Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

“Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

"The Kiss" by Gustave Klimt

“The Kiss” by Gustave Klimt

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

Since it’s Valentine’s Day today, I figured a love poem would be appropriate for today’s post, and what better than one from the romantic Shelley.

As is typical with the English Romantic poets, Shelley looks to Nature for metaphors to express his love. In the first stanza, he cites the interconnectedness of things in Nature, as well as duality in the natural world, as the reason why his spirit longs for the connection with the woman of his desire. And the loving connection between two people is not just something natural; for Shelley, it is something divine and spiritual. The wholeness which is attained through the passionate connection with your significant other is something that transcends this world and elevates us spiritually.

In the second stanza, we get a sense that all the beauty that we perceive in Nature is only a reflection of human love. And this begs an interesting question: If a person never experienced the joy and beauty of love, would that person be able to recognize beauty in the world around? It reminds me of the lyrics from one of my favorite George Harrison songs:

Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we’re all the same
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can’t hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn’t it a pity

(from “Isn’t It a Pity”)

Myself, I lean toward the romantic philosophy here. I think that love helps us to see beauty in the world around us, and likewise, the beauty in Nature reminds us of the joy of sharing a deep connection with another person.

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“A Valentine” — Edgar Allan Poe’s Poetic Puzzle

Antique Valentine's Day Card Source: Wikipedia

Antique Valentine’s Day Card
Source: Wikipedia

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure
Divine- a talisman- an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet’s, too,
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-
Still form a synonym for Truth- Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.

So before you continue, I have to warn you that I do provide the answer to the riddle hidden in this poem. Poe wrote this poem for someone and the name of the person to whom it was written is hidden within the text. I will go through the clues first before revealing the solution to the puzzle.

Poe begins by telling us that we “Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies/Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.” So we know that we are searching for a woman’s name and that it is hidden within the text. Next, he advises us to “Search narrowly the lines!” This means that the name is spread across multiple lines. It is worth noting that there are 20 lines in this poem (hint… hint).

Poe then tells us to search carefully, focusing on measure, words, and syllables.

Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor

Finally, he lets us know that the name is in three parts (first, middle, last) and that the woman to whom the poem is addressed is also a poet.

Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet’s, too,

OK, now I will reveal the answer. The person for whom Poe wrote this poem is Frances Sargent Osgood. She was born and raised in Massachusetts and published a significant amount of poetry throughout her lifetime.

So here is how you find her name hidden in the poem: take the first letter from the first line, the second letter from the second line, the third letter from the third line, and continue until you get to the 20th letter of the 20th line, place them all together, and it spells out her name. Clever!

Hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!!

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“Romeo and Juliet” by Richard Brautigan

RommelIntoEqyptCover

As Valentine’s Day draws nearer, I thought it would be appropriate to share this poem by Richard Brautigan which was originally published in Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt.

If you will die for me,
I will die for you

and our graves will
be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
in a laundromat.

If you will bring the soap,
I will bring the bleach.

I like this poem. It is beautiful in its simplicity. Brautigan uses dirty laundry as a symbol for the cynicism that soils our souls throughout our lives. Upon death, our souls are cleansed, much like clothes in the wash. I envision the souls of the two star-crossed lovers, caught up and spinning in the celestial gyre as they rise toward the heavens. Finally, after being cleansed of the jaded ideals of love, the two are able to share in the true beauty of love.

One other thing I would like to point out regarding this poem. The two lovers do not have to go through physical death to attain this state. The death can certainly be symbolic of letting go of personal baggage, thereby allowing a sort of rebirth and spiritual cleansing.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a blessed day.

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“Sonnet 43 – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Murillo - Virgin of the Rosary

Murillo – Virgin of the Rosary

OK, I know this poem is a little clichéd, but it is Valentine’s Day so I figured I would read it this morning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

While on the surface this seems like the sappiest of love poems, there is something spiritual going on that is the heart of the poem. What Browning is expressing is love for God as opposed to love for another human being; although, I suppose you could argue that she is seeing the manifestation of God within her lover, but I will avoid going down that rabbit hole.

As I read the first line, I picture a woman, possibly a nun, meditating on God while counting on rosary beads. If you begin from this point, the entire poem becomes a meditative reflection on a devotee’s love for the Divine. This is affirmed by the capitalization of the key words referring to God: Being, Grace, Right, and of course God.

For me, the most interesting line is: “I love thee with a love I seemed to lose / With my lost saints.” It appears that Browning is expressing that religious dogma has failed and that the true path to God, and to the experience of God’s love, is through direct prayer and meditation. Praying to the saints as mediators between oneself and God pales in comparison with directly connecting to the divine spirit.

Browning concludes the sonnet with “if God choose, / I shall but love thee better after death.” I sense a deep longing in this line, a longing to become united with God. There is such passion, I cannot help but envision Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. The passion that is experienced when connecting with the Divine on a deep level is akin to the ultimate transcendent sexual experience. It is the greatest moment to which one can aspire.

Bernini - Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

Bernini – Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

While I am not a Catholic, I can relate to the feeling expressed in this poem. Interaction with the Divine Spirit, through whichever path you choose, is the most powerful experience one can have. It is what keeps me searching spiritual pathways and traditions. I hope that one day I too may experience that perfect moment of bliss where I become one with the Divine.

Have a blessed Valentine’s Day!!

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