Thursday, February 14, 2008

Meditation on Hallmark's Prime Day

Valentine’s day is unappealing from most angles. The Hallmark hearts that pop up after New Year’s are crass commercialism at its worst.

The best we can hope for is that the day puts us in mind of all the kinds of love we experience in our lives. Lives and loves—they are so entirely the same thing, even the words are nearly identical. The “i” at some point gets turned around, confounded, transformed, by the great “oooooooh”

For my own experience, the Metaphysical Poets are, alas, my romantic love poets. In their striking metaphysical conceits—from nature, geometry, physiks of varying sorts—they captured 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 know 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.”

In the parlance of the 17th century guys, I am a free radical, an unbonded electron in the universe. A planet with no gravitational pull to any other planet.

Here’s a fragment from an obscure 17th century poet, a distant ancestor of mine:

Comfort there is, in the dark firmament

Sphere upon sphere
De revolutionibus orbium coelstium
The grand design in place.

Thou art in your circle, I in my orbit rest;
Would that we could force Fate’s hand
And end the eternal quest