Monday, March 1, 2010

Symptoms of Love*- Robert Graves

 As one of the British literary lions of the last century (20th), Graves first made his mark as a poet writing about World War I and followed that with a long career – he died in 1985 at age 90 – that included historical novels, seminal essays on literary criticism, and translations of classics.  Of his novels,  I, Claudius  and its sequel  Claudius the God  are perhaps the best known.

In this one, it’s all anxiety and anticipation: who, in love, has not known “laggard dawns”!   The economy of words and conciseness - particularly in the second and third verses - reminds me of a telegram (for those of you old enough to have seen one).


Symptoms of Love
Love is a universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason. 

Symptoms of true love 
Are leanness, jealousy, 
Laggard dawns; 

Are omens and nightmares – 
Listening for a knock,
Waiting for a sign: 

For a touch of her fingers
In a darkened room,
For a searching look, 

Take courage, lover!
Could you endure such pain
At any hand but hers?                                                          

Robert Graves - English

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