What is love?

Monday 13th February 2012

AT 61, unattached, self-contained, and not at present contemplating the kind of relationship that might impinge upon my orderly kitchen and disorderly sleep patterns, I am enjoying the freedom of not having to endure the mistakes I would be bound to make were I to be wondering how best to show my affection upon the feast day of Saint Valentine.

Cards, flowers, candlelit dinners, surprise theatre tickets, jewellery, cuddly toys… how do people cope with it all? And what happens if, like this year, there’s a lot of football on?

I first heard Sir Walter Raleigh’s Now What is Love? as a sixth former, at a matinée for schools of the RSC’s Pleasure and Repentance: a ‘light-hearted look at love’ anthology of poetry, prose and song.

So impressed was I by the performance, I purchased the book. Besides, I had to have a copy of the words of that salacious may i feel poem by e e cummings… you know, to persuade my girlfriend to read it with me that coming Sunday afternoon when her parents were visiting Granny and we’d be supposed to be at the dining-room table doing our homework.

Raleigh, of course, led a busy life: smoker, sailor, soldier, spy, poet, potato farmer, courtier, prisoner; beheaded too; ah, the romance of it all. But I doubt there’ll be many men placing best coats over puddles before their beloveds drive off to work tomorrow morning.

Pleasure and Repentance was compiled by Terry Hands. The pieces range from The Book of Genesis to the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, from Keats to Auden to The Private Journal of Marjorie Fleming, aged 8.

A wonderful collection; available online for 3p; would make a great gift for that special someone… if old enough to appreciate the cover illustration of a hipster-clad Mick Jagger.

Hands’ notes are fun too. For the Prayer to St. Catherine, ‘The woman should be about 150 years old. A Scottish accent helps.’

The finale is Raleigh’s question reprised: what is love? To which Hands suggests:

‘There still isn’t an answer. There never was.’

 

 

 

 

 

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