Sadly I cannot remember the last time I received or wrote a love letter or poem. Expressions of the heart seem so very important in the beginning of a relationship when we are trying to secure it, but once we get what we want, so many of us take our lovers for granted and ease into the familiarity of the every day. Love is what we want, what we need, what we search for, but the articulation of romance and passion that keeps love alive, doesn't appear to come from within anymore. We look for it in books or films or television. The slow romance, the impassioned love poem, the grand gestures are all fantasy and fable. We are too impatient to coo and court. Pitching woo is best left to Hollywood movies and romance novels. We are a society that no longer has the time.
So with the arrival of Valentine's Day this month, it's easy to be a cynic and quickly dismiss a holiday that is best known for merchandising and consumerism in the form of chocolates, flowers, jewelry and over-priced dinners. Many times I have heard friends complain that Valentine's Day is a made-up Hallmark holiday that demands a tithe from our wallets and a display of love that should be practiced every day and not just on a specified one.
But I don't see the downfall of designating a day to celebrate love. Love of parents. Love of children. Love of pets (Oh, how I love my dogs!). Love of spouses and partners and friends. Love of lovers. Most of the art of the world, be it dance or paintings or song, are dedicated to the ups and downs of love in all its electrifying forms. A day to remember love as a form of art sounds good to me.
So perhaps instead of being a follower to the corporate love machine or turning our backs on it entirely, this Valentine's Day we can celebrate love in its many art forms. And I propose a simple and inexpensive alternative to convey your secret heart... the love letter. I for one am quite rusty in the words of amour, but with a bit of time and practice, words will prove that love is always relevant, always meaningful and always in fashion. In the meantime, I'll look to the words of minds greater than mine to inspire me.
When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I were dissolving ....I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion - I have shudder'd at it - I shudder no more - I could be martyr'd for my religion - love is my religion - I could die for that - I could die for you. My creed is love and you are its only tenet - you have ravish'd me away by a power I cannot resist.
Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us - I can live only wholly with you or not at all - Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits - Yes, unhappily it must be so - You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart - never - never - Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life - Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men - At my age I need a steady, quiet life - can that be so in our connection? My angel, I have just been told that the mailcoach goes every day - therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once - Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together - Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
~Ludwig van Beethoven
I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports... When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them.
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay