Valentine’s Day often reminds me of poetry.
I think of the simple rhyming verses I wrote to my classmates in elementary school. They all received the same poem without distinction: lunch table friends, the girl who just moved to town, the boy whom my mother insisted I include. Everyone got the standard Valentine’s Day poem of the year “from Jeanette.”
Later I became more discerning. No longer writing my own poems, I spent too much time it seemed in front of the display at the Hallmark store, going through card after card, searching for the right sentiment. Funny? Schmaltzy? From the dog?
It can be difficult to express love, and perhaps even more so with the pressure of a holiday.
As it can be difficult to express love, it often is just as difficult to receive love. I often return to a poem by the seventeenth century poet George Herbert. It speaks to me of our struggle to allow ourselves to be fully and completely loved…in particular to be loved by God.
Enjoy! (and Happy Valentine’s Day!)
BY GEORGE HERBERT 1593–1633
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
Source: George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1978)