Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Picture Left in Scotland - Ben Jonson

I now think Love is rather deaf than blind,
For else it could not be
That she,
Whom I adore so much, should so slight me
And cast my love behind.
I'm sure my language to her was as sweet,
And every close did meet
In sentence of as subtle feet,
As hath the youngest He
That sits in shadow of Apollo's tree.

O, but my conscious fears,
That fly my thoughts between,
Tell me that she hath seen
My hundred of gray hairs,
Told seven and forty years
Ready so much waste, as she cannot embrace
My mountain belly and my rocky face;
And all these through her eyes have stopp'd her ears.

The notion that love is blind seems old enough that Ben Jonson, writing in the early late 1500s and first half of the 1600s, can call it into question here.  He seems to wish desperately that love in fact was blind, for he fears that his aged appearance (47 years old, gray hair, beer gut, craggy face) has prevented his words of love from reaching the ears of his love.

He knows, being a poet and playwright of immense talent, that his words are surely sweet to her, and indeed, the first stanza of the poem flows beautifully.  Calling upon Classical imagery, he compares his language to the luxurious shade of Apollo's tree.  Sadly, his "conscious fears" seem confirmed to him.  It's something experienced by all, fear that their appearance will cloud their inner self and good qualities from reaching someone else. 

Despite this poem's age, it's still as relevant as the day it was written.  Who hasn't ever felt insecure in their appearance?  I'm sure that at some point, we've all feared that some aspect of our outward being will blind (or in this case, deafen) someone from seeing (or hearing) the person that lives inside.

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