Before there was “Love Stinks” by J. Geils Band or Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know“; before the British bemoaning of Bridget Jones’s Diary or the love-struck Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck or the conversational heartbreak in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, there was poetry. Oh yes, my friends. Poetry.
Love is a conundrum. Love can be a lesson learned; an all too common topic in culture that’s universally accepted as a calamitous milestone. One such poem that ventilates this tormenting lesson is by A. E. Housman
When I Was One-and-Twenty
Stanza 1: A wise man cautions to give away currency, or temporal possessions, but never your heart. That way way, one keeps their freedom, imagination, and open desire to do as one pleases. However, our insolent subject was 21 at the time and impervious to this advice.
Stanza 2: The wise man continues, purporting that giving your heart away is a zero-sum game. He is rather pessimistic about any such exchange and says that our subject would ultimately regret it and sulk in disappointment. And yet, notwithstanding this, our subject, now 22 years old, ignored what was said and has come to know first hand that the sage was, in fact, right.
Perhaps this was because our subject finally reached the drinking age. (I’ll leave that for you to ponder.) Whatever your assessment, and despite the bleak tone of the poem, not everyone is entitled to a fair trial here. Some will be lucky; some will get lucky. And visa versa.
This truly is the story as old as time. It is NOT what the Walt Disney Co. encourages us to impetuously ingest. Push that chalice aside, however tempting, and experience what is right in front of you. It is an inspiring, albeit agitating, conundrum. Rainer Marie Rilke put it best.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Rilke