Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love at First Sight, part two

(Heart by Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French
painter and sculptor)

The ancient Greeks had a simple explanation for love at first sight. It was the gods driving some poor mortal crazy. The lover in John Clare’s poem published here on June 10 seems to be one of their victims.

The English essayist William Hazlitt (1778-1820) thought he had a more rational explanation. “I do not think that what is called Love at first sight is so great an absurdity as it is sometimes imagined to be. We generally make up our minds beforehand to the sort of person we should like, grave or gay, brown or fair; with golden tresses or raven locks; and when we meet with a complete example of the qualities we admire, the bargain is soon struck.”

But is love at first sight truly “at first sight”? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?


They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’s been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways ─
perhaps they’ve passed each other a million times?

I want to ask them,
if they don’t remember ─
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

~ Wislawa Szymborska, b. 1923, Polish poet and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature; translation by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

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