That thing called LOVE!
Yeah, we all want it! That thing called love. And it comes in so many varieties that even Heinz is envious. Who that? More people have written poems, novels, plays; more people have made movies and sung songs; more people have been frustrated in their attempts at it---yeah, love is a consuming interest, a passion, for some a serious addiction.
So let us look at some things that have been said about love.
Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote in 1609 when he was getting on in years the following:
When my love swears that she is made of truth
“When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth supprest.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O! love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.”
Yes, I know that it is not easy to follow Shakespeare’s thoughts, but they are definitely worth the effort because he was so brilliant and knowledgeable about love and the human heart. In the above poem we see that the older man values the lies that he and his love tell each other. They are not meant to hurt, but to be thoughtful and kind. They flatter one another and each pretends that the other is someone they are not. The hard cold truth is not always the best recourse in any loving relationship. Yes, I am well aware that lies can tear away at the soul, that lies more often than not undermine loving relationships. However, Shakespeare is making the case for exceptions. He is well aware of the inherent problems with deceit and lies, but, sometimes it really does work out for the best for both parties.
So that is the positive side of lies, the flattery side. What about the other side.
Nayo, also known as Barbara Malcolm, wrote the following in 1969…360 years after Shakespeare wrote the above.
First Time I Was Sweet Sixteen
“First time I was sweet sixteen
marriage license, zircon ring---all legit
he was captain of the football team
and hero of all the chicks
and I was hot stuff cause I caught him
then after graduation
the military, stockade, dishonorable discharge
job after job and all that
he was still captain of the football team
and hero of all the chicks
and I got tired of being the football
so, picked up my two babies and split
But I was scared, you see, insecure
I needed a cat to pay the bills
and along come this big shouldered honey
told me his shoulders were big enough---
swept me right into his ‘protective’ arms.
Never saw a cat work 40 hours a week
plus overtime and never have a cent
Never saw so many cut-off and
shut-off men in my life
Everything got mighty quiet
the radio wouldn’t sizzle (electricity cut off)
meat wouldn’t sizzle (gas was off)
babies wouldn’t cry (they were too sick)
not even a drip from the water faucet
and him---he didn’t have a word to say
too quiet for me---so I up and split
five babies by now
Welfare check was better than that
didn’t need no no-good man no how
I’d make it on my own
cept it’s hard to sleep in a cold bed
and ain’t no sedative for lonliness
so when this beau-ti-ful cat comes rapping
tongue like it was pure silk
I was gone again---nose wide open---
and oops---knocked up again
Haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks
not since I happened to be
where he happened to be
‘cept he wasn’t alone.
Maybe he’ll come home after while
I hope so---I won’t hit him with the frying pan.
Anyway meanwhile I was just sitting here---
thinking---rocking---and getting big---
I’m really a good woman---
fit to be loved.”
I swear I have heard that story more than once! Will she finally stop hurting enough not to continue hurting herself and her children? What will it take for her to recognize that love is for some men only a four letter word? But, in addition to that, what is this story saying about the importance of love? Why are so many people willing to continue time and time again to believe lies and get hurt? If you were trying to develop a philosophy of love, what does this story teach you that you had better pay a lot of attention to?
Now for a third and very very different love poem by Jack Gilbert written in 1982.
“The couple on the San Francisco bus looked Russian,
and spoke what sounded like it. He was already an old man
at fifty. She could have been his wife or daughter.
At first I thought she was retarded. She was probably drunk
and maybe stupid. He had on a grey suit and was always angry.
Whatever she did made him glare and tug at her sleeve.
She fought back dutifully, but without conviction.
Knowing her role was to be wrong. She was wrong. She had
the whole bus watching. It was hard to quarrel properly,
also because everything pleased her so much.
She craned to read the advertisements
or twisted around to see out the other window
or stared with her mouth open at the people who got on.
When there was a seat they could sit in together,
she messed it up. He went to the rear.
She kept whispering, and signaling who would get off next.
He sat proud and closed on a seat that ran the wrong way,
getting thrown about. She wore a cheap babushka
and a foolish old coat and white socks.
Even stopping for red lights pleased her.
Finally a place was empty and she plunged into it,
crying to him and making great scooping gestures.
He pretended not to hear. But she just got louder in her delight,
until she was standing, guarding the seat, and calling
the length of the bus. He had no choice.
She settled in as happy as anyone I ever saw,
pointing out the ads for him all over again.”
How do you see this relationship? What is going on here? Why do they stay together year after year?
Now go and think about these three very different stories about love. Three women are depicted in the poems. If you had to chose, which one would you prefer to be? Why?
If you were the man, which one would you prefer to be? Why?
Now take the three stories and using them, and only them, come up with a statement about love and what it is all about. Don’t ramble on, keep it under one page. These three poets all had something important to say about love and did so in less than one page so the task is a reasonable one.