Lines To Fall In Love With: Part 2

Valentine’s Day may be over for another year, but our love affair with literature is something that lasts the whole year through. Here are yet more Lines To Fall In Love With – specially chosen by our members of staff as exceptionally memorable moments that stand out as very special in their own long-term relationships with reading. We hope they make your heart beat that bit faster too…and please feel free to share the lines you have fallen in love with us by leaving us some comments.

I love the last two verses of Cecil Day Lewis’s Walking Away, a poem which captures the powerful memory of watching his son Sean on his first day at school. Every time I read the last lines, it never ceases to send a dart through my heart as I’ve lived through similar “small scorching ordeals” in which you had to allow a child the freedom to make their own way. “And love is proved in the letting go” could equally apply to an adult relationship. This poem has gripped every group I’ve ever shared it with, and provoked strong childhood memories.

Caroline Adams, Project Worker, Get Into Reading South West

‘With her thought of Vronsky was mingled some uneasiness, though he was an extremely well-bred and quiet-mannered man; a sense of something false, not in him, for he was very simple and kindly, but in herself; whereas in relation to Levin she felt herself quite simple and clear. on the other hand when she pictured to herself a future with Vronsky a brilliant vision of happiness rose up before her while a future with Levin appeared wrapped in mist.’ – Anna Karenina (Vintage, p. 55)

It was reading these lines that made me realise firstly, that Anna Karenina was no ordinary book for me, and also that Tolstoy would be exploring how his characters could understand, or rather feel, what is the right (‘simple and clear’) way and the wrong (‘false’) way for them to live their lives. Of course, that’s never going to be easy or straightforward, not for any of us…

Jennifer Tomkins, Communications Manager

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

A line, or rather a verse, that makes me fall in love time and again is in Yeats’ When You Are Old. The whole thing is wonderful, but for me it’s the second verse, and the mention of that ‘pilgrim soul’. Even for the mention of those ‘sorrows’ I don’t find the experience of reading the poem all that sorrowful. (‘A little sad’, yes, but perhaps loving a sorrow is really to love?) For me, it’s so moving an expression of love because the person who can see a driving, ‘pilgrim’ force in another is acknowledging the distances between us and the people we love as much as the intimacies. Changes will happen as we get older, lovers will separate through one means or another, but this poem is a place where these changes can themselves be transformed, for a moment at least, by our dreams, by the act of reading, by a cosmic imagination that moves us from those ‘glowing bars’ to ‘a crowd of stars.’ I wish this poem for myself when I am old.

Casi Dylan, Training Manager

“Under a persistent drizzle, you swear in all seriousness that it’s not raining. Wearers of glasses wipe the rain off them twenty times a day without thinking, get used to walking behind a constellation of droplets that diffract and break up the landscape, creating a gigantic kaleidoscope in which, unable to take bearings, they let themselves be guided my memory. But at nightfall, when a gentle rain descends on the town and the neon signs come on, inscribing their luminous calligraphy on the blue-black night, those little dancing stars that glitter before your eyes, those blue, red, green and yellow sparks that splatter your glasses, suggest the son et lumiére at Versailles. And how dull the original seems by comparison when you take off your glasses.”

From Fields of Glory by Jean Rouaud (translated from the French by Ralph Manheim; Harvill, 1992).

This book was lent to me by a dear friend with a fondness for novels about the World Wars. I took it out of politeness and mild interest and will be ever grateful that he foisted it upon me. The oblique opening sentence of the novel — “So it was simply that these things always run in series, in dreary compliance with a system whose secret workings we were now suddenly discovering. An open secret to be sure, from the very start…” gives way immediately to rich quotidian detail of family life in a small village in France’s Lower Loire. I was immediately hooked by the beautiful imagery and quiet humour of the novel, but it was in the 2nd chapter, a meditation on the Atlantic rain, that I fell in love with this book. Coming from the west coast of Ireland, I felt I had finally encountered a writer who could articulate the true complexity of my native climate, its pervasive power over the topography and citizens, its dismalness and its beauty.

Maura Kennedy, Events and Publications Manager

“At night, you can watch the sky, those strange galaxies
like so many cracks in the ceiling spilling secrets
from the flat above. You can breathe. You can dream.”

I’m totally in love with the poem Up on the Roof by Maura Dooley. I came across it in a collection called 101 Happy Poems, edited by Wendy Cope, and it celebrates that sense of freedom that I’ve always felt when I’m alone and high above the world, escaping for a while. It’s hard to choose just a few lines, but these ones capture some of that feeling.

Penny Markell, Project Manager, Get Into Reading London

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