“Now that the love is gone
What are we supposed to do
After all that we’ve been through
When everything that felt so right is wrong
Now that the love is gone?”
The lyrics seem like the celebration of a love gone wrong as David Guetta belts out this incredibly catchy song, singing with so much relish- “Love is gone”…
And I look at the text of the poem, ‘If thou must love me (sonnet 14),’ that I’m to discuss with my tenth grade students and wonder how in the whole wide world, do I make them understand, and relate to all that Elizabeth Barrett Browning conveys, in her sonnet.
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only.
Hmmmm. This should be easy. I can imagine the worldly-wise fifteen or sixteen year old students nod sagely and say, yes, cool, love for love’s sake, that’s righteous. This Browning woman really has her stuff clear and sorted out.
Do not say,
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,
Yeah, all the right reasons- love her smile, alright, love her look, great perception, lady! Speaking gently, really, is that a sought after quality that appeals to anybody? At this moment I must go into great lengths to explain that soft spoken women are considered very attractive, you don’t always need to be brash and outspoken to be heard and their scornful looks of incredulity will soon make me shut up, I know. I sum up, I’m sure with references to lady-like behaviour and good manners and a few will understand (I hope) and nod in agreement while I’m sure many shall decry- Who behaves like this, in this day and time? So unnatural!
—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
Really, Ma’am, how quaint, a sense of ease indeed! But the words – a trick of thought I’m sure will appeal to them. They are taken in by ideas of illusions, deception and other dark feelings.
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so.
Oh, yes Ma’am, we understand these lines, people change and maybe this beautiful gorgeous well-mannered lady cannot keep smiling all the time. Another will pipe up- maybe she won’t speak so gently after they are married, ha ha. That fellow is in for it! Serves him right for being impressed by a smile and smooth talk! I can visualize the whole class at this point collapsing in convulsions of laughter and chaos shall prevail for a few minutes. I shall most unsuccessfully try to stifle my giggles that threaten to escape like bubbles from uncorked champagne and fail. After, wiping tears from my streaming eyes I shall ineffectually try to gain control over the class, with a thinly veiled threat of the suspension of the games period.
So, I shall call on the most eloquent student in the class to sum up and he shall, most eloquently say Ma’am, people change and if love has been ignited for such changeable reasons, like the weather, love also shall change, er… maybe like the reading on a barometer.
Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
Now this shall indeed prove a daunting task for me. In a society where helpless women are almost relics of the past and where women are moving from strength to strength, the idea of woman as a ‘creature’ is a little difficult to imagine. And love for such a pathetic hapless person is difficult to explain.
Maybe I should talk about those clingy insecure people that they know about, always seeking approval and need somebody or the other to bail them out of terrible situations.
Then the images of tiresome damsels in distress and brave men riding on white steeds being tireless Princes Charming going around saving these women will make sense in the context. I’m sure most boys are going to look incredibly disgusted with the idea of galloping on horses rescuing clueless females and the girls are going to take umbrage to the whole notion of being ‘rescued’. The very idea!
How in the whole wide world shall I get them to understand that some women needed to be rescued from their sorry lives and men felt good about themselves being traditional protectors and care-givers? I shall make references to the movies, of course, and that should spark their interest.
And to take the idea further, how will they understand that the woman drawing solace from the man, becomes stronger but this strength makes the man often feel redundant?
Of course, a few students who see this happen in their own family and friends’ circles will relate to it, but a majority who are isolated in their own world shall not even understand.
Can I draw on my own experiences to help them understand? How much of my personal life am I willing to reveal to a bunch of self -absorbed teenagers? Not much, I know. Good sense shall prevail and I shall most certainly decide against it. No point in becoming a mounted specimen in a jar.
I know I am going to lose their attention. The millennials are too self absorbed and lost in their own world to appreciate the finer nuances of poetry.
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.
Eternity? What’s that? They shall snigger. I shall feel like such a fool when I ramble on about ever-lasting love and love for love’s sake. I shall be such a fraud if I say that love lasts forever. To be trapped in a love-less existence is hell. Does love even exist? Or is it a nightmare of our own device?
I admire Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s resilience in facing her tyrannical father, her love for Robert Browning, her voice that rings true when she demands to be loved, for all the right reasons. Such a feminist in the backdrop of the Victorian era!
But there is a niggling doubt at the back of my mind, does love even exist? And do I inflict my cold cynicism on young, impressionable minds?
So, David Guetta, in all his wisdom, makes more sense to me, at this point of time…
There is nothing left to prove
No use to deny this simple truth
Can’t find the reason to keep holding on
Now that the love is gone, love is gone…
Love is just a mounted specimen in a laboratory, the remnant of the nightmare of an earlier era.