Valentine’s Day has been and gone (‘Good riddance’, some may say). I once received a Valentine’s poem that began, “Roses are red …” and someone even once wrote me a song that went, “I’ve seen you laugh, I’ve seen you cry, I’ve seen you so sad at that word goodbye …”. (It was a beautiful song, much better than the poem. Shame I’m the only one who knows what it sounds like now, since no copies still exist). I wonder how many love poems, how many songs about love, have ever been written?
The only poem I know off by heart, apart from the one about roses that are red, is about crows, scratching in the garden. I learned it at school when I was about seven years old and despite many teachers’ subsequent efforts to get me to learn classics by rote, nothing has ever stuck beyond the odd remembered line about mellow mists, or daffodils, or nightingales.
I was supporting students in an English lesson recently and their objective was to look for metaphors and similes in ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes. My mother could recite that poem from beginning to end whilst I listened, captivated, as the whole thing played out like the film of a tragic love story in my imagination.
My attempts at writing poetry over the years have been less than successful and I marvel at those who can express themselves in verse, because let’s face it, poetry can move even the most un-academic heart. There are, however, few things more cringe-worthy than a bad poem, I should know, I’ve written enough of them. My late teens and early twenties are littered with the memory of my sentimental, big, blousy, overblown ramblings or, depending upon my mood of the time, my depressive yearnings that delved the dark depths of despair. (See what I mean? Thank goodness those litterings no longer exist.)
I took the title of my first book, Strong as Death, from arguably one of the most beautiful and poetic love songs written; it must certainly list amongst the oldest in existence: The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
There are many different interpretations as to who the lovers in the poem are. Is it simply Solomon wooing his Shulamite beauty? Or does it tell of her love for a shepherd, who she favours above the love of a king? Or is it an allegory for the relationship between the Israelites and their God? Or could it represent the relationship between Jesus and His church? Perhaps it’s all of these. Perhaps it’s even more.
I can only quote a few lines from The Song of Songs, but I don’t have to be able to recite poems about love to know what it looks like. I’m blessed to have people in my life who love me. How do I know? Because of how they love me, even when I am at my most unlovable. Being able to spout or pen wonderful words doth not a lover make.
I’m blessed to have lost people who loved me, people who I miss all the more because of the way their lives touched mine, shaped mine, enriched mine. And I’m blessed to taste each day the love of God that is new every morning, that is never clichéd, that never runs dry. That never gives up on me.