Sunday, November 29, 2015
WRITING LOVE WELL
LOVE. It's a many splendered thing, a fantasy, a hope. It is patient and kind and keeps no track of wrongs. It sees the best, always. Whether you believe it can be found at first sight, or that is is slow and graceful to bloom, it can change you forever. It burns in our hearts like fire and cools like the summer rain. It is the one perfect thing we have in this world....
"You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love...I love...I love you, and never wish to be parted from you from this day forth" (Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice).
"I almost wish we were butterflies, and lived but three summer days; three such days with you, I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain" (John Keats, Love Letters to Fanny Brawne).
"A kiss, when all is told, what is it? An oath taken a little closer, a promise more exact. A wish that longs to be confirmed. A kiss is a secret which takes the lips for the ear, a moment of infinity...a way of breathing in a little of the heart
Let's talk about romance.
Love is blind, they tell us. But just how blind? Blind enough, apparently, to ignore the fact that so many of those tales we hold up as iconic love stories are overflowing with murder, betrayal and abandonment. Think about it: all those magnificent weepies about impossibly beautiful love turned out to be just that: impossible. There's Titanic, Camelot, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Cyrano de Bergerac and my favorite, Romeo and Juliet. That's really the oldest and weepiest of them all, isn't it? A pair of wildly smitten teenagers. Feuding families. Angry friends. No good can possibly come of that. And it doesn't. By the end of the play, six people are dead, including the two lovers, a priest is shamed and two powerful families are consumed with grief.
Never mind. We still think of it as a great love story. And even after 400 years, we can't keep away from it. The same is true of the classic we are currently reading, Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, which in many ways, is just as iconic. I think it's due to several reasons really. First, because the first part of the story, when the two young teens fall in love, and when Cyrano is first able to boldly declare his love for Roxanne under the disguise of night and the guise of another identity, we hope the outcome of of the story will change, somehow. Love like that is something everyone knows or longs for. Secondly, that rush of love...that hope that transcends the desperation of our time, well, these are things we just can't get out of our head, nor can we get enough of.
There's always a new way to tell the story and always a new audience for it. These are characters that everyone understands. Romeo and Juliet and Cyrano are rare stories where different generations can find something quite personal. We want something our parents just cannot understand, and we want it with our whole soul. We lose our courage to go after what we really want most because of our own personal insecurities and doubts, mixed with the cruel words of others in our childhood, which still have the power to haunt us. This is what makes them classics. This is what makes their themes universal.
Finally, there is the writing, itself. Though in my experience there is little evidence to the contrary, we, as ladies hope beyond hope that somewhere out there is a boy who can sweep us off our feet with a well turned verse of a deep and boundless love. Something magical, beautiful, and extraordinary. Somehow, his words will make us something brighter, and give us a love and romance that is as eternal as the stories penned so long ago by the masters of love verse.
No matter how we spin it, these universal themes and platitudes mean nothing if they aren't written well...if the words don't make our heart skip a beat...if they don't make us hold our breath in longing and wonder. Just as great works of art begin with the color and brushstroke, great love stories start with the words woven masterfully onto the blank page.
Now that we've established that, it's time to do some reading! The two links here provide what are considered the best Love Poems and greatest Love Letters of all time.
1. Look through them, and tell me your favorites and why.
2. Then, choose one poem to read in its entirety and give me your analysis of it. What makes it one of the greatest?
It is "the canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination," and the madness of it is "the greatest of heaven's blessings." (Voltaire and Plato, respectively).