When did we stop writing poetry to woo our intendeds? Probably when we stopped calling the men/women/other we date intendeds.
Being the slightly strange, romantic, whimsical sort of girl in high school, I had a few men dedicate little bits of verse to me in high school. It’s unfortunate I never kept any of them – some were very sweet. And looking back, it’s warming to know that someone wanted to impress me so badly that they actually sat down and created something especially for me. And created something that could’ve had them mocked by their peers if I had been the sort of person to spread it around school. To those boys who wrote me poetry back in the day, thank you for putting your self-esteem on the line. And I’m sorry it didn’t work out.
I have also written poems for the men I love, but they rarely saw them. Because often, while they inspired poetry, many were tainted by a little sadness and the suggestion of loss, or walking down a path together that would eventually end in heartbreak. I couldn’t help but insert those feelings into the poems, so they immediately became personal, and not something I could share with anyone else. At the time I would tell myself that it was just a story, that I didn’t actually feel that way. But that wasn’t true.
These honest love poems are the ones that, for me, have stood the test of time. Those that talk about love’s imperfections, fleetingness, or ability to stand just out of one’s reach feel so much more real than verse that waxes on about some unknown’s beautiful nose. Today’s poem was one that is both incredibly harsh but incredibly sweet – a perfect love poem that takes the object of his affection off her podium and places her on the ground beside him. That’s the perfect relationship – where both parties are equals who can see the other for who they are. Imperfections and all.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.