Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1616) Give All To Love
Give all to love; Obey thy heart; Friends, kindred, days, Estate, good fame, Plans, credit, and the Muse - Nothing refuse. 'Tis a brave master; Let it have scope: Follow it utterly, Hope beyond hope; High and more high, It dives into noon, With wing unspent, Untold intent; But it is a god, Knows its own path, And the outlets of the sky. It was not for the mean; It requireth courage stout, Souls above doubt, Valor unbending; Such 'twill reward, - They shall return More than they were, And ever ascending. Leave all for love; Yet, hear me, yet, One word more thy heart behoved, One pulse more of firm endeavor,- Keep thee to-day, To-morrow, for ever, Free as an Arab Of thy beloved. Cling with life to the maid; But when the surprise, First vague shadow of surmise, Flits across her bosom young Of a joy apart from thee, Free be she, fancy-free; Nor thou detain her vesture's hem, Nor the palest rose she flung From her summer diadem. Though thou loved her as thyself, As a self of purer clay, Though her parting dims the day, Stealing grace from all alive; Heartily know, When half-gods go, The gods arrive.
The first time I came across this poem I was 16 (I was going through a major Poe phase and ended up with a book that also included a bunch of poems by Emerson). I remember being fairly unimpressed by it at the time. The short lines had a restless, seductive beat, but the sentiments seemed trite and the imagery uninspired and the whole thing had a vaguely Hallmark Card feel to it. Six years later, looking for a poem to console a friend who was going through a break-up I came across it again - and realised how totally perfect it is. It's not just the breathtaking optimism of the last three lines (so much more heartening, for example, than "Better to have loved and lost / than never to have loved at all"). It's also that reading the poem a second time you realise that all that stuff that seemed like a rehearsal of platitudes the first time around is really unflinching courage - an almost heroic refusal to shy away from love just when it would be most tempting to deny it. Emerson has elevated love to an act of faith - he demands that we believe in it with every morsel of our being but also denies us any claims on it. The other thing that makes this poem so moving is the simplicity of the phrasing. Which is not to say that the language isn't beautiful (where else can you find a love that "dives into noon / with wing unspent" only to discover that it "knows its own path / and the outlets of the sky"), but the overall effect is not of someone trying to write poetry, but of someone simply saying what he thinks. Emerson is so sure that the emotion in his poem will ring true that he isn't afraid to use cliche, isn't afraid of overstating his point. That's why he can bring himself to say "Though her parting dims the day / Stealing grace from all alive" - words that will seem overblown to the sophisticated critic, but frighteningly real to someone disappointed in love. It's probably a morbid thing to say, but this is my favourite break-up poem. It's the one I prescribe to every one of my friends who's been through a broken relationship (and the number just grows and grows). It's the one I've used myself. So I figured you might as well have it up on Minstrels. Just in case. Aseem. P.S. Speaking of famous poets not represented on Minstrels - Emerson is another startling exception - you don't have a single of his poems officially in the index (though comments to both Poem #949 and Poem #580 do quote him)! [Links] Biography and Works: http://www.online-literature.com/emerson/ http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/emerson/