Saturday, March 20, 2010

a brighter word than bright; a fairer word than fair

I've been thinking a lot lately about love letters and the way we speak to each other in the modern age. It's really disappointing, if I'm being honest. It's scared and imprecise and general and almost entirely without risk or commitment or power.

But not John Keats. Man, his letters to everyone were so so special. They're so poetic, they're almost better than his poems. It's in his example (along with the tradition started in my life at YTI) that I decided many years ago to write truthful, supportive letters to as many of the important people in my life as I could. Every time I feel moved to write one, whether I intend to give it as a speech at their weddings or just mail it off, I feel like I know what my life is about. They're almost never love letters in the way that Keats Letters below are (although I suppose a few of them have been-- and we'll get to actual love letters in a minute) but nevertheless, I feel love and loved just by writing them. I spend hours and hours on them. Crafting, reading aloud, reading in my head, retooling to get the right words-- le mot juste! Because I think it's important to be precise and to be true in your expressed feelings about people.

Now, love letters. The juicy ones. It's been a long time since I wrote one of those. I've written a few in my head the last few years, but never sent them. Maybe that's why-- that for me-- one of the properties of romantic love is that it's only in my head. One of it's essential and inherent characteristics is that it is unrequited.

Which I don't dwell in too much when it comes to thinking about Keats. Only that, what if his love had been unrequited? What if Fanny hadn't waited anxiously for the letters he sent? What if the energy only flowed one way and she never sent letters back? How long would his spirit have been able to keep that up? How many letters and poems wouldn't we have?

Luckily for the English speaking world, she did love our Keatsy (how could you not, really?) and so we have Bright Star and Lamia and La Belle Dame Sans Merci. And we have:

"Do understand me, my love, in this. I have so much of you in my heart that I must turn Mentor when I see a chance of harm befalling you. I would never see any thing but Pleasure in your eyes, love on your lips, and Happiness in your steps."

Just listen. Perfect.

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