I leaned me forward to find her lips,
And claim her utterly in a kiss
– D.H. Lawrence, from Lightning
After renewing my copy of Everybody’s Plutarch, one, possibly two, times more than the officially allowable amount, I reluctantly returned it. I thought I’d be tricky by getting another copy at a different library. Instead, I ended up with the book, An Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry. I know, I love the title too.
Catullus, you’re a fool. I said,
What’s lost is lost, what’s dead is dead.
The game is over, that you know;
So let the little strumpet go.
–Catullus, from Catullus Talks to Himself
I wasn’t even going to be picky, I know there are many editions of Noble Lives, but just you try to search for a single book in a library that is many stories tall with all the ordinances accounted for. Let me save you some trouble by saying, it ain’t easy. First stop: the computer catalogue. I came away from that aspect ratio of small proportion’ s labyrinth with a piece of paper on which I had scrawled as many call numbers as I could fit. Next: pitstop at the circulation desk to pick up a copy of the floorplan. Third stop: level A, west wing.
In the secrets of your flesh
I make myself words
to be read by you alone
– Eve Merriam, from The Moment Before Conception
A partial but useless success- Plutarch in Latin. But why dwell on thoughts that serve as cruel metaphors for life? Moving on: level three, north wing, where I find a trove of books about Plutarch. Down a level: no luck at all. Back up a couple levels: berating myself for not organizing my list geographically, looking for the 900 section, wait, no- the 800s, focus, Jessica!…disoriented, the low lights and lack of humans among the rows of books are so comforting as to begin to disconcert me. I put my bag on the floor and crouch down, sitting upon my heels for a moment’s respite.
Oh, your thighs
But they are
as poles of the earth
that there is
Up a level, down, south, was it west? …my memory fades…A Modern Plutarch sits on the shelf. In fact it now sits on the desk next to me. But a comparison of, for example, Mark Twain and Anatole French, while a good idea, was neither well executed nor the thing I was after.
Teach me, only teach, Love!
As I ought
I will speak thy speech, Love
Think thy thought-
– Robert Browning, from A Woman’s Last Word
Next to A Modern Plutarch, sat An Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry, which I did not attempt to resist. I opened to a random page – two lines that I know well. I don’t need much more encouragement than that.
Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
Marlowe, The Passionate Shepard to His Love. I read an article once regarding pronunciation which suggested that “love” would have rhymed, back then, with “prove.” Love and prove, I find much pleasure in making the words sound alike in various combinations in my head (I think the article describe how it had been pronounced and rhymed, but I can’t recall). Later in the poem “love” is rhymed with “move,” consequently I now relish saying Louvre whenever I see the word love. Love, prove….There is something that pulls those words to each other, love: tested, withstood, evidenced. They seem to belong together.
* Title from Lawrence’s Lightning-
“Repeating with tightened arms, and the hot blood’s
** The Uninhibited Treasury of Erotic Poetry (“edited and with a running commentary by”) Louis Untermeyer. He makes clear in his introduction that by “erotic,” a more classic sense, by way of Eros (love), is meant.