Friday, February 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: Love, Valentine's Day, Shakespeare, and So On

I read a lot this year about anti-Valentine sentiment, or AntiValentinism, as this blog post calls it. Although I am happily married and enjoyed the roses and candy and delicious fish dinner my husband got me, I'm in sympathy with a lot of what this post says. Here's an excerpt:
"Valentine’s Day morphs otherwise proud and confident singles, into pathetic creatures that wallow in misery because Hallmark says they require a mate to find true happiness. For those satisfied with their single status, Valentine’s Day compels them to justify why. As for the coupled men; Valentine’s Day torments these masculine souls who frantically speculate, purchase, and overextend themselves in an effort to exceed their sweethearts’ {and their sweethearts’ friends} expectations. While Valentine’s Day is sold to us as a day to celebrate those we love, in reality Valentine’s Day has turned into a day where men publicly prove their undying love. Meanwhile, women in a relationship are embroiled in a bitter competition against, well, other women; posting pictures of ornate bouquets and elaborate dinner plans on Facebook prompting self-doubt in their friends who now question whether their own partner loves them. It’s really quite incredible how a holiday created to promote feelings of love and genuine caring, is actually a loaded weapon filled with unrealistic expectations, sexism, and obligation."
In addition to any of these arguments, I have another reason to loathe Valentine's Day. I teach middle school. The combination of candy, hormones, and flowers and serenades being delivered while I'm trying to teach almost sends me over the edge every year.

On the other hand, "what the world needs now is love, sweet love," don't you think so?
All kinds of love: romantic love, friendship, the love we have for our children. All of this is a gift that is definitely worth celebrating, not just on Valentine's Day, but every day. We never know how long we will have this love.

I was looking through an old textbook on my shelf, the kind you pick up in a second hand store or on someone's "Free Book" table in the halls of your graduate school. It has lots of notes in it, summing up in the margins with comments like "metaphor" or, under Samuel Coleridge's name, the dismissive "opium addict." It also has Shakespeare in it. I read Sonnet 18 with my students this week and talked about the last couplet where he says:
"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
I asked the kids if they ever looked at something they had written, and thought People will be reading this as long as men can breathe or eyes can see. Yeah, me neither. But turns out, Shakespeare was right; we really are still reading his work, and there are some things that nobody has said better.

So here's a sonnet from the book, reminding me today that "Time will come and take my love away," and even though there will always be Shakespeare for consolation, I need to enjoy all the love God has given me, every single day. "Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate."

Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Katya said...

I must have missed out on all the anti-Valentine sentiment because I mostly read craft blogs -- and crafters love holidays as an excuse to craft.

Thank you for sharing that lovely sonnet.

Anonymous said...

As always your posts are wonderful.

Tricia said...

My middle schooler's humanities teacher had them writing lines of iambic pentameter. His friend came up with "A ninja ninja ninja duck." My son illustrated it. :^)

Ruth said...

Tricia, I love it! As long as men can breathe and eyes can see, that line will be read. ;-)