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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Now Touch the Air Softly

(Garden in Shoreham by Samuel Palmer,
1805-1881, English painter and printmaker)

The hypothetical, as we saw in two poems last week, is a great rhetorical device for the literature of love. It uses conditional clauses and verbs in the subjunctive mood to suggest the impossible and the improbable, or to express wishes and doubts and uncertainties and suppositions contrary to fact.

With the hypothetical, poets and lyricists can expand the possibilities for the expression of love.


Now touch the air softly,
Step gently, one, two . . .
I'll love you ’til roses
Are robin’s egg blue;
I'll love you ’til gravel
Is eaten for bread,
And lemons are orange,
And lavender’s red.

Now touch the air softly,
Swing gently the broom.
I'll love you ’til windows
Are all of a room;
And the table is laid,
And the table is bare,
And the ceiling reposes
On bottomless air.

I’ll love you ’til heaven
Rips the stars from his coat,
And the moon rows away
In a glass-bottomed boat;
And Orion steps down
Like a river below,
And earth is ablaze,
And oceans aglow.

So touch the air softly,
And swing the broom high.
We will dust the gray mountains,
And sweep the blue sky:
And I’ll love you as long
As the furrow the plough,
As however is ever,
And ever is now.

~ William Jay Smith, born in 1918, American poet

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