If your world hasn’t been filled with hearts, flowers and oversized helium balloons and coloured by all different shades of red and pink recently, it may have escaped your notice that today is Valentine’s Day. I can already hear groans of disdain coming from a quantity of the reading audience who might have been hoping for some refrain, but as poetry is almost certainly the richest source there is for outpourings and declarations of love of all kinds it would be something of a wasted opportunity to not take advantage of romance in the air.
Hopefully you’ll find this poem by Thomas Moore, if not completely free from sugary sweetness, a refreshing change from what can be usually found in the insides of a vast range of cutesy cards. If it doesn’t make me sound too cynical, it appears that the type of love most typically celebrated in the name of Saint Valentine is of the new and young kind; couples in the first flushes of starry-eyed adoration, teenagers exchanging notes from secret admirers, the newly betrothed drinking champagne under the Eiffel Tower…it’s all as fresh and fluffy as the soft toys that fill the shelves. As lovely and as wonderful as those scenarios are, it’s easy to get swept up in a romantic ideal and forget about the less obviously perfect and polished loves that are rooted in reality.
Moore speaks here of love and the ageing process; something quite unconventional when it comes to what is usually considered for Valentine’s Day but perhaps the truest love there can be. While he observes and praises his beloved’s outward appearance and beauty, he offers repeated reassurance that as time passes and these things inevitably fade his love will still radiate; indeed it will become even stronger and outlast the ultimate ending, death. The two stanzas themselves draw comparison between the initial stages of being ‘in love’ with all its almost otherworldly magic and the consolidation of love itself which speaks to something much deeper. It may not always be pretty – quite literally so – or particularly commercial, but I’m sure deep down we’d all prefer a promise of this everlasting love to being swept away.
Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms
Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Live fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul may be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear!
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turned when he rose!
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)