Friday, February 13, 2009

Geeking With Romantic Poetry

This has been one of those long/short weeks -- it seems long in the sense that I can barely remember Monday, which feels like it happened a decade ago, and short in the sense that I'm surprised it's Friday already.

As the season of ubiquitous commercialized representation of romance reaches its culmination, I thought I'd share my favorite/most romantic poem. I suppose I indirectly have my college English lit professor to thank for me discovering it. The class was supposedly the general English lit survey course, but the professor had this odd thesis that he used as an organizing principle for the entire course. He was hung up on the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism in England and believed that it also marked a transition in the sense of public and private life. He claimed that in the Catholic era there wasn't the same sense of personal privacy as started to come about after the transition to Protestantism, and he believed this showed in literature. So we spent a lot of time analyzing poems by Milton and Shakespeare for evidence of this. It was one of those smile and nod situations because I'm not sure his thesis held up. I must have smiled and nodded well because I made an A in the course. For whatever really odd reason, he was very hung up on the fact that, apparently, Elizabeth I used to hold court while sitting on the toilet (he used this as proof of the lack of a sense of privacy, but I'm not sure how that fit his theory, since she was Protestant). If it hadn't been for the cute ROTC guy in my class, I'd have had to force myself to go to class, and after about the tenth time he told us about Bess on the toilet, even staring at the cute ROTC guy wasn't enough to keep me from losing it, so I figured if I was actually going to learn anything about English literature, I'd have to do it myself, and I started reading the textbook in class while the professor got really excited about a past in which people apparently had no qualms about engaging in various bodily functions in settings we'd consider public. And that's when I found this poem:

When You Are Old
by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

It's the second stanza that really gets me because it seems to me to be about a man seeing something special in the woman's soul that others don't necessarily notice, and that he sees that on her face. That stanza gives me the warm fuzzies.

And because there is no subject that I can't turn into a geekfest, I seem to recall that a part of this poem was used in an episode of Space: Above and Beyond (which got me very excited when they quoted my favorite poem). If I remember correctly, the guy used it as his way of telling the woman he loved that he loved her. (As an aside, I wonder how well that series holds up in time, if I'd still like it if I got it on DVD.)

But now, this poem almost sounds to me like it could be about Doctor Who. In a way, it seems to describe the Doctor/Companion relationship, because it always seems to be the "pilgrim soul" that he's drawn to in choosing sidekicks, and then he goes on to hide his face amid a crowd of stars while she's left, as a human, to grow old and remember the time they had together. It especially fits the "School Reunion" episode.

Speaking of geeky things, The Sarah Conner Chronicles is back tonight, in the Death Slot. Dollhouse is also premiering tonight, but I must say that I'm not overly enthused about it. Granted, I haven't been enthused by the concepts of all of Whedon's series, and I ended up loving them. I probably wouldn't have watched Buffy if I hadn't already had my TV on that station and was too busy to change the channel or turn it off. Then Angel was one of my least favorite characters and I wasn't much interested in a series about him, and I ended up liking Angel as a series better than Buffy. But the concept for Dollhouse is more "ew" than "don't care" to me. And it's opposite Friday Night Lights. I can get FNL on OnDemand, I suppose, but I'm still not sure I even want to watch Dollhouse. So, I guess we'll see.

Now I will actually leave the house today because I have to drop off some newspapers at the church so the youth group can use them for some project, and then I think I will stimulate the economy. I desperately need a pair of what I think of as "travel shoes." I need some black shoes that are sort of business casual that I can do a lot of walking in while still looking semi-professional, and that are slip-on for easy transit through airport security. I had a great pair that wore out, and then I replaced them with a pair I thought was identical, but they weren't, and I've finally convinced myself that these shoes will NEVER be comfortable. Since I'm going to New York next month, I will need shoes like that. The quest begins.

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