Adrian Henri famously said that,
‘Love is feeling cold in the back of vans
Love is a fanclub with only two fans.’
Taylor Mali compared falling in love to owning a dog,
‘when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.’
I myself think,
love is a heavyweight prize fighting slugger/a back street cosh over the head mugger of an emotion/it creeps up behind you and biff bang kerpow like batman/cartoon stars swirling circles above your head/birds twittering on the whys and wherefores/dazed and confused you slump onto the stool between rounds/your corner man frantically wafting a towel/smelling salts under the nose/urging you to get out there/pull yourself together/one more round/wobbly kneed you sway left and right/holding onto the ropes for support/somehow you manage to last the distance and wait/guts churning/unable to focus/for the decision/the verdict/and here it comes/ the winner by a unanimous points decision/and still the reigning world champion is LOVE
Probably the most famous lovers in English literature are Romeo and Juliet and probably one of the most famous scenes in world drama is the balcony scene. Act 2 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s play starts with Romeo reflecting on Mercutio’s joking about love, ‘He jests at scars that never felt a wound.’ In other words, just as someone who has never been wounded can jest about a soldier’s battle scars, so someone who has never been in love finds it easy to joke about the sufferings of a person deeply in love.
When Juliet appears on the balcony, unaware of Romeo’s presence below, Romeo is moved to say to himself,
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
JULIET Ay me!
ROMEO (Aside) She speaks:
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
That I might touch that cheek!
To help you understand Romeo’s view of Juliet try this echoing activity. In pairs sit facing each other. One person reads whilst the other listens, following the script and quietly echoes certain words or phrases:
- to do with light (like ‘sun’) or brightness or eyesight
- that refer to something overhead
As you echo each ‘upward’ word, point your finger upward. Change roles and repeat. Afterwards, talk together about what those ‘light-giving’ words and ‘upward’ words tell you about Romeo’s view of Juliet.
And finally a poem that really gets down to the nitty gritty of what love is. As slam poet Papergirl (Mary Fons) herself says in the first lines of her ‘Love Poem’,
this poem is for the pillow clutchers/for those looking into the imaginary eyes of the person who fills their mind with sugarplum smiles/for those who have a cannon of dreams ready and waiting to blossom/for the men and the women who want to be understood in that way that only someone who kisses you can understand you/this poem is for you.
But to really get a feeling for the poem and indeed the poet have a look at Papergirl performing her poem by clicking on the link below.
Cambridge School Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet published by Cambridge University Press.