Friday, February 14, 2014


May those that love us, love us;
And those that hate us, may God turn their hearts;
If He cannot turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles
So we may know them by their limping.
This sour little Irish saying is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of love, which is a shame. It's partly that I'm something of a cynic (a shame), and partly that I'm still scarred from wounds I suffered in the great sex wars of the nineteen-seventies (again, a shame), and partly that I detest public displays of sentimentality. In my deep heart's core I actually like love as much as the next person. I still love Harold, for instance, even after thirty years of marriage. I would seriously hate to have to do without him.

Still my fancy turns toward the more cynical expressions of the tender passion, just as a matter of literary taste. Here are a few favorites.

Mae West:
Ingenue: Oh, Miss West, haven't you ever met a man who could give you perfect happiness?

Mae: Sure. Lots of times.

Dorothy Parker:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

And here's a real poem, which a man I knew recited at his wedding to a woman he was madly, truly in love with. They no longer live as man and wife. Go figure.

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;—on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold

May you have a good Valentine's Day.

© 2014 Kate Gallison


  1. How could you throw over a guy who could recite "Dover Beach?" He must have been dreadful in some other way
    Most people don't even know who Matthew Arnold is anymore.

    1. I hasten to reassure you that it wasn't I who threw him over. Maybe they threw each other over, or maybe they peacefully agreed to part. Time passes. There was a huge age difference. He was an English professor on the brink of retirement, she his student. Luminous people, both of them. While it lasted they had, I think, three children.

  2. Kate, this is brilliant. YOU are brilliant! Shine on!!!!!!

  3. This is just lovely. Thanks for speaking up for those of us who are not comfortable with public -- or even private -- mushiness. But are still romantic to the core in our acerbic way. Do not take my heart lightly, though I might treat it so myself.

  4. Mae West was one wise dame... a lot beneath that curvy surface.... tjs

  5. Ex: An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises... MW.... ( tjs)

  6. Kate, perhaps I should have said "How can one throw over a guy who can recite 'Dover Beach?' "