Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Breaking Up The Classy Way

Sonnet 63

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part;
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.

Michael Drayton 1619

I first came across this poem in my teen years, in a cheap paperback romance novel. In the story, the hero and heroine fall in love over poetry, some sort of misunderstanding blocks their path to happiness, and they part. In one last noble gesture, our hero quotes the first line of this poem, our heroine goes to the library and reads the poem, and all is well, she is assured of his love and returns to him, and all live happily ever after.

The poem has stood me well in the years since, for who can so cleanly cut herself free? We declare it is over, convince ourselves we shall not think of our former beloved again, but weeks, months, years later, even, a chance thought, or a glimpse of a familiar face, and it all comes rushing back, in a brief burst of madness. And if, at that moment, we received proof of love returned, would we not be tempted to fall again? All the work the mind has done to declare separation can be undone by the heart in a moment.

But that sort of story seems to work best in novels, not real life. Because in real life, we do not receive proof of love returned. We meet in the grocery store or some such place, and polite conversation ensues. We are introduced to the new love, or shown pictures of young children, and our paths part again. Only in novels, it seems, does the impossible happen. For an excellent example, I recommend Jane Austen's Persuasion. It's good to escape reality now and again.

1 comment:

lizardrinking said...

I think the note Amy posted yesterday was written by Michael Drayton's ex in response to this poem! (excuse the time lapse).

There are some pretty amazing stories out there, anglo. I'm sure you know some of them :)