Two poems that aren’t usually thought of as Valentine’s Day poems contain lines that would suit longtime lovers, including engaged and married couples.
Robert Browning’s classic “Rabbi Ben Ezra” begins:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
“Rabbi Ben Ezra” isn’t a love poem but a meditation in verse on the life of the 12th-century scholar in its title. But countless lovers have inscribed its famous first two lines, both written in iambic trimeter, onto the flyleaves of books or Valentine’s Day notes and cards. And all three would work for straight or gay couples. The full text of the poem appears online at Bartleby.com.
Another classic with lines that would suit gay or straight couples is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s translation from the German of Simon Dach’s “Annie of Tharaw.” It includes the rhyming couplets:
Oppression, and sickness, and sorrow, and pain,
Shall be to our true love as links to the chain.
As the palm-tree standeth so straight and so tall,
The more the hail beats, and the more the rains fall, —
So love in our hearts shall grow mighty and strong,
Through crosses, through sorrows, through manifold wrong …
Though forests I’ll follow, and where the sea flows,
Through ice, and through iron, through armies of foes.
“Annie of Tharaw” sounds less sophisticated than many contemporary poems, in part because of its anapestic meter, commonly found in children’s poems such as “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” But Dach’s words may speak more directly than some of their modern counterparts to couples facing serious illnesses such as AIDS. Their sentiments implicitly ratify and amplify the “in sickness and in health” of wedding vows, so they would also suit anniversaries. The full text appears online at Litscape.
© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.