Love, it turns out, is a popular subject. Libraries could be full of love songs and romance stories and flowery stanzas.
It's a dreamy world out there, even when it hurts. But this is not the time to focus on heartbreak.
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There's lots of types of love including romantic, platonic, familial and self love. And there is a song lyric to emote all of the above. Next time you're strolling through the Valentine's Day candy aisle take a turn past the wall of cards. Thus much and more; and yet thou lov'st me not, And never wilt! Love dwells not in our will. Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.
I love the intensity of feeling and the subtle eroticism of this poem. The story of love's betrayal is obliquely told, charged with pain, yet it speaks straight to us across years. There is a mystery here too. Is Anne Boleyn the woman in the loose gown, who catches the poet in her arms "long and small"?
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Thomas Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower for alleged adultery with her, and it is thought that from his window he witnessed her execution. The poem is written in rhyme royal, which may be a clue in itself ….
They flee from me that sometime did me seek With naked foot, stalking in my chamber. I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek, That now are wild and do not remember That sometime they put themself in danger To take bread at my hand; and now they range, Busily seeking with a continual change. Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise Twenty times better; but once in special, In thin array after a pleasant guise, When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall, And she me caught in her arms long and small; Therewithall sweetly did me kiss And softly said, "Dear heart, how like you this?
It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness Into a strange fashion of forsaking; And I have leave to go of her goodness, And she also, to use newfangleness. But since that I so kindly am served I would fain know what she hath deserved. When I was eight, I was romantically in love with Jean, my beautiful young nanny. Let me count the ways" was my favourite.
I used to croon it to myself in her honour. Much later, Harold's love poems became the delight of my life — best of all "It is Here" — and similarly provide comfort now he is no longer around to recite them to me. What was that sound that came in on the dark? What is this maze of light it leaves us in? What is this stance we take, To turn away and then turn back?
What did we hear? William Wordsworth once wrote that he liked the sonnet because he was happy with the formal limits it imposed. The great thing about this Thomas Wyatt sonnet, on the other hand, is the way the surge of desire seems to push against the form that "bounds" it, even as it obeys the requirements — 14 lines, octave and sestet, proper Petrarchan rhyme scheme.
It is a great love poem because of its rhythmic energy, its syntactical drive, the way the bitter truths of denial and exclusion are transformed — transformed by creative stamina into a work that is lifted above bitterness by the artist's joy in finding the right trope for his predicament. In a way, the final line retells the whole story: a wildness has been tamed in the writing, but it is the wildness that has given the poem its staying power.
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Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, But as for me, alas, I may no more; The vain travail hath wearied me so sore, I am of them that furthest come behind. Yet may I by no means my wearied mind Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore Fainting I follow; I leave off therefore, Since in a net I seek to hold the wind. Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt, As well as I, may spend his time in vain.
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And graven with diamonds in letters plain, There is written her fair neck round about, " Noli me tangere , for Caesar's I am, And wild for to hold though I seem tame. Choosing a favourite love poem is a bit tricky — like choosing a favourite toe or finger, if you had hundreds of toes and fingers. And what's a love poem? I'll go with "Animals", and it doesn't need me to explain it.
I'd just add that even though the poem's a celebration, framing it in the past tense means it's also a great elegy, as great love poems often are. Have you forgotten what we were like then when we were still first rate and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth. I wouldn't want to be faster or greener than now if you were with me O you were the best of all my days. Anyone who has lain hundreds or thousands of miles from home, listening to strangers' rain falling on a stranger's roof, will respond to the vehement longing in this old, mysterious fragment.
It is difficult to believe your lover is alive under the same sky, and the more clearly you can see their room, their bed, the more you feel the piercing pain of separation. The writer sounds cold, alone and perhaps in danger; the reunion is not certain.
All the complexity of love is in these lines: the lover is not only home but the journey home, both the voyage and the harbour. Western wind, when wilt thou blow, The small rain down can rain. Christ, if my love were in my arms, And I in my bed again. Love poems may be addressed to someone in particular but the "you" invariably remains unidentified or is represented only by a body part or item of dress — a sleeping head, a naked foot, an air-blue gown.
Thom Gunn 's "Touch" is an extreme example of this. This feeling of anonymity is important: it links the two lovers to the rest of us: they're part of a "realm where we walk with everyone". But the poem is also intimate and domestic: here are two people plus cat in their own bed — naked, cocooned, "ourselves alone". Gunn was gay but his lover's gender isn't specified, since the theme is the inclusiveness of touch: the way it breaks down the "resilient chilly hardness" we all adopt to function in the outside world. The syllabic form enacts this dissolution or slippage, as the words seep gently from line to line, without the hardness of end stops.
The word "love" isn't used; the words "dark" and "darkness" recur three times. But the poem exudes warmth, familiarity and how it feels to lie naked with a fellow creature, whoever he or she may be. You are already asleep. I lower myself in next to you, my skin slightly numb with the restraint of habits, the patina of self, the black frost of outsideness, so that even unclothed it is a resilient chilly hardness, a superficially malleable, dead rubbery texture.
You are a mound of bedclothes, where the cat in sleep braces its paws against your calf through the blankets, and kneads each paw in turn. Meanwhile and slowly I feel a is it my own warmth surfacing or the ferment of your whole body that in darkness beneath the cover is stealing bit by bit to break down that chill. You turn and hold me tightly, do you know who I am or am I your mother or the nearest human being to hold on to in a dreamed pogrom. What I, now loosened, sink into is an old big place, it is there already, for you are already there, and the cat got there before you, yet it is hard to locate.
What is more, the place is not found but seeps from our touch in continuous creation, dark enclosing cocoon round ourselves alone, dark wide realm where we walk with everyone. Not a particularly obscure or original choice, I know. The poem has become a favourite at weddings, though in some ways it's a strange choice. It's not just the snorting and weaning, the schoolboy-pleasing raunch of "suck'd on country pleasures" or the fact that the whole poem is a sort of bedroom scene. There's also that raffish wink at the end of the first stanza.
But in the last two stanzas, Donne changes tone. When I first came across this poem, my preference was for the poetry of unrequited yearning; the please-go-out-with-me school. Perhaps not so out of place at a wedding after all. I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved?
Were we not weaned till then But sucked on country pleasures, childishly? Or snorted we in the seven sleepers' den? If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee. And now good-morrow to our waking souls, Which watch not one another out of fear; For love all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an every where. Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one. My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres, Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;. A serenade, an interestingly broken sonnet, a bravura musical performance, perfect marriage of sound and sensuality; a passionate seduction and one of the loveliest lyrics in the language. The core erotic image is incorporation: being "open to", "slipping into", then "lost in" each other.
The craft mirrors the incorporation message: everything comes down to the one word "me". The sonnet feels rhymed but it's not: Tennyson is always innovative and the only rhyme repeated five times is "me". But each chunk of thought ends with the lover's insistence look at me , and by the end the beloved, too is incorporated in that me.
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