The Muse of Unrequited Crushes

ashes-1894-edvard-munch_wikiart

Edvard Munch: “Ashes”

Has there ever been an unrequited love that’s paid more poetic dividends than WB Yeats’s decades long pursuit of unyielding Maud Gonne?*

[cue Robert Johnson: “All my love’s in vain.”]

Here’s a slight sampling:


She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;

But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

“Down by the Salley Gardens”


How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

 

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

“When You Are Old”


Half close your eyelids, loosen your hair,

And dream about the great and their pride;

They have spoken against you everywhere,

But weigh this song with the great and their pride;

I made it out of a mouthful of air,

Their children’s children shall say they have lied.

“He Thinks of Those Who Have Spoken Evil of His Beloved”


O  Heart! O Heart, if she’d but turn her head

You’d know the folly of being comforted.

“The Folly of Being Comforted”


Never give all the heart, for love

Will hardly seem worth thinking of

To passionate women if it seem

Certain, and they never dream

That it fades out from kiss to kiss;

For everything that’s lovely is

But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.

O never give the heart outright,

For they, for all smooth lips can say,

Have given their hearts up to the play.

And who could play it well enough

If deaf and dumb and blind with love?

He that made this knows all the cost,

For he gave all his heart and lost.

“Never Give All the Heart”


I could go on and on, but allow me just one more:

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;

We saw the last embers of daylight die,

And in the trembling blue-green of the sky

A moon, worn as if it had been a shell

Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell

About the stars and broke in days and years.

 

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:

That you were beautiful, and that I strove

To love you in the old high way of love;

That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown

As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

“Adam’s Curse”


Given this inspiration, perhaps I should lament I’ve never suffered unrequited love.

I have, on the other hand, suffered numerous unrequited crushes, but compared to the unstaunched  hemorrhaging of Yeats’s heart, my rejections add up to so many mosquito bites scratched to the point of bleeding but fairly soon forgotten.

Not very inspiring, not the stuff of poetry, merely the stuff of doggerel.


 

The Lazy Muse of Unrequited Crushes

 

She sleeps till one each afternoon,

The lazy muse of unrequited crushes.

Never gazes at the waning moon,

Stomps around my brain on crutches,

 

Lisping doggerel with an interrogative lilt,

Ransacking my drafty garret,

Looking for an obscure line to lift

From Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett

 

Browning. Womp, womp.


gonne

*When Yeats told Gonne he wasn’t happy without her, she replied, “Oh yes, you are, because you make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you.” Norman A. Jeffares, W.B. Yeats, a New Biography.

 

Two Stanzas of Ottava Rima Written in Earshot of a Skate Board Park

Skateboard Wipeout by Robert Mooney

Skateboard Wipeout by Robert Mooney

 

 

I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing   

Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.

                                                                      WB Yeats

 

Willie B makes it seem so damned easy,

each iamb in it is appointed place,

but whenever I try it, I feel sleazy,

like a Byron wannabe pissing in the lake.

Yet even to Yeats it didn’t come easy.

A line would take him hours. Better to “break

stones,” he whined, “in all kinds of weather”

than try “to articulate sweet sounds together.”

 

Form versus execution. I hear the clatter

of skateboarders’ failed attempts at competence.

They flip the board, fall off, curse, batter

their knees as they try to perform the tricks

they see on TV — as if mind over matter

weren’t a myth, as if practice makes perfect,

as if talent can be willed. I say

time to shut down this computer, call it a day.

 

The Curable Romantic

Dark blues make me frantic

Black jazz brings me down.

Once I was romantic.

Now I stay uptown.

“Harlem Madness” – Fletcher Henderson, Ned Williams, and Irving Mills

519aMi139BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I was eaten up with Romanticism when I was a boy. On any number of bright, sunny spring days, perfect for playing outside, you could find me in the cave of my bottom bunk reading The Count of Monte Cristo or The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

I was especially a sucker for doomed protagonists who suffered the perpetual ache of unrequited love, sardonic swashbucklers like Cyrano de Bergerac or Poe’s gloom-devoured intellectuals forever grieving for their lost Lenores. Of course, I didn’t share these somewhat pathological predilections with my friends or family. Maybe if I had, some kind soul might have pointed out that celebrating heartache is unhealthy and Darwinianly ineffective when competing for mates.

A consequence of this peculiar focus is that I developed an anachronistic, almost Victorian, appreciation of females as icons worthy of worship, practicing what Yeats describes in his poem “Adam’s Curse” as “the old high way of love.”*

There have been lovers who thought love should be

So much compounded of high courtesy

That they would sigh and quote with learned looks

Precedents out of beautiful old books;

Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.

“Idle” as in non-productive. In those days, snagging a touchdown pass or smacking a double was a more reliable pathway to a young girl’s heart than penning cliché-ridden verse that doesn’t scan — still is, as a matter of fact.

So I had a string of crushes I worshipped from afar, for example, the beautiful Joanne Elder, whom I would escort around the circumference of Dogwood Circle never daring to clasp her hand and confess my adoration. I had cultivated an ideal medieval maiden in my psyche and projected her onto this not particularly bright but practical girl. Meanwhile, in any number of carport utility rooms and out in the still abundant woods around the subdivision of Twin Oaks, other lees literary 7th graders were learning how to French kiss. I still can clearly remember one day on an overcrowded school bus Joanne writing in the dust on the back door’s window the name of Steve Hoates.

[cue funereal violins]

stones-65Puberty itself was a great help in overcoming the blight of romanticism. I began reading less and listening to music more, Mick Jagger replacing Edmond Dantès as a role model, and despite singles like “As Tears Go By,” many Stones songs were openly dismissive of “the fair sex,” if not downright misogynistic.

My attitude coarsened a bit.

A couple of real live heartbreaks made me realize that the Marvelettes were right about the vast number of fish teeming in the sea of love. I came to realize that when you “got a heartache,” you’re much better off using your fingers to punch in jukebox selections rather typewriter keys.

I figured out that the old Yeats was wiser than younger Yeats. Take it away, Crazy Jane:

`A woman can be proud and stiff

When on love intent;

But Love has pitched his mansion in

The place of excrement;

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent.

Cyrano and Me

Cyrano and Me

*Of course, over a half-a-century later, I release this attitude of placing females on pedestals is sexist, a byproduct of the patriarchy, etc, but look up at that less-than-ninety- pound weakling right above this note.  He didn’t know any better.