [...]
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom [...]
My own true love is out testing the wintery roads of our Valentine's Day. We've had some snow and freezing rain and he is driving to the grocery store for me. I like to think that ours, indeed, is a marriage of true minds, and not just of bodies, as many marriages have been and will ever be. I delight to be in his company, to hear what he has to say, to learn of his sorrows and share in his joys. And for the most part, the reason I actually like Valentine's Day is because there is an "us". Until there was an "us", I didn't think it was all that great.
Real love poems are hard to write. I don't just mean the basic love poem, I mean poems about real love. Getting the right words to describe something that has moved beyond most of the drama and settled into a space that exists past infatuation and the like isn't easy. I won't share my own attempts here, but instead leave you with two poems from W.S. Merwin.
I have watched your smile in your sleep
and I know it is the boat
in which my sun rides under the earth
all night on the wave of your breath
no wonder the days grow short
and waking without you
is the beginning of winter
-from Kore, in The Carrier of Ladders
In each world they may put us
do not die
as this world is made I might
- Do Not Die, from Flower and Hand