How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Many years ago, my wife told me I’m a romantic. She was right. It’s been seven years since I lost her to pancreatic cancer. Life is not fair. However, I am both a romantic and a sentimentalist. At eighty, I feel myself becoming even more so as I go through a life review. The strange thing about this review is that it’s not voluntary. There are periods during the day when my mind goes there. And that is what music is all about. Popular songs and other music genres transport me back to times long gone, but those were happy times. This essay is one of what I hope will be a series of music essays. In fact, I have already started that series, as you know if you read my blog.
But poems, plays, movies, and art also evoke powerful feelings in myself and others.
I asked myself how to approach love, romance, and disappointment in the human experience. As a psychotherapist with over forty years of experience and long training in various therapeutic techniques, primarily psychoanalysis, my inclination was to use fictionalized case studies with a psychological explanation. There isn’t a more boring way to write than to psychoanalyze past cases. After all, there are poems, novels, plays, and movies about love and movie dramas that dramatize this human passion. Therefore, the following essay is my attempt to discuss love and romance that is creative and will be appealing to readers.
Unrequited love is any love that is not returned to the same degree it is given or is not known by the beloved. There are wonderful examples of poems, novels, and movies.
Never seek to tell thy love by William Blake.
“Never seek to tell thy love
Love that never told can be
For the gentle wind does move
- ‘Never seek to tell thy love’ describes why sometimes it’s better to keep quiet and not share one’s emotions and love. It will be far more painful to share those feelings and have them rejected. That is going to be far more painful than keeping them to themselves.
John Clare, “The Secret”
“I loved thee, though I told thee not,
Right earlily and long,
Thou wert my joy in every spot,
My theme in every song …”
This poem is self-explanatory.
“The Unattainable” by Lord Byron
“Like a distant star, you shine so bright. But forever out of reach, day and night. Unattainable love, a constant yearning, In my heart, the flame keeps burning.”
William Shakespeare. This poem is also self-explanatory
“Thy beauty shines like the morning sun, But love’s requital, alas, is none. Dreams of love unfulfilled, I bear, In my heart, the weight of despair.”
Who doesn’t know Victor Hugo’s tragic novel and movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Poor Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer, loves Esmeralda, who alone among Parisians has shown kindness to him. When she is eventually hanged, Quasimodo kills the priest who betrayed her and then lies with her corpse until he dies of starvation.
Second Chance Romance Stories
The theme of a second chance is a storyline in which former lovers reconnect after a heart-rending breakup, reunion, and an ending in which they live happily ever after.
The song “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” is sad.
It is important to note that in this wonderful song, there is a break in the romantic partnership, but he, the romantic partner, leaves and has no wish to return. He chooses to not have a second chance in this song. A follow-up song is “I am a lineman for the county.” The former romantic partner sings that “he needs more than wants her.” Most of us would not call that attitude romantic. Here are the lyrics to the Phoenix song:
“By the time I get to Phoenix, she’ll be rising
She’ll find the note I left hanging on her door
She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leaving.’
‘Cause I’ve left that girl so many times before
By the time I make Albuquerque, she’ll be working
She’ll probably stop at lunch and give me a call
But she’ll hear that phone keep on ringing.’
Off the wall, that’s all.
By the time I make Oklahoma, she’ll be sleeping.’
She’ll turn softly and call my name out low
And she’ll cry to think I’d really leave her
Tho’ time and time, I’ve tried to tell her so
She didn’t know I would really go.”
The great romantic theme in many Hollywood movies in the past was “he found her, he lost her, and he found her again. There is a recent television commercial that carries the same theme. I am trying to remember the product that is being advertised.
Some people refer to these stories as “second chance romance stories that cover the themes of falling in love. Then something happens, and the two split up and separate. Perhaps it’s another lover who intrudes, a war, “falling out of love,” teenage romances that end when they both leave for different colleges or a dozen other possibilities. For those reading novels about this theme or watching Hollywood movies, the separation feels heart-wrenching for the audience. Later, perhaps by chance, they rediscover one another, reunite, and “live happily ever after.”
One of my favorite movies is “Twister,” the 1996 disaster film that has been a cult classic for years, and for good reason. This action-packed movie has it all:
- Epic tornadoes.
- A thrilling love story.
- A cast of talented actors who bring the drama to life.
Besides tornadoes, it is a story of a love affair that is supposed to end in divorce. As only Hollywood can do, the couple reunites, leaving the audience feeling they live happily ever after. Reviews of the movie were mediocre at best. Yet, it endures because it touches on human feelings of loss, love, and love regained.
The ultimate example of love and romance is William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
It is one of the most revered plays in literary history. This tragic tale of love, loss, and strife against societal norms provides a profound exposition of fate, love, sacrifice, and the adverse effects of longstanding discord. Shakespeare’s blending of enchanting romance with inevitable tragedy has firmly etched “Romeo and Juliet” into the annals of unforgettable literature.
The play explores love’s dual nature as a source of immense joy and desolate sorrow. The delicate and fleeting affair between Romeo and Juliet is inspiring and heartbreaking. Shakespeare demonstrates the intoxicating allure of love and its power to overcome entrenched animosity. Despite the existent feud between their families, Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other remains steadfast, marking it as an eternal symbol of romantic love in popular culture.
However, their love story is troubled from the onset; it is “star-crossed,” tainted by the tragic implications of their familial discord. This earnest exploration of love’s consequences sets the stage for the consequential tragedies that unfold, further enhancing the plot’s emotional depth.
The Role of Fate: Fate is a recurrent theme in “Romeo and Juliet.” From the Prologue’s reference to “A pair of star-crossed lovers” to Romeo’s claim that he is “fortune’s fool,” the characters’ destinies appear predetermined. Through this, Shakespeare illustrates the grim impact of fate, weaving a tale where life’s unpredictability becomes evident, and the prospect of escaping one’s fate seems impossible.
The protagonists’ attempts to challenge their “star-crossed” destinies heighten the plot’s tension and intensify the ensuing tragedy. Their tragic deaths are, perforce, a result of circumstances beyond their control, enforcing the chilling inevitability of their fate.
Another pivotal element of “Romeo and Juliet” is the bitter and seemingly unending feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. This conflict instigates a hostile environment that fastens the tragic fate of Romeo and Juliet. Their love might have bloomed without resistance in different circumstances, illustrating how societal strife has far-reaching detrimental impacts.
Indeed, “Romeo and Juliet” is a testament to Shakespeare’s ability to delve into the human experience’s complexities. Characters shaped by love, societal strife, and twisted fate eternally imprint upon our collective consciousness, imbuing us with a broader comprehension of love, sacrifice, and the potent destruction of enmity. Through their tragic tale, Romeo and Juliet continue to breathe life into the pages of literature, living on in the hearts of readers and audiences alike.
Since I was a boy, I experienced the Opera Madama Butterfly as overwhelmingly beautiful, tragic, and heart-wrenching. In addition, the voices of the brilliant singers were over-powering and remain the same to this day.
“Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini is a hauntingly beautiful opera that tells the story of a tragic romance between a young geisha named Cio-Cio-San, also known as Butterfly, and an American naval officer named Pinkerton. Set in Nagasaki, Japan, at the turn of the 20th century, the opera explores themes of love, betrayal, and cultural clashes.
The opera begins with Butterfly, a naïve and innocent young woman, falling deeply in love with Pinkerton during his brief stay in Japan. Their initial encounter sparks a whirlwind romance, culminating in a marriage ceremony where Butterfly wholeheartedly believes in their love and promises of eternal fidelity. However, Pinkerton’s intentions are far from genuine, as he views the marriage as a temporary convenience and plans to return to America after finding a “real” wife.
Butterfly’s love for Pinkerton is unwavering and unconditional. She eagerly awaits his return, even after he departs, leaving her behind. As time passes, Butterfly clings to the hope that Pinkerton will return, determined to keep their relationship alive despite societal pressures and her heart-wrenching loneliness.
The pinnacle of tragedy arrives when Pinkerton returns to Japan, but not alone. He brings his new American wife, Kate, intending to take custody of the child he fathered with Butterfly. This revelation shatters Butterfly’s dreams as she realizes that the love she held onto so dearly was nothing more than an illusion.
In a desperate attempt to save face and protect her child’s future, Butterfly makes the ultimate sacrifice. She agrees to give up her child to Pinkerton and his new wife, believing it will provide the child with a better life in America. Butterfly bids farewell to her son with great strength and dignity, knowing she will never see him again.
In a heart-wrenching finale, Butterfly takes her own life, choosing death over a life without love or honor. The tragedy lies in Butterfly’s demise and in exploring cross-cultural misunderstandings, power dynamics, and the consequences of Pinkerton’s actions. The opera serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating impact that betrayal and broken promises can have on individuals who wholeheartedly believe in the power of love.
“Madama Butterfly” is a testament to Puccini’s incredible ability to evoke deep emotions through his sublime music and poignant storytelling. Its tragic romance reminds us of the power of love and its ability to both heal and destroy. Through Butterfly’s story, we are reminded of our vulnerabilities and the significance of cherishing and respecting the love we find.
Puccini’s masterpiece continues to captivate audiences worldwide, reminding us of the fragile nature of our relationships and their profound impact on our lives.
What better way to end this essay than with a poem by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”