When I was single, I didn’t really like Valentine’s Day all that much–for obvious reasons. Now that I’m not single, I still don’t really love it, at least not as much as its purpose demands. The Valentine haters are right. It’s a Hallmark holiday.
But still, it’s fun to think about all those great works of art inspired by love. I meant to think about some of them a week ago, when it was actually Valentine’s Day. On the day in question, though, I was busy walking around the Fremont Market looking for a coat rack, and afterward I was busy preparing for Lent by consuming lots and lots of red meat (and red wine). Even with the day off for Presidents’ Day this left practically no room for contemplating love-related literature.
Now I’ve got loads of time, though. So here goes…
First of all, trying to narrow down the best words about love is like trying to narrow down the best Beatles song. It’s pretty much an impossible task. However, everyone has her favorite book, song, or poem about love. We need such things because love fills us up and we don’t know what to do with it, so we either make our own creations (if we’re lucky enough to possess the talent for it) or borrow from others. These are just some of my favorites, but I could truly go on and on.
William Butler Yeats wrote some of the best love poems of all time. If you read them, it helps to know that he proposed to the same woman five times–and was rejected five times. Such pathos, such longing. It breaks your heart again and again.
Here’s one of my favorites (and one of the most famous).
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. (1899)
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars. (1892)
One of my favorite love songs is America, by Simon and Garfunkel. You can enjoy it below:
It’s not really about love, but that’s what I like about it. It’s more about being in love, and how love makes you full of hope and full of sadness at the same time. The lyrics remind me of all those silences spent with loved ones: in the car, on the bus, sitting on the couch reading, even lying next to each other before sleep comes. If you’re in love you have to be comfortable with silence.
(Incidentally, Paul Simon said in an interview that his favorite line from all the Simon and Garfunkel catalog is the one about the moon rising over an open field. And it is a beautiful line.)