To Love is to Wait

The stages of development of spousal love are described in our literature, sometimes one stage at a time, sometimes in consideration of all the stages.

Andrew Klavan, who does not join us here and is therefore ultimately foolish, made in a recent podcast a wise recommendation on this subject. He recommended the poem Wordsworth wrote about his own spouse: She was a phantom of delight. It recounts the progression of the poet’s understanding of his lady, from initial sensory impact, to appreciation of manners, ultimately to respect for her transcendent humanity: a Being breathing thoughtful breath.

In a similar vein is a poem that starts off Love is waiting  . . .  

It does not mean Love is waiting for you,  or any such stuff.  It means that loving constitutes waiting.  Look; you will see.

Miłość

Jest czekaniem
na niebieski mrok
na zieloność traw
na piesczczotę rzęs.

Love

Is waiting
for the blue dusk
for the green grass
for the embrace of eyelids.

(As the Italians say:  amore fulmineo!  thunderbolt love!)

But we continue:

Czekaniem
na kroki

szelesty
listy
na pukanie do drzwi

Waiting
for footsteps
rustling
letters
for the knock on the door

Czekaniem
na sełnienie

trwanie
zrozumienie

Waiting
for fulfillment
constancy
understanding

Czekaniem
na potwierdzenie

na kryzk protestu

Waiting
for confirmation
for cry of protest

(Mutual trust gives us the freedom to be mutually, and non-fatally, candid.)

Czekaniem
na sen
na świt
na koniec świata

Waiting
for sleep
for dawn
for the end of the world

(And so we can be constant through the life we are given.)

The poet is Małgorzata Hillar (1930-1995.)  The translator is Morosław Lipiński. My editorial interruptions are in parentheses. Nice clean layout is here or here.

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10 thoughts on “To Love is to Wait”

  1. What a lovely post.

    My husband and I prefer to celebrate the anniversary of our first date (March 15) that was in actuality a business dinner. At that point, we’d done business together for over a year and had become very important resources for our respective companies and I swear there was a never a flicker of interest beyond the bottom line.

    Neither of us were each other’s physical type, but after drinking a bottle of wine that night we started to learn about the similarities of backgrounds and values. They say you end up marrying somebody who lived within a 60 mile radius of your hometown:

    He grew up in NE Indiana and I grew up in SE Michigan. We both attended SEC schools and shared hopelessly midwestern values. Not to mention, we did share common business interests and he was an athlete. 🙂

    Needless to say, the night ended in a kiss as he bundled me into a cab and one month later we were living together (which is a bigger commitment than you think when one of the partners gives up their apt in NYC)!!

    In any case, we were married in 1991 and I sincerely hope he outlives me. Nobody could respect or understand me as he does.

    Happy Valentine’s Day all!

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  2. My favorite:

    “Love seeketh not his own! Dear, you may take
    My happiness to make you happier,
    Even though you never know I gave it to you—
    Only let me hear sometimes, all alone,
    The distant laughter of your joy.”

    Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (Brian Hooker translation).

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  3. Cyrano:
    My favorite:

    “Love seeketh not his own! Dear, you may take
    My happiness to make you happier,
    Even though you never know I gave it to you—
    Only let me hear sometimes, all alone,
    The distant laughter of your joy.”

    Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (Brian Hooker translation).

    Oh, Cyrano!  Have you chosen your handle from Rostand’s Cyrano?  I hope you have better outcome than he!

    On the one hand, his manner of loving is admirable, for it is the opposite of vain: he values his loved one above all else and so, naturally, will sacrifice lesser values for what he loves most.

    On the other hand, he fixes on a woman who, while certainly personifying a certain ideal, is herself unperceptive, clueless, oblivious.  It’s kind of morbid how he continues to pine for her.

    Mayhap my own personal history intrudes at this point, but so it is.  All through that play I think to myself, It’s entirely possible that a woman of worth loved him, and he ignored her:  she was obscure, or plain, or both, and he just did not look around.  Sure, Roxanne appeared a prize, but how well did he know her anyway? What proportion of her worth and desirability was only located in his own seeking imagination?  On really rasty days I wonder if his pursuit of a personification of physical beauty was nothing more than a protest to the Universe about his nose.  Really!  A man of worth and virtue worries about his nose?  No woman of worth, perceiving competence and worth and virtue and capacity for love, would worry about a nose!  It’s laughable.  It’s to cry.

    I suppose that is what Rostand was thinking.  Do you think that’s right?

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  4. Don’t worry, I’ve already had a better outcome than the fictional Mr. C 🙂

    My handle does indeed derive from Cyrano de Bergerac, but I bear little resemblance to the title character, and it’s much more a homage to the play, the playwright, and (most importantly for me), the translator who made those lines sing in my native language.

    (I had to read that play for junior year literature class in high school. I was really, really not looking forward to it, but a few pages in I was swept away.)

    To me, Cyrano the person is tragicomic. Many virtues but also many flaws.  You meet people who are afraid of failure, of course.  In my opinion, Cyrano was afraid of success – that’s what the “nose” is really all about and his relationship with the woefully underdeveloped Roxane character.

    But Rostand could write, and Brian Hooker could translate, well enough to make someone who doesn’t cotton to poetry (blank verse included) read a whole book of it…

    “My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
    With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them
    In the one garden you may call your own.”
    So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
    Render no share to Caesar – in a word,
    I am too proud to be a parasite…
    I stand, not high it may be – but alone!”

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  5. “Whatever you do, don’t think with your dick.”

    — words of wisdom from my Dad to my teenage me.

    Which I assiduously followed!

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  6. Damocles:
    “Whatever you do, don’t think with your dick.”

    — words of wisdom from my Dad to my teenage me.

    Which I assiduously followed!

    I didn’t think that was possible. Oh, that was the point.

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  7. Cyrano:
    Don’t worry, I’ve already had a better outcome than the fictional Mr. C 🙂

    My handle does indeed derive from Cyrano de Bergerac, but I bear little resemblance to the title character, and it’s much more a homage to the play, the playwright, and (most importantly for me), the translator who made those lines sing in my native language.

    Great news, both items.

    Translation is a great big complicated endeavor, isn’t it?  Literal is best for some purposes, while, what is it called, thought-for-thought is better for others.

    (I had to read that play for junior year literature class in high school. I was really, really not looking forward to it, but a few pages in I was swept away.)

    To me, Cyrano the person is tragicomic. Many virtues but also many flaws.  You meet people who are afraid of failure, of course.  In my opinion, Cyrano was afraid of success – that’s what the “nose” is really all about and his relationship with the woefully underdeveloped Roxane character.

    ***Afraid of success?? Can you explain that?  What, did he fear that if she loved him he would fail her at some time in the future?  How could that be?  If you have insights into that, I would so like to learn.

    But Rostand could write, and Brian Hooker could translate, well enough to make someone who doesn’t cotton to poetry (blank verse included) read a whole book of it…

    “My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
    With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them
    In the one garden you may call your own.”
    So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
    Render no share to Caesar – in a word,
    I am too proud to be a parasite…
    I stand, not high it may be – but alone!”

    It is hard to imagine any better way of expressing an injunction to live by one’s values.

    Thank you, Cyrano, for pointing out these things.  I will have to go back to the play now.  And the movie!

    . . .

    Okay, found the passage.  Act II, Scene 8, line 1000 ff:

    Rêver, rire, passer, être seul, être libre,Avoir l’œil qui regarde bien, la voix qui vibre,Mettre, quand il vous plaît, son feutre de travers,Pour un oui, pour un non, se battre,—ou faire un vers !Travailler sans souci de gloire ou de fortune,A tel voyage, auquel on pense, dans la lune !N’écrire jamais rien qui de soi ne sortît,Et modeste d’ailleurs, se dire: mon petit,Soit satisfait des fleurs, des fruits, même des feuilles,Si c’est dans ton jardin à toi que tu les cueilles !Puis, s’il advient d’un peu triompher, par hasard,Ne pas être obligé d’en rien rendre à César,Vis-à-vis de soi-même en garder le mérite,Bref, dédaignant d’être le lierre parasite,Lors même qu’on n’est pas le chêne ou le tilleul,Ne pas monter bien haut, peut-être, mais tout seul !

    He’s giving himself a pep talk.  The rhythm reminds me of the opening scene in the Depardieu film, where he is leaping all around the theater, fencing an opponent, and composing verse all at the same time.  Élan?  You betcha!

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  8. I think the difference between fear of failure and fear of success may be rather subtle. But let’s use Cyrano as an example.

    Cyrano could go right up to Roxane and ask her out on a date.  She could laugh in his face and humiliate him, maybe even in front of his friends and adversaries.  He might shirk from that owing to the likelihood of that occurrence, which he may exaggerate owing to insecurity.  That would seem to be a clear case of “fear of failure”.

    But what if she says yes?  He wins her over, and his life might change a lot — for the better, for the worse — but change would be coming.  Marriage, house, baby, job.  He would not be able to squander his money on gambling and vanity projects like closing down Montfleury’s plays.  He might not be able to hang out at the bakery with the poets at all hours and fight against De Guiche’s men.  The swashbuckler has diapers to change.

    I think a lot of people, even those who dream big, are either comfortable with their selves or their situations, and/or are more anxious about the unknown or the future than their dissatisfaction with the present.  So, they remain in place, stalled, even when opportunity knocks.  I think of these people as being “afraid of success”.

    As for Cyrano, I appreciate the fact that he is imperfect and flawed.  He learns a little bit at the end, finally, but without the bitter aftertaste of regret…

    “What we are, Leveret, is a sum of our sins. That’s what makes us humans instead of saints. A perfectly flat surface has no character. Allow some cracks, some flaws and shortcomings, and then you have contrast. It’s that contrast with impossible perfection that makes our character.” — Martin Cruz Smith, “Rose”

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  9. Cyrano:
    But what if she says yes?  He wins her over, and his life might change a lot — for the better, for the worse — but change would be coming.  Marriage, house, baby, job.  He would not be able to squander his money on gambling and vanity projects like closing down Montfleury’s plays.  He might not be able to hang out at the bakery with the poets at all hours and fight against De Guiche’s men.  The swashbuckler has diapers to change.

    Plus, he could find out she’s dumb as a spaniel.

    I think a lot of people, even those who dream big, are either comfortable with their selves or their situations, and/or are more anxious about the unknown or the future than their dissatisfaction with the present.  So, they remain in place, stalled, even when opportunity knocks.  I think of these people as being “afraid of success”.

    Well, this is a big eye-opener for me.  He goes through all this noisy angst for all that time,  all while in fact wanting her to stay right up there on her pedestal – wanting very much for her to remain unwinnable?

    This makes the whole story very much more interesting.  Thanks, Cyrano!

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