Valentine’s Day is at hand and I feel obliged to give a nod in its direction, say a little something about love.
But many have said it before and said it better. Tomorrow we celebrate the ideal of love, so this 3 for Thursday shares some of my favourite depictions of love in poetry, film and song.
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath – an epic love story, imperfect, tragic, fascinating, bordering on mythic. Big love. I remember reading Ted Hughes ‘Birthday Letters’, when they were first published and becoming lost in the story of them, his story of them.
I’ve picked this one to share, as it captures all the hopefulness of the beginning of love, even as it reveals something of the differences between them; the fairy tale allusion – part fantasy, part shadow; Hughes vaguely resistant, Plath, all incandescent consent; it seems to me their whole story is contained in this poem but still on the cusp; everything possible and nothing damaged, yet.
A Pink Wool Knitted Dress
In your pink wool knitted dress
Before anything had smudged anything
You stood at the altar. Bloomsday.
Rain – so that a just-bought umbrella
Was the only furnishing about me
Newer than three years inured.
My tie – sole, drab, veteran RAF black –
Was the used-up symbol of a tie.
My cord jacket – thrice-dyed black, exhausted,
Just hanging on to itself.
I was a post-war, utility son-in-law!
Not quite the Frog Prince. Maybe the Swineherd
Stealing this daughter’s pedigree dreams
From under her watchtowered searchlit future.
No ceremony could conscript me
Out of my uniform. I wore my whole wardrobe –
Except for the odd, spare, identical item.
My wedding, like Nature, wanted to hide.
However – if we were going to be married
It has better be Westminster Abbey. Why not?
The Dean told us why not. That is how
I learned I had a Parish Church.
St George of the Chimney Sweeps.
So we squeezed into marriage finally.
Your mother, brave even in this
US Foreign Affairs gamble,
Acted all bridesmaids and all guests,
Even – magnanimity – represented
Who had heard nothing about it.
I had invited only their ancestors.
I had not even confided my theft of you
To a closest friend. For Best Man – my squire
To hold the meanwhile rings –
We requisitioned the sexton. Twist of the outrage:
He was packing children into a bus,
taking them to the Zoo – in that downpour!
All the prison animals had to be patient
While we married.
You were transfigured.
So slender and new and naked,
A nodding spray of wet lilac.
You shook, you sobbed with joy, you were ocean depth
Brimming with God.
You said you saw the heavens open
And show riches, ready to drop upon us.
Levitated beside you, I stood subjected
To a strange tense: the spellbound future.
In that echo-gaunt, weekday chancel
I see you
Wrestling to contain your flames
In your pink wool knitted dress
And in your eye-pupils – great cut jewels
Jostling their tear-flames, truly like big jewels
Shaken in a dice-cup and held up to me.
A prime piece of seduction by Anita Ekberg in ‘La Dolce Vita’ – why is there never a fountain around when you need one?
Arguably the film’s most iconic scene, it is actually a recreation of a real-life event that took place two years earlier. Ekberg, on the way home from a night on the town with a set photographer, Pierluigi Praturlon, climbed into the Trevi Fountain to ease her aching feet. Praturlon, who never went anywhere without his Leica, lit up the scene with the headlights of his car and caught the moment on film. Fellini saw the photo in a magazine, Tempo Illustrato, and the rest is history.
It’s not a very good print but it was the only clip that showed the whole build up of the scene, from discovering the cat, the beautifully framed and lit shots of Ekberg in the alleyways – one, almost like a Renaissance painting – the musical tease, reprised in the fountain and the early morning delivery man, as voyeur.
I’m not a big fan of the power ballad or the histrionic yodelling of the likes of Celine Dione or Maria Carey. Love songs are personal, intimate, echoes of shared moments of recognition. If I have to choose a love song then I like the quiet, accidental, slightly embarrassed, sorry-this-is-a-love-song, love song. Like this.
(Featured Image: Cupid & Psyche by Antonio Canova)