Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From Venus With Love, Poetry

 Valentine’s Day summons up memories for me of  the time Steed and I spent with the BVS (British Venusian Society) a while back.

It also calls to mind some of the great poetry of the ages.

I always thought Matthew Arnold had the best all round take on love in that exquisite last stanza of Dover Beach. We imagine the lovers are happily at some cute Victorian B&B near the English Channel, when the speaker (choose your gender) starts to hear the waves bring “the eternal note of sadness in.”

After more depressing thoughts, the speaker turns and utters the timeless supplication:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,

[actually . . . ]

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.

It’s just you and me, babe.

Parallel Lines

The Metaphysical Poets are the supreme masters of the heartsick. In their striking metaphysical conceits—from nature, geometry, physiks of varying sorts—they capture deep, intense difficulties of the heart with amazing wit and beauty.

Here is Andrew Marvell in his “The Definition of Love”

As lines, so love's oblique, may well
Themselves in every angle greet:
But ours, so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Those haunting, parallel lines. Filled with the infinite, in sight of one another, but apart. I have known those lines well. I am one of those lines.

Then there is John Donne’s great “Valediction on Weeping,” with the exquisite image of the tear minted, like a coin, with the face of the beloved who is the cause of the crying. And again, the lovers are apart, on diverse shores.

Let me pour forth
My tears before thy face, whilst I stay here,
For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear,
And by this mintage they are something worth,
For thus they be
Pregnant of thee;
Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more,
When a tear falls, that thou falls which it bore,
So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore.

And then the powerful image of breathing for each other

“Since thou and I sigh one another's breath,
Whoe'er sighs most is cruellest, and hastes the other's death.”

So thanks, Valentine's Day, for the look at great poetry even outside of April's National Poetry Month.