Saturday 28 January 2012

How do I love thee?

With Valentine's Day approaching I thought I'd try a change of genre and review a love story. Not my usual field but surely, out of the thousands of books that I've read there must be a tale of a great love. Not perhaps in the crime genre, where relationships tend more to one night stands, hookers and divorce (not necessarily in that order).

My teen years were spent largely with sci fi and Lovecraft, even less promising. It wsn't until George Lucas arrived on the scene that sci fi discovered romance and I can't really imagine the great Cthulhu getting his end away with some slimy lesser great one.

Could cinema lend a hand? Most of us think immediately of Gone With The Wind - the tale of an arrogant Southern trollop and will she/won't she get her blackguard? Personally I'd have thrown Scarlett into Tara before I struck the match.

Something more modern? Pretty Woman? Possibly, if they'd made the film they first intended, not the glossy drug-free schmaltz that was released. And Julia Roberts leads us to Hugh Grant, a man of such limited acting talent that logs sitting in my fireplace have been known to shout out rude things at him. Back a few years to Streisand and Sherif? Funny Girl does have one line I like "If we hate the same people and you get your suit cleaned, it's a match." but that's not enough.

Do I hear "Romeo and Juliet" in the background? Please - double death without getting your end away equals stupidity, not love. "Romeo, I've told you a hundred times, I can't see you if you stand under the balcony."

A quick trawl through IMDB and Wikipedia - no, no and no. Elixabeth Taylor's bosom heaves into sight several times and passes by unmarked. Even Nicolas Cage - more people die in his attempts to find love than do when Stallone is freeing POWs.

No, forget novels, plays, films. The greatest theme of all has produced nothing to stir my blood. Apart from Emmanuelle BĂ©art of course. Let us turn to poetry and relax. Back to the title of this post - is there a more evocative first line than "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways". It's backed by one of the great true love stories - the match between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.

A dash of cold water from John Donne (but who better to understand love than a randy cleric?):

I scarce believe my love to be so pure
         As I had thought it was,
         Because it doth endure
Vicissitude, and season, as the grass ;
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring make it more

Stay in that era with "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell. Give Shakespeare another chance: "Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds."

A sad reflection indeed on novelists, playwrights and movie men when they can't match the efforts of poets dead hundreds of years.

Why was I musing on this? Because I've just republished a couple of posts for Valentine's Day on another site. Valentine's Day: a guide for men explains the path to your lady love's heart; Valentine's Day, a guide for women explains how to please the clod in your life.

Image of Elizabeth Barrett Browning public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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