Posts Tagged ‘Emerson’

In any romantic you will find an obsessive fool one poem away from a restraining order.  The odd thing of the romantic is that the advances are only considered romantic if the object of desire reciprocates in kind.  If the heart felt flood gate of emotion is not desired then the word Romance suddenly turns into the word “Creepy”.

Pre-ritlin/pre-divorce I was an eternal romantic. I once wrote a poem to a girl for the promise of a kiss! She didn’t think I’d write it.  She was wrong.  I was kissed.  Love is temporary insanity. Think about Shakespeare for a moment; if there was romance in his plays it was either a tragedy or a comedy.  We think people do wild stuff for a klondike, but if you throw love into the equation, look out!

But there is that word “love”.  Is the romantic poet really in love with the person or the idea of love.  I determined later in life after several foolish relationship choices that I was in love with romance, and like missing the forrest for the trees I missed the person for all the wooing.  Was the depth of love involved at all?  Maybe.  At least shadows of love.

There is a place for romance but it ceases to be love when it distorts the true image of the other person.

I have read Keats, Shelly, Wordworth, and Byron.  Their poetry is fun to read and moving.  They were my “go to” poets when I wanted to impress or be inspired.  Never on my list was Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He was too practical.  Wise? Yes.  Deep? Yes. Romantic?  His three major essays are entitled; Compensation, Self Reliance, and Manners.

The other day I was going through a big box of books that someone in our church had dropped off.  Inside was a little brownish navy blue book filled with Emerson’s poems.  I love books. (have ever since I discovered in college that chicks dig dudes who read or were very manly.  I had long hair and pierced ears and I knew I wasn’t pulling one of those images off.) This book was published in the 1920’s and that fascinated me too.  I opened it up to the middle and saw a poem entitled, “Forbearance”.  Emerson really knew how to make the ladies swoon.

Naturally, I read it. Here it is.

Forbearance. by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?

Loved the wood-rose, and let it on its stock?

At rich men’s tables eaten bread and pulse?

Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?

And loved so well a high behavior,

In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained,

Nobility more nobly to repay?

O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!


Mr. Practical.  Mr. Prudent.  Mr. Self Reliance, Compensation, and Manners. Mr., you sir give light to love.

What is Forbearance?  It simply means self control, patience, and tolerance.  Most romantics who desire with intensity to know love, spout words of lost control, impatience with waiting, and intolerance of the misunderstood.  This kind of romantic is no romantic at all.  This kind of romantic is a consumer of love, but not a connoisseur of love. Not one who will ever know love. Emerson, here in a few short stanzas, describes a love that Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians.  Love is patient and self control and understanding.

Emerson questions the one who says they love the beauty of birds and always shoots it down.  He questions the one who delights in flora and fauna only to snip off the head of a rose to place on ones shirt.  He questions the one who devours the object of their desire and the one who only sees the object of beauty for what it does for them and not the beauty of its self.  Emerson seeks the friend who seeks to partner with the life of the other in a spirit of learning and discovery not in a spirit of objectification and consumption.

When reading this poem, I immediately thought of the opposite kind of love.  I thought of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men”.  Lenny was mentally disabled, very large and unaware of his strength and the impact his attention had on others.  Lenny loved rabbits, but in his affection would accidentally kill them.  The same thing happened with his love of a woman.

True love does not stifle and destroy the other person.  True love uplifts and encourages.  Love truly does show patience and self-control.  It is wonderful to compare her to a summers day, just make sure you “see” her and not just the highlights in her hair.  In love, the truth is opposite the rules of the sun.  In order to truly embrace the reality of affections and love, a person must be looked at directly and not distracted by the things we use to protect ourselves from true romance.  To experience the greatness of another person truly does take forbearance.  Forbearance, quite possibly may be the most romantic way to the soul of another.  Imagine the consuming fire of love built upon the embrace and respect of another person.

It doesn’t stop with lovers either.  In other forms it is the true way of friendship, and christian respect for others.  Jesus said to love one another as he has loved us.  We often leap here, once again, to the extreme of romantic acts of sacrifice, but what of the other ways that Jesus loves us.  He never disrespected the “person” of another.  Even in confrontation an act of love, an act of forbearance was used.  He saw a person of value, not an object.  What do you see when you see another?

Is this all to say that acts of emotion and expression are bad?  Far from it! Romanticism is wonderful.  A heart beats truly when expressed dramatically. Acts of poetry, music, and art are blessed ways to express oneself. Is a poem for a kiss a bad thing? No.  Just make sure you both really want a kiss and not a cheap limerick.


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