Thursday, February 14, 2008

Forget chocolate, flowers and a fancy dinner

You didn't think a single post about a crotchety old lunatic would suffice on today of all days, did you? Come on.

Everyone loves love, no? Especially this time of year when countless fools wait until the last minute to scrounge through the Hallmark leftovers, vacillating between a red, pink or white envelope while hoping that there's still some of the good -- but not too good -- chocolate remaining. Oh, and cashier? One of these two dollar roses in the plastic wrap.

Bah, I say. Bah.

This is the stuff that works like a charm.

At least that's what my wife tells me, despite my clockwork failure, and she wouldn't lie to her husband.

Would she?

Oh well, even if that was the case, it's not like I still wouldn't write.

In honor of this inscrutable holiday able to combine, with more success than any other, the entire spectrum of emotions from dark to light -- and back again -- I shall offer up some poets well-versed -- now that's funny -- in l'amour, those that I tend to pilfer from read for inspiration in order to aide, along with a generous helping of music and the occasional glass of spirits, bien sûr, the creation of the godawful verse that I present to my sometimes-better-half. At least she cringes less than she used to.

"If you don't watch the violence, you'll never get desensitized to it."
"Please tell me when the scary part's over."
"It's over."

For starters, you can't go wrong with this lovesick dude plein de regrets of the French Renaissance, Joachim Du Bellay:

L'Olive, XXVIII*

My tongue, madame, would eagerly express
My thoughts to you when you bide far away,
But when I feel you close, naught can I say:
Suddenly it falls mute and powerless.

Thus hope both calms and kindles my distress;
Nearer I draw, yet farther seem to stay:
My pleasure is my woe, ah, welladay!
What most I crave, the least dare I possess.

Joyous by night and sad by day am I:
Sleep brings me what my waking hours deny;
The good I feel is false, the ill is true.

Woman I blame, yet faultless is she, quite;
Thus, Love, to ease my pain, I pray that you
Cut short my days, or grant me endless night.

I hear you, DB. Far easier to spill your guts in verse -- or in dream -- than in the spoken word. And how about his partner in poetical crime, Pierre de Ronsard, this one in the original French because let's face it, English may be the better language for rocking out, but it certainly isn't as sultry when it comes to versification. There's a reason it's classified as a 'romance' language, muah:

Le Second Livre des Sonnets pour Hélène, XIV

À l’aller, au parler, au flamber de tes yeux,
Je sens bien, je vois bien que tu es immortelle:
La race des humains en essence n’est telle:
Tu es quelque Demon ou quelque Anges des cieux.

Dieu pour favoriser ce monde vicieux,
Te fit tomber en terre, et dessus la plus belle
Et plus parfaite idée il traça la modelle
De ton corps, dont il fut lui-même envieux.

Quand il fit ton esprit, il se pilla soi-même:
Il prit le plus beau feu du Ciel le plus supréme
Pour animer ta masse, ainsi ton beau printemps.

Hommes, qui la voyez de tant d’honneur pourvu,
Tandis qu’elle est çà bas, soulez-en votre vue.
Tout ce qui est parfait ne dure pas long temps.

Sure, you may not know what it says -- I still have to reach for my bilingual dictionary from time to time, myself -- but it sure does sound beautiful. Moving forward in time, I'd be painfully remiss if I didn't mention the Romantics. No, not the fucking band, but all the literary and poetical figures to come out of that grand movement one reads in order to have their fragile ego brutally crushed under the inexorable weight of their collective genius. Here's a bit o' Shelley:

'Love's Philosophy'

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

Cheesy by our sensibilities? Perhaps, but we live in a jaded, postmodern age where everything must be ironic and satirical, where love is gleefully murdered only to be brought back from the grave in the mummified film of a formulaic romantic comedy. I've nothing against a heaping dose of snark and ennui, evidemment, but the sap in some of us needs nourishment, lest it die, too.

And thus, we arrive at last to the work of a twenty-first century clown with no delusions of adequacy, who merely continues in the gently shadowed vein of the above, better composed, pieces. But I like to write, my wife feigns her enjoyment of reading them, and it closes out the post on a down note, in both quality and tone, and if I'm about anything, it's ending things poorly.

L’étoile seule

Words fail to take hold in the superheat,
marooned in a street where no one speaks my language.
And if I’d try and translate what I’d say,
the same as a blank stare anyway.
I ask only that you sing my verse, feel the liquid
of every bon mot in line, the note of a letter,
the curve of each sound resonate, all to serve as
the coursing of nothing through your veins –
watch how easily your heart cleans up my mess.

Everything grows more complex by the hour,
vagabond wisdom cast aside for emotion to glide in,
to reign with a beautiful tyranny;
a sentence of melancholy carried out with immediacy.
Pleasure thrown in prison, you guard with a blind eye,
for you know escape from experience is impossible.
I breathe, I feed the shadow you cast,
captured and made to disappear in a spell –
maybe you don’t see me because I have so much to say.

I thought I caught a smile, a copper remembrance
of a crime once shown with purpose to deceive.
I’ve etched it again and again in my flesh so many times that
nerves have gone numb and the blood has dried up.
Locked away for so long, I’ve been redrawn as the dirt
for you to sweep away to the corner of an endless frame,
into the cracks of your soul; there let me stay
to pass these remaining days fulfilling your transient need –
leave me as the dust revolving around your star.

*English translation by Norman R. Shapiro. What, you didn't honestly think I did that. It would've been an incoherent mess.


DCup said...

It's so highbrow, it hurts!

Well done, Randal. I enjoyed your poetry selections.

Now please do them in interpretive dance.

Singles for stuffing have been distributed to the other females in the lefty blogosphere around which you travel.

What? You expected hearts and flowers? Silly, Randal.

Oh and please borrow Valentino's arabian costume for your dance, will you?

(Happy Valentines Day, you fab poet)

M.Yu said...

my fragile ego has been brutally crushed under the inexorable weight of this post...

Very nice...

Dr. Zaius said...

I can tell which parts are French because there are no consonants.

pissed off patricia said...

Sorry, I was munching chocolate candy and didn't hear a word you said. Okay, something about poetry?

I'm kidding, I'm a sucker for poetry.

Mary Ellen said...

You're wife is a lucky gal...


Randal Graves said...

dcup, you better give them twenties and fifties because they'll need to chug a lot of booze to endure me doing any kind of dancing, Arabian costume or not. Merci, nonetheless. ;-)

m.yu, thank you!

dr. zaius, exactly, it's the opposite of German, where vowels are shot on sight.

POP, actually, I was blathering on about a wonderfully-constructed treatise on policy wonkery. Quite intriguing. I'll probably post more at some point, when I run out of funny pictures.

ME, funny, I tell my wife that same thing and she just laughs at me. ;-)

Dean Wormer said...


Really, really nice poetry.

Have you ever considered taking the romance up a notch? For instance: if you could write poetry WITH chocolate you would be the unstoppable.

Randal Graves said...

Thank you sir. And that's an excellent idea. Sure, the chocolate would eventually start to get hard and rancid and end up looking like a hunk of dark swiss cheese after the bugs have had their fill. And if that isn't romantic, I don't know what is!

Mary Ellen said...

I think we should combine Valentines Day with April Fool's Day. It would be a lot more fun and it kinda makes sense, doesn't it?

Randal Graves said...

Aren't you just a barrel full of sunshine. ;-) It's a good thing I'm around to balance that out with my legendary sunny disposition.

The Cunning Runt said...

Dat was nice.

Colleen said...

Holy long post Batman.

Angie said...

Enjoyed these very much! Though my husband has a way with words himself, he just raises his eyebrow when I come downstairs carrying a load of my poetry books. I spend no time writing it anymore, so I figure I'm allowed to indulge in my favorites often.

I liked ME's idea! Besides Valentine's Day is everyday en' it?

Randal Graves said...

tcr, merci.

colleen, but that's easily rectified.

angie, thanks! And what? That's blasphemy. If you want to, write! And if you don't, well, don't. ;-)

Er, theoretically, it's supposed to be, but never is. For if it was, we'd probably spontaneously combust.

C.J. said...

The grump (my hubby) slipped a love note into my purse on Thursday. Nothing nearly as eloquent as this, but it still got him laid ;-).

I'll never turn down chocolate, though.

Randal Graves said...

hey, whatever works. ;-)

Angie said...

I always want to write and I admit I am still able at times. This is why I function on so little sleep. My time is mine between 11:00pm and 3:00am... It works. I guess. I just know Shelley did not run his own business and home school his kids and try to attempt three meals a day for four people. That's why sometimes the sugary donuts are necessary. ;) Thanks again for the poetry.