Thursday, December 11, 2014

First Love - Jan Owen

     Titian's Young Englishman with a Glove, circa 1530

It happened in Physics,
reading a Library art book under the desk,
(the lesson was Archimedes in the bath)
I turned a page and fell
for an older man, and anonymous at that,
hardly ideal -
he was four hundred and forty-five,
I was fourteen.
'Eureka!' streaked each thought
(I prayed no-one would hear)
and Paradise all term
was page 179
(I prayed no one would guess).
Of course
my fingers, sticky with toffee and bliss,
failed to entice him from his century;
his cool grey stare
fastened me firmly in mine.
I got six overdues,
suspension of borrowing rights
and a D in Physics.
But had by heart what Archimedes proves.
Ten years later I married:
a European with cool grey eyes,
a moustache,
pigskin gloves.

A humorous first love story, against the background of a Physics lesson, with a real life revelation at the end.  You really feel the fervency and immediacy of young love in the lines of the poem, the desperation and frantic energy.  "I got six overdues" is a great example.  So focused on one thing that all the other cares of the world disappear.  Her thoughts were so loud and immediate she worried that others would hear them.  Even though she knew her love could never come true, that never diminished its hold on her heart and imagination.

Owen's eventual marriage to someone who sounds suspiciously like the man in the portrait is a funny revelation.  We can't assume that she sought this man out because of those features and that painting, but it seems likely that she found him so attractive because of the strong impression the painting left on her as a young woman.

Here is the portrait in question:

1 comment:

  1. I think there is something more than meets the eye to the lesson of Archimedes and the bath. Archimedes learned that you could measure the volume of irregularly shapes solids by what they displace. Saying she had by heart what Archimeduas proves is a comment on how the space created in her imagination, which could not be filled by the man in the portrait, was nonetheless filled by a man 10 years later with similar superficial characteristics.