Love: It’s Worth the Pain of Loss #Poem #Poetry #Love #Loss #Tennyson #Valentine #ValentinesDay

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Though you likely won’t find this excerpt from Tennyson’s immortal poem In Memoriam A. H. H. on any top ten list of love poems (by the way, here’s a list I liked), I would argue that section 27 deserves the honor of being labeled one of the most powerful love poems ever written. Tennyson commemorates his good friend and fellow poet, Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly at the age of twenty-two of a ruptured aneurysm. This tragic loss led to the creation of one of the greatest poems in the English language, the work of seventeen years. It’s a masterful piece that primarily captures the grieving process, although there’s much more to it than that. But here, Tennyson, in the face of great loss, champions love. This truth we must accept if we choose to love: with love comes the pain of loss. One day, we will lose the object of our love, be that our dog, our ability to do many things for ourselves, family members, or our beloved. C. S. Lewis said it best in The Four Loves:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

There’s so much to unpack here, but I will cut to the poem itself. As you celebrate another, or the first, Valentine’s Day with those you love, take the time to savor every moment. Let Tennyson’s confident conclusion be yours: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” Don’t let loss drive you away from the power and gift of love just to protect yourself from pain; rather, let it energize every moment you have with joy, appreciation, and a firmer determination to live more present in the present.

In Memoriam A. H. H. – 27 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I envy not in any moods
         The captive void of noble rage,
         The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
         His license in the field of time,
         Unfetter'd by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
         The heart that never plighted troth
         But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
         I feel it, when I sorrow most;
         'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

4 thoughts on “Love: It’s Worth the Pain of Loss #Poem #Poetry #Love #Loss #Tennyson #Valentine #ValentinesDay

  1. Oh this is beautiful and tragic and lovely – sounds like our kind of reflection, eh? 😉 I personally LOVE Lewis’ commentary preceding the poem! Oh if that isn’t a picture of many and the contrast of how we have lived! In moments like these I say, thank goodness for marriage and children. “God bless them, everyone!” We are indeed rich, not because of the castles we have built here on earth, but because of the gardens we have planted and look forward to seeing the other side of eternity-like little Niggles Parish!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. “It is a far better thing that we do. . .” Oh God, we take up your grace and your joy to do these hard things with Your strength. Open the eyes of our understanding that we might SEE clearly!

        Liked by 1 person

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