With a string of failed relationships behind him two marriages, several love affairs , MacNeice met a young woman called Sylvia Shear on the beach near the cottage where he was staying in Cape Town. She was the mistress of the 18th century poet Donncha Rua Mac Conmara and is the archetype of the unhappy female lover in Irish folklore. It was a physical passion that transgressed all the rules, of society and the church, a passion that leaves her on her own. In western culture the body was devalued and priority was given to the intellect.
She also challenged the separation imposed by Cartesian thought and the Church on the soul and body with the honest portrayal of sexual love in this poetic masterpiece. Her poems are included in the Calling Cards anthology published by the Gallery Press in Love is gyroscopic; inert if neglected, but a gravity-defying reel through human emotion, when spun.
A Seven-Letter Word by Kim Slater
Now grief is written in their dark alignments, sorrow in a nearby field of horses. In an absent moment I can still look up to see you there, call out in sleep, or pull two glasses from the press. Peter read it aloud to me, I was mortified and delighted at how magnificent and sensual the experience was.
Midsummer Hereabouts the signs are good. Propitious creatures of the wood After their fashion Have pitied and blessed before our eyes. All unpremeditated lies Our scattered passion. Flowers whose name I do not know Make happy signals to us.
O Did ever bees Stumble on such a quiet before! The evening is a huge closed door And no one sees How we, absorbed in our own art, Have locked ourselves inside one heart, Grown silent and, Under beech and sacred larch, Watched as though it were an arch That heart expand. Something that for this long year Had hid and halted like a deer Turned marvellous, Parted the tragic grasses, tame, Lifted its perfect head and came To welcome us. We have, dear reason, of this glade An endless tabernacle made, An origin.
Well for whatever lonely one Will find this right place to lay down His desert in.
Not entirely what I was going for. On reflection, I realised that I was wrong — my husband was right — but for the wrong reason. Not because it is morose. And not because it might be regarded as trite, through its popularisation by the film, Four Weddings and a Funeral. But because it is more inward-looking. My ultimate, utterly perfect, love poem is just two entirely selfless words, first dispatched by text, and now re-issued in many forms the world over:.
These words in Latin to his wife just minutes before his death sweep everything else away in their wake. I believe they achieve what so many seek and consider impossible.
I can see the light ahead. I will wait for you there. In his youth, our gay-beard poet, John Donne, had great ambitions to be part of the court elite and earn money and prestige.
Part of his pearling about was the writing of poems, love poems, and he excelled at them, and at the artifice that enlivens them, whether or not he was boasting beyond his actual experience. As in, for instance, The Sun Rising :. Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
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To broaden his appeal he took to calling himself Jack: much more lively, sexy and challenging. But life took hold: he really fell in love where he should not and basically ran away with a young girl, the daughter of one of his patrons. He was thrown into prison, was released, but lived in poverty and, having many children, his court ambitions lay in ashes. To help support his growing family he turned to the church, and genuinely turned to God in his difficulties.
Now he tried, worried about his soul, to find a real faith in a forgiving deity. To this end he put his powerful intellect and his language, retaining the artifice but willing himself towards love of God:. The secular love poems had become efforts to woo his God. Perhaps the greatest love poem of them all is The Song of Songs , poached by confessing generations from the secular world to stand for love between the soul and Yahweh; its passionate and refreshingly intimate sexuality remains new and splendidly alive since many centuries before the churches that use it as merely allegory.
Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver. Would that the God of contemporary Christian faith were just like this. One of the love poems that utterly holds me is by the late American poet, Jack Gilbert.
There is neither real woman nor God in the poem; it skates gracefully around the object, and examines love from so many angles. Several poems in the work of this fine poet, touch on individual love and loves to which this poem forms a resounding and musical accompaniment. He says:. It is not the body that finds love. What leads us there is the body. What is not love provokes it. What is not love quenches it. We need the passion to set love on fire: passion, however, does not last, like paper starting a fire it burns out, but the flame remains:.
Passion is the paper and twigs that kindle the flames but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes because it tries to be love. Love is eaten away by appetite. Love does not last, but it is different from the passions that do not last. Love lasts by not lasting. Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire for his sins. Love allows us to walk in the sweet music of our particular heart. I put my childhood out Into a cocked hat And you moving the myrtle Walked slowly over.
A sweet clearness became. The Clyde sleeved in its firth Reached and dazzled me.
I met a little cottage girl: She was eight years old, she said; Her hair was thick with many a curl That clustered round her head. She had a rustic, woodland air, And she was wildly clad: Her eyes were fair, and very fair; —Her beauty made me glad. Seven in all," she said, And wondering looked at me.
I pray you tell. I pray you tell, Sweet maid, how this may be. Then did the little maid reply, "Seven boys and girls are we; Two of us in the churchyard lie, Beneath the churchyard tree. Their spirits are in heaven! Materials for Teachers Materials for Teachers Home. Poems for Kids. Poems for Teens. Lesson Plans. Teach this Poem. Poetry Near You.
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