In honor of Valentine's Day, because I love all you Dear Readers, I thought I'd share one of my favorite poems of all time.
The first time I read this poem was way back in the fall of 2001, when part of it appeared in a literature test I was taking. The test did not cite the poem's author, but the poem was so perfect that it haunted me for months after. Unfortunately, it was very obscure-- even though I'd remembered swaths of the poem verbatim, in those early days of online search engines it was impossible to find on the Internet.
I finally tracked it down during a trip to Harvard in the spring of 2002. I was visiting the campus, and figured that if a work of literature was anywhere, it would be in Harvard's library. I was right, and I can still remember the feeling of quiet victory I experienced while kneeling down over a musty old book in Harvard's stacks when I finally found the poem in print.
It's very romantic, but not in the traditional sense-- I think it speaks most for those of us who don't always wear our hearts on our sleeves, and sometimes find it impossible to express our real feelings at the right time. I think those kinds people are often the most sensitive and romantic of all.
To My Lady E.C. at her Going Out of England
by Sir John Suckling
I must confess, when I did part from you,
I could not force an artificial dew
Upon my cheeks,
Nor with a gilded phrase
Express how many hundred several ways
My heart was tortur'd,
Nor, with arms across,
In discontented garbs set forth my loss.
Such loud expressions many times do come
From lightest hearts; great griefs are always dumb.
The shallow rivers roar, the deep are still;
Numbers of painted words may show much skill, but little anguish;
And a cloudy face is oft put on, to serve both time and place.
The blazing wood may to the eye seem great,
But 'tis the fire rak'd up that has the heat,
And keeps it long.
True sorrow's like to wine:
That which is good doth never need a sign.
My eyes were channels far too small to be
Conveyers of such floods of misery.
And so pray think; or if you 'd entertain
A thought more charitable, suppose some strain
Of sad repentance had, not long before,
Quite emptied for my sins that wat'ry store.
So shall you him oblige that still will be
Your servant to his best ability.