The Poetry of Love

The Poetry of Love


What then is our human relationship with a universe that is not human? It is a relationship of time, it seems, of time and eternity. Because our lives are in time, we are in the world, but because we are not just in time but also in eternity, we also somehow transcend the world. Time is mysterious, “a changing image of eternity,” a human experience that we use nevertheless to measure a universe that is not human.  There is a con­nection here. When reading becomes “divine reading,” lectio divina, letting words speak to the heart, and when reading changes into singing, as Proust says, and the way of words be­comes the way also of music,
then the past becomes present, becomes as Proust describes it “the Past familiarly risen in the midst of the present,” and something more than the past comes to light, something timeless, eternity itself, and time gives way to heart’s desire. I think of Augustine’s own hymn about our restless love of “this” and “that.” It is all we have left of his poetry, three lines quoted in his City of God. It is an evening song to be sung at the lighting of the candle.

No doubt, to speak of a city of the heart is “poetry in the dark ages,” to speak of it as a city not only of action and enjoyment but of contemplation. Nonetheless, the life of contemplation is as real as the life of action and the life of enjoyment.

Do we love with a love we know or with a love we do not know? What difference does love’s direction make? Do the voices that are heard in poetry tell us of the essence of things? What does the heart’s desire look like in the mirror of death, in the magic of transfiguration, and in the mystery of eternal life? Is the love of God simply attention, the natural prayer of the soul? Is there a city of the heart?

There is an answer to all these questions that is “no answer in logic, but in excess of light.” It is the love Dante ends with, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars,” the love the old man of the desert spoke of to T. E. Lawrence, “The love is from God, and of God, and towards God.” We meet the love most often, though, as “negative love,” as restless longing. I think of the melancholy you can sometimes hear in Mozart’s music. If I listen, I can hear the unrequited longing of the heart,


Done in, done with, done for,

I live inside a tale

of letting be,

of openness to mystery,

and walk love’s road

like no fool

like an old fool,

loving Holy Wisdom,

learning her eternal music,

getting rid of love I haven’t got

to find the love I have

to love heart-free in time.

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