So, it’s National Poetry Month (as I was just reminded), and, as you just might have gathered from the title, I nearly missed it. Which is funny, because there is poetry that I truly love. There is also poetry I truly hate — quite a bit, actually — but that’s the beauty of poetry. There’s something out there for everyone, and if there was nothing to hate, you’d never appreciate just how spectacular some of your favorites are. Not terribly unlike music — it’s a matter of finding a rhythm that speaks to you, and words that you feel rather than read. And you know what? If it’s Dr. Seuss, I have no problem with that. I love the Seuss.
However, I also love Shakespeare, and there are a couple of sonnets that I particularly adore. First, Sonnet 130:
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Basically, I love that he loves her for everything she is, and doesn’t feel compelled to exaggerate. She’s real, and that’s what he loves about her. When I was 16, all I wanted was for someone to feel this strongly about the real me and feel no need for hyperbole.
Second, I can’t say enough about “The Phoenix and the Turtle.” I selected a section of this to be read at our wedding — again, it’s incredibly beautiful and full of romance, but wildly untraditional. In fact, I just wiki’d it, and was informed that it’s one of his most obscure works, and considered by some to be “the first great published metaphysical poem.” Huh. I had no idea I was so deep.
Anyway, here’s my favorite part:
Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.
So they loved, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.
Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen 30
‘Twixt the turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.
So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight;
Either was the other’s mine.
Property was thus appalled,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was called. 40
Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together,
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded,
That it cried, How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none,
If what parts can so remain.
Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove, 50
Co-supremes and stars of love,
As chorus to their tragic scene.
Take a second and just read it out loud. It sounds beautiful. But aside from that, it describes the kind of love that not everyone gets to experience. So they loved, as love in twain/Had the essence but in one;/Two distincts, division none:/Number there in love was slain. They were so in love, so enamored with one another, that you could no longer call one of them one — they were two, and they couldn’t bear to even be separated by words that would signify them as singles. Either was the other’s mine. Have you ever felt like that? I mean, I have, and it’s amazing, and I’ve never seen anyone put it in words the way this DWM (dead white man) was able to do.
(It’s also totally morbid if you go from start to finish, which is why, for the wedding, I just cherry-picked from the middle. But I’m a little morbid, which might be part of the appeal for me — who knows?)
What about you? What’s your favorite poem?