“Be of love a little more careful than of anything.”
~ E. E. Cummings
Ah, Cupid. Fickle, passionate, God of Love whose darting arrows don’t always hit the target … we celebrate you nonetheless, along with the eternal stuff of poetry and song, and hearts that beat a little faster.
Some celebrate you with devotion to the whispering of sweet nothings and a worship of chocolate and roses. For some it’s more bitter-pill than joyful-tonic. Others may simply prefer to spend the day with their cats. (I get that.)
I can count a few especially thoughtful, romantic Valentine Days. But as the story goes, those went all wrong in the end (beware the man who writes you poetry, a friend once told me…), so I turn instead to unscathed memories of shared Valentines from grammar school, or the hand-made kind we gave to our parents, with big red construction paper hearts and white lace around the edges, filled with unabashed adoration. And those we give our own children marked with a thousand x’s and o’s.
And yet, even considering a sour dose of romantic cynicism, I am a true believer in love. I don’t mean the love-you-think-is-love that hurts. I mean the fact that love heals, love lifts, love binds, love seeds and nourishes and shines a light; love enhances, love honors. Every task we do, every word we utter, every hand we shake, is better if there’s love in it. Love is the purpose. Love is the cause. Love is the root of all good that ever was or will be.
So let sweethearts swoon. Let the day be thick with roses and chocolates for all who’ve ever felt the exultation – or the sting – from Cupids’ arrows, all who’ve felt their heart swell, their color blush, their energy soar and their selfishness cease in the face of unbridled love.
And with or without a “Valentine”, maybe we can share a little extra heart today. For self, for others, for your pets, for your garden, for your books, for your bicycle, for your favorite chair. Even for the guy trying to make a left turn on a busy street. Raise up the heart quotient all around.
Celebrate love. Read some literary candy (a selection included below for you and your cat to enjoy). Give someone a cupcake. And smile, because – despite or by means of Cupid – love still exists in this mad world.
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX), Edna St. Vincent Millay
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
18th Sonnet, William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43), Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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 the 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.
Love’s Philosophy, Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?
See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?