Tag Archives: Love

‘Love is not all’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

I really like this sonnet. It speaks about how intangible, and how hard to define love is. And how strange love seems, when described in this way. Love is nothing solid, it is “not meat or drink”; it’s not necessary for the sustaining of our human life. It does not nourish the body or protect it from the elements or mend broken bones… But then love, the poem reminds us, has an incredible power over us. The lack of love can tempt us to make “friends with death”. Even in the most “difficult hour”, when she is “Pinned down by pain and moaning for release”, the poet tells us that she “might be driven to sell your [the person she is addressing in the poem] love for peace”, or trade her memories of “this night” of love “for food”. And then she concludes the poem by affirming, “It well may be. I do not think I would”. I think this ending is so great because it illustrates how we are all illogical when it comes to love. For lack of love some of us will court death — we feel that we could die of a broken heart — and yet if faced with death we would not exchange the moments of intense love to save our bodies. I say we are all like that… I think most of us are!

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘The Lovers’ by Jalalud’din Rumi

The Lovers
will drink wine night and day.
They will drink until they can
tear away the veils of intellect and
melt away the layers of shame and modesty.
When in Love,
body, mind, heart and soul don’t even exist.
Become this,
fall in Love, and you will not be separated again.

Rumi’s poetry has become very important to me over the past couple of years. His descriptions of God make sense to me. I chose this particular poem as an example because I love the analogy that Rumi often uses of God as a lover. Sufis talk about God as ‘The Beloved’ and I think this is such a perfect name. A lot of Rumi’s poems could be read as love poems, but they are in fact addressed to the Divine, and I just think that is very beautiful.
This poem explains how finding God is like falling in love. You have to become intoxicated by Him, like the Lovers, and the “veils of intellect” must fall away. The “body, mind, heart and soul don’t even exist” when one is in love — you become the other that you love. “Shame and modesty”, and the “intellect” — these are the things that separate us from God. We must “become” a Lover — fall in love with the Divine — “and you will not be separated again”. If we are not separated from the Divine then we are the Divine — one with God.(And if you are thinking that such a surrender of the intellect is stupid, then I refer you to my blog about ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats’. That explains why I don’t think this is stupid, and why I don’t believe the intellect is the only path that can lead us to truth.)

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

This is a beautifully crafted villanelle, and a fascinating illustration of a person’s internal struggle with denial over how much they have been affected by the loss of a someone they love.

I love the way the poet shows the self-deception involved, as she tries to convince herself that she can learn to be able to cope with significant loss. The mantra, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”, runs through the poem. The repetition of these words suggests that the speaker is trying desperately to convince herself that it is true.

The speaker starts off by talking about trivial things that she has lost (things that are ‘safe’ for her to talk about). She tells us that she has lost “door keys” and “an hour badly spent”. Losing these things “wasn’t a disaster”. Then she advises us to “loose something every day” — to “practice” loosing increasingly significant things — as if this will help to prepare us for when we loose something vital to us, like a loved one.

As the speaker moves on to talking about more valuable things that she has lost (“my mother’s watch”… and then “two cities”, “two rivers” and “a continent”) she tells us, “I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster”. We can see that she is aware that loosing material things is nothing compared to loosing a person that she loves.

I love the final stanza because it is so self-aware. She is trying to convince herself that she can cope with losing the “you” to whom this poem is addressed. The way she describes the person as “the joking voice, a gesture/I love” shows us that she has lost a person very dear to her — someone she has spent a great deal of time with. It could be a friend, a lover, or even a spouse. It is theirpresence that she misses. Again she repeats that “the art of losing things isn’t hard to master”, but finally admits that “it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster”. I love this final line. The “Write it!” part  makes me think about how writing can be very therapeutic. The act of writing can make things more real and help us to accept them. Here, it seems that when the poet writes “Write it!” she is trying to convince herself to admit it — to admit that losing this person is a disaster for her.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Valentine’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

This is one of my favourite poems by our Poet Laureate. I just love the image of an onion being like love, bright like “a moon”. And, like love, the beauty of the onion has to be unwrapped; it is wrapped in “brown paper”. We often have to peel away the layers of our own fears, prejudices or insecurities to see love. Like love, the onion will “blind you with tears” and cause grief. I love the image of the “fierce kiss” of the onion lingering on the lips — “possessive and faithful”, like a lover, and the image of the onion’s “platinum loops” shrinking to become a wedding ring. The scent of the onion will “cling to your fingers”, and “to your knife”. There is something dangerous about the onion here — it is “Lethal”.
As Duffy says in the poem, she is “trying to be truthful”. An onion and what it represents here is a more appropriate gift for a lover than a “cute card or a kissogram”. The representation of love in this poem is beautifully real. I really like the way the onion illustrates love as being at once beautiful, bright, enduring, painful, dangerous and sad… it’s great.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Flowers’ by Wendy Cope

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Today, this poem reminded me of the final line of one of Philip Larkin’s: “What will survive of us is love” (that’s from An Arundel Tomb.)
Flowers is such a heartbreaking piece. Wendy Cope has an incredible ability to create witty, often funny poems that are also profoundly melancholy. I love the way she uses the simple language of grief and evocative short sentences here, such as “It made me smile and hug you then” and “Now I can only smile.” This poem illustrates so beautifully the way we remember the thoughtfulness, the intentions and attentions of our loved ones, and not the material objects they might lavish upon us. Flowers are a particularly appropriate metaphor here, I feel, because flowers last such a short time. In this poem, the person’s intention to buy flowers for the speaker, and his rather adorable self-conscious doubts that she would want his flowers, is what has endured — this is what will always make the speaker “smile”, even after the person has gone.
And I find this ending so sweet and deeply touching: “look, the flowers you nearly brought/ Have lasted all this while”.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh