Friday 21 May 2021

Pope's Eloisa

 Born on this day in 1688 was Alexander Pope, perhaps our most brilliant satirical poet, and often the cruellest. I guess he is little read these days outside the academy, and it is too easy to think of him merely as a dazzlingly effective cold-blooded killer in verse. There was much more to him than that, including an ability to write from the heart, albeit never in his own voice. His 'Eloisa to Abelard' is a heart-rending evocation of hopeless love – a subject with which the dwarfish and deformed Pope was probably painfully familiar. The tragic story of Heloise and Abelard also inspired a fine novel by Helen Waddell. These are the closing stanzas of Pope's poem –

May one kind grave unite each hapless name,
And graft my love immortal on thy fame!
Then, ages hence, when all my woes are o'er,
When this rebellious heart shall beat no more;
If ever chance two wand'ring lovers brings
To Paraclete's white walls and silver springs,
O'er the pale marble shall they join their heads,
And drink the falling tears each other sheds;
Then sadly say, with mutual pity mov'd,
"Oh may we never love as these have lov'd!"

From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise,
And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice,
Amid that scene if some relenting eye
Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie,
Devotion's self shall steal a thought from Heav'n,
One human tear shall drop and be forgiv'n.
And sure, if fate some future bard shall join
In sad similitude of griefs to mine,
Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore,
And image charms he must behold no more;
Such if there be, who loves so long, so well;
Let him our sad, our tender story tell;
The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost;
He best can paint 'em, who shall feel 'em most.

Follow this link to read the whole thing...

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