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August 15, 2011
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I’ve written a few posts on the topic of love – why we fear it (Dry Your Eyes and Dry the River – You Need Not Fear) and how to master the art (Mona – The Art of Love). So, in the same vein, I thought I’d have a look at this poem which I came across in the Poems on the Underground archive:

‘I shall say what inordinate love is’

I shall say what inordinate love is:
The furiosity and wodness of mind,
An instinguible burning, faulting bliss,
A great hinger, insatiate to find,
A dulcet ill, an evil sweetness blind,
A right wonderful sugared sweet error,
Without labour rest, contrary to kind,
Or without quiet, to have huge labour.

ANON. (15th century)

Aside from being written by Anon, who I thought was someone’s name for far too long,  the style of this poem reminds me a little bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins (you can read the review, Manley Humility, here). As for the content, I like the determined “I shall” and the list of original and perceptive ideas which try to define what this inordinate love might be. That said, I still don’t think it matches up to the beautiful truth and poetry of 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love in these terms:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

Glenn Schrivener puts this passage into perspective in an engaging and insightful way. You can read and listen to his talk here.Let me know what you think.

(This image is taken from Boxue.T – you can take a look at his tumblr site here.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 19:13

    Interestingly, part of this passage (starting with “When I was a child…” and ending with “But the greatest of these is love.”) was one of the poems of the day on the Poems on the Underground archive. But it is so much more than poetry – it is a way of life. Wordsworth of course would argue that poetry is a way of life and you know what? – maybe he was right. But I’m afraid you’d have to read this post to understand what I mean by that!


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