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3 - Count The Ways


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First, the poem that gave me the thread title, Poem From The Portuguese XLII - by-Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806 - 1861)

 

 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

 

 

And, the poem that inspired my choice of subject, Valentine - by John Fuller (b.1937)

 

 

The things about you I appreciate

May seem indelicate:

I'd like to find you in the shower

And chase the soap for half an hour.

I'd like to have you in my power

And see your eyes dilate.

I'd like to have your back to scour

And other parts to lubricate.

Sometimes I feel it is my fate

To chase you screaming up a tower

Or make you cower

By asking you to differentiate

Nietzsche from Schopenhauer.

I'd like successfully to guess your weight

And win you at a fete.

I'd like to offer you a flower.

 

I like the hair upon your shoulders,

Falling like water over boulders.

I like the shoulders, too: they are essential.

Your collar-bones have great potential

(I'd like all your particulars in folders

Marked Confidential).

 

I like your cheeks, I like your nose,

I like the way your lips disclose

The neat arrangement of your teeth

(Half above and half beneath)

In rows.

I like your eyes, I like their fringes.

The way they focus on me gives me twinges.

Your upper arms drive me berserk.

I like the way your elbows work,

On hinges.

 

I like your wrists, I like your glands,

I like the fingers on your hands.

I'd like to teach them how to count,

And certain things we might exchange,

Something familiar for something strange.

I'd like to give you just the right amount

And get some change.

 

I like it when you tilt your cheek up.

I like the way you nod and hold a teacup.

I like your legs when you unwind them.

Even in trousers I don't mind them.

I like each softly-moulded kneecap.

I like the little crease behind them.

I'd always know, without recap,

Where to find them.

 

I like the sculpture of your ears.

I like the way your profile disappears

Whenever you decide to turn and face me.

I'd like to cross two hemispheres

And have you chase me.

I'd like to smuggle you across frontiers

Or sail with you at night into Tangiers.

I'd like you to embrace me.

 

I'd like to see you ironing your skirt

And cancelling other dates.

I'd like to button up your shirt.

I like the way your chest inflates.

I'd like to soothe you when you're hurt

Or frightened senseless by invertebrates.

 

I'd like you even if you were malign

And had a yen for sudden homicide.

I'd let you put insecticide

Into my wine.

I'd even like you if you were the Bride of Frankenstein

Or something ghoulish out of Mamoulian's Jekyll and Hyde.

I'd even like you as my Julian

Of Norwich or Cathleen ni Houlihan.

How melodramatic

If you were something muttering in attics

Like Mrs Rochester or a student of Boolean mathematics.

You are the end of self-abuse.

You are the eternal feminine.

I'd like to find a good excuse

To call on you and find you in.

I'd like to put my hand beneath your chin.

And see you grin.

I'd like to taste your Charlotte Russe,

I'd like to feel my lips upon your skin,

I'd like to make you reproduce.

I'd like you in my confidence.

I'd like to be your second look.

I'd like to let you try the French Defence

And mate you with my rook.

I'd like to be your preference

And hence

I'd like to be around when you unhook.

I'd like to be your only audience,

The final name in your appointment book,

Your future tense.

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I love both of these poems and one of my first reactions would be that the Fuller is much more physical. It praises "the body" in a way that leaves one in no doubt about the sexual nature of the relationship. The other implies (or am I inferring) a different kind of relationship between lover and beloved, a total involvement at an emotional level that is extremely intense.

 

The Fuller also has a distinct humorous edge :D .

 

Second thoughts to follow. A good choice tho Megustaleer and a contrast to the first 2 sets of poems.

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Have been mulling over these, both of which I knew.

 

I then decided to think about how I would feel if the poem had been adressed to me. (shallow and self centred :o ).

 

I think the Elizabreth Barrett Browning would rather scare me it is so VERY intense. It is as if everything in her life has come to fruition in this love. it looks back to childhood and forward to death, it talks about ideals and about everything being tied up in this love.."the breath,smiles, tears, of all my life"

How on earth would one ever live up to this.

 

The Fuller on the other hand is infused with humour, it expresses the joy in his Valentine's body, he does want her in his life "your future tense" but somehow it seems much more realistic than the Browning.. He has looked at her and appreciated her and simply ENJOYS her. I couldn't imagine not feeling flattered by this and more inclined to reciprocate. :eek:

 

 

Not sure if I have made the points well enough. And WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

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I've not come across the second poem before, although I know the first....

 

I find it leaves me guessing a lot as to the actual relationship between the speaker and his valentine. At first reading the impression I had was of a deep and lasting relationship.....but when I reread it, I wasn't so sure.

 

Many of the lines start with "I'd like"....rather than "I like" - suggesting that they are things that he would like to do with her - but hasn't yet or can't yet....I found myself wondering if he were actually worshipping her from afar and only now expressing himself in this valentine message. What do the rest of you think? How well did they actually know each other? Where they in a relationship or not?

 

Maybe it's just me being in an odd mood, but the last bit seemed to work on more than one level:

 

I'd like to be around when you unhook.

I'd like to be your only audience,

The final name in your appointment book,

Your future tense.

 

In some ways it was very sweet and romantic. If I read it in a different mood, though, it sounds a bit creepy and obsessive - and in another mood again, he almost sounds like a personification of Death - her final appointment!!

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The first time I came across 'Valentine' it was being read on 'Poetry Please'. The reader infused it with plenty of humour, and I had always thought of it as a joyous celebration of the poets object of affection. I assumed an existing relationship, I hadn't considered this;

Many of the lines start with "I'd like"....rather than "I like" - suggesting that they are things that he would like to do with her - but hasn't yet or can't yet....I found myself wondering if he were actually worshipping her from afar and only now expressing himself in this valentine message. What do the rest of you think? How well did they actually know each other? Where they in a relationship or not?

 

I still think of it as an existing relationship, but one with plenty of scope for future development!:D

 

The EBB poem I find too romantic and too intense. I think i'd be scared to be the object of such powerful emotion.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Again a belated contribution just to let everyone know I'm back. And I couldn't resist this one as both poems had me fuming (well done, Megustaleer - excellent choice!)

 

The Barrett Browning, I'm afraid, made me want to vomit. Very lovely and romantic, yes, but, call me cynical - anyone who views relationships in that way has a problem. Too much religious imagery - Grace, lost saints, childhood's faith - yuk! Victorian sentimentality at its height (and I love the Victorians generally).

 

Now, the Fuller was a welcome relief at first. Funny and witty, yes, but am I the only one to find this horrendously sexist?! Excuse me, but would any woman want a man who wants to 'see your eyes dilate', 'chase you screaming up a tower' and 'make you cower' because you can't understand Nietzsche and Schopenhauer?! It's totally obsessed with the female body and sees women as 'frightened by invertebrates'. The woman is presented as easily scared, very stupid and merely a physical object for this male's gaze. OK, he admits she is the 'eternal feminine', but does that really detract from the rest? I think this is just a sad male on a power trip. I felt more and more uncomfortable reading this - but what do female readers think?! Is is only me?!

 

Rant over - I think I'll go and lie down now!

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I really think of the Fuller poem as someone's sexual fantasy (which would account for the changes from I like to I'd like, as pointed out by Claire).

 

I just hope that, when they indulge in erotic role playing , the object of his desire has fantasies that give him a go at being the subservient one!

 

As for EBB, well, maybe not for the likes of thee and me, but quite in character for her relationship with dearest Robert, surely?

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Yes, I agree about the Fuller - and I think there's an opening for the object of his desire to write her fantasy? That would make a good read! Perhaps it could involve him cowering as she discusses an abstruse mathematical problem?

 

And I also agree about EBB. From Robert's poetry, it's hard to imagine him having much truck with these sentiments himself (doesn't he write about women being murdered?!), but each to their own, I suppose.

 

Thanks, though, for inspiring an impassioned response in me! Would be interested to see what others think?

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