Poem: Between You and Me
Romantic Love Poetry
It's called 'romantic love poetry'. You must have read a lot of it when you went to college. You might have experienced it also, either as a heady infatuation, or as a kind of platonic (semi-platonic?) romance. This usually happens sometime in your late teens or early twenties. Well, that’s how it was in the years past, when hearts were purer and more tender, and affections were not ‘pulls of the flesh’ but actually the feeling of heart and soul. Today, of course, there's neither infatuation, nor romance; it’s just sugary sentimentality or mere lust. Times have changed, the days have deteriorated. We live in a decadent age.
Let us go back to the past, to Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian times, and 'taste' some of this romantic poetry. (I'm giving you some samples of love poetry.)
Remember Wordsworth? In his youth he fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, and had a daughter Caroline by her. But the poem below is written about his wife, Mary Hutchinson.
She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament...
The Elizabethan, Ben Jonson, writes to Celia thus:
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I'll not look for wine.
I wonder how many of you know of the romance between Elizabeth Barrett and her husband, Robert Browning. The courtship and marriage between Robert Browning and Elizabeth was carried out secretly, because Elizabeth’s father had forbidden all his 12 children to marry. She was six years older than Robert and an invalid, and in the flush of romance she wrote Sonnets from the Portuguese, which became duly famous. After a private marriage, Browning spirited his beloved off to Italy, which became her home almost continuously until her death. She bore a son, Pen, who however did not have any ‘legitimate’ descendants (that's according to Wikepedia!).
Here is one of her sonnets (Sonnet XIV):
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
For these things in themselves, Belovëd, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.
Who can forget these lines by George Gordon Byron, written at the age of 26? They say the poem below was inspired by the poet’s first sight of his young cousin by marriage, Anne Wilmot. Byron’s cousin wore a black gown that was brightened with spangles, which explains the opening lines. So perhaps, it is not really a romantic love poem, but rather a poem of 'romantic admiration'.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
Well, here's my poem, “Between You and Me’, written sometime in 1974-75. And you can decide whether it has something to do with a 'communication gap' or where it is a breakdown in romance (i.e. whether it is a romantic love poem) or not.
Between You and Me
Between you and me
Is a long stretch of sea
From communicating with each other
My words fly through the air
And settle here and there,
Scattered like pigeons on the sand;
And boats which swiftly sail
With messages, in hail
And storm are wrecked before they land.
Bridges were built
But over seas of guilt
They do not stand.
What was the blood we spilt,
The hidden guilt,
Now red upon our hands?
Truly, my dear,
In the span of a year,
and a vale of tears.
©Tom Prato/Tan Pratonix
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