Friday, May 2, 2008

Why Poetry?

Come live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber-studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

~Christopher Marlowe, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, before 1593

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flock from field to fold,
When rivers rage, and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of years to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.

The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,--
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth still last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

~Sir Walter Raleigh, The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd, before 1599

I suppose quite early in the writing of this blog, the thought occurred to me that it might be nice to lead off with quotes from literature (and possibly song).  I've taken a bit of the easy route by using mostly poems.  Part of me thinks that this is not all bad; poems seem to have fallen out of favor (as have books) in the modern popular consciousness.  Do lovers still write poems to woo their beloved?  Are we able to call certain lines to memory at appropriate moments?  Are we even able to talk intelligently of these men (and women) of such great wit and feeling?

And so, I am happy to reintroduce some poetry into our own humdrum existences.  The above two poems were first read by me in the eleventh grade.  I was a romantic, naive to the world, and enamored by Marlowe's proposal.  I did not appreciate the sense that Raleigh makes in his reply.  I included the above poems because, when I read Rupert Brook's Menelaus and Helen, reprinted here in my post of 23 April 2008, I was immediately reminded of the Shepherd/Nymph poems.  I wonder if Marlowe's and Raleigh's poems were in the back of Brooks' mind when he wrote his own?

I like all of these poems; I am attracted to the realism of one, and the romanticism of the other. How time and experience has changed my feelings, and how now I see a different world from the one I viewed at 17.  I still dream of romance, but have come to expect the realities of day-to-day life.  However, I hope that I still hold onto those dreams, and take as a good sign my affinity for poetry, which surely elevates one above the mundane.

In the future, however, I shall try to introduce some of my favorite fiction and non-fiction works in addition to the poetry.  Indeed, I identify with many of these immortal characters and their lives resonate with my soul.  I shall endeavor to share them with you.

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