Thursday, February 10, 2011

luve is not luve*

Today I'm posting one of my favorite Shakespearean sonnets. It also happens to be pretty much the only sonnet that I'm familiar with and it is a luuuuuuuuuv sonnet, of course:

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

I first heard this sonnet in the movie adaptation Sense and Sensibility** with Emma Thompson and I was moved by it.

I love William's description of love. It's very idealistic. But that is the way many of us imagine that it should be: enduring through tumultuous circumstances, unwearied by the passage of time, remaining steadfast even to the "edge of doom". Yet is seems like in real life love is not like this. It is fickle. It comes and goes. Sometimes it even seems to turn into hate. For example, when you see two people who were once married, and presumably in love, now divorced and fighting each other tooth and nail over their season tickets to the opera and their cat while they badmouth each other to their children.

So where is the disconnect between what we think love should be and what it actually is? Why do we have so few examples of enduring love in our world?

Shakespeare concludes the sonnet by saying:

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

By that he means that if the glowing description of love that he's written about is proven to be false, then he must renounce his beliefs regarding the subject. Furthermore, he maintains that if he's wrong about the perfect nature of love, that no man has ever loved.

I was going to simply post the sonnet in honor of luuuuuuuv month but as I read it again, I was struck by that last couplet. I feel that Willie is wrong in his description of love and therefore that no man has ever loved. I also think that Shakespeare himself knew that the ideal that he holds up could never be found in a human heart. If you read any number of his plays you will see human depravity on flamboyant display- usually couched in bawdy humor with some fairies or specters thrown in.

A lot of what we, myself included, feel is love is nothing more than selfish fantasies, self-serving emotions and lust.

But Shakespeare isn't totally wrong because that perfect love does exist. The one that endures to doom. And it did endure to doom and not only that but it conquered doom. God is love. (1 John 4:8) He demonstrated his love to us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

And for those who believe in Him, we must love. But not only that, we can love. Christ freed us from self and sin so that we can love each other. (Happy Valentine's Day!) And when we do love each other that is a sign that God abides in us and that His love is being perfected in us! (1 John 1:12). I don't even understand it. So often the love I give to others is terribly incomplete and riddled with selfishness. But then I must cast myself all the more on God's perfect love and it's gift of salvation.

Shakespeare was onto something. No man ever loved except One. And we love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

* When I was googling to find the sonnet I typed in "luve is not luve" by mistake. My brain, sometimes it's like "peace out." And then I have finagle my way through the day without it. If only I knew where it goes off to... probably Cancun.

** I will not definitively say that you cannot have a happy life if you haven't seen this movie but I can't fathom how you can. Though there are many things that I can't fathom, so it may be possible. ;o) (Watch the movie, is what I'm saying. Its my favorite!)

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