Wednesday, June 17, 2009

amour propre


Isolde told her trick, true Tristan,
“On you for good sex I’m insistin’.”
She gave her corny fellow ease
like that obtained from Héloise
by Abelard, who put above
his love for her castrated love
for God by cutting off his balls
while heeding Héloise’s calls.
She loved her man no less than Frida
loved her Diego, charming cheater,
although like him she cheated too,
as Mexicans all seem to do.
Emily, of course, was chaste,
and I won’t dwell upon such waste,
since now that all of us recycle
lovers we don’t unicycle.
Lastly, as a poet elder,
I’ll mention Scott’s beloved Zelda;
greater love the age of jazz
showed no one, although Zelda’s has
an ending that’s extremely sad,
since, alcoholic, she went mad.

Famous guys and gals all need
each other’s love until they breed
or get involved in their careers,
when they may look for other dears,
amour the first theme of the opera
that often ends in amour propre,
and isn’t over till fat ladies
sing and give their lovers Hades.

Inspired by “More Amour,” a review by Megan Cox Gurdon of “A Vindication of Love,” by Christina Nehring (also author of a review of Jonathan Margolis’s “Intimate History of the Orgasm” in The Nation, “Good Vibrations”) (WSJ, June 16, 2009):
It is Cristina Nehring's opinion that romantic love in our modern era has dwindled into a shriveled, ignoble thing. After reading "A Vindication of Love," her rousing defense of imprudent ardor and romantic excess, we may be tempted to agree -- though probably not to the point of wishing to embrace quite the degree of disordering passion that Ms. Nehring so esteems.Feminists, it should be said, may hotly disagree with Ms. Nehring, an essayist for Harper's and the Atlantic Monthly, among other publications. They will not like her argument that egalitarian feminism is the principal acid that has corroded romantic love. No more the passionate hunger that swept up Tristan and Iseult, Abelard and Heloise, or even Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: The flashing ardor produced by such combustible couplings is scarcely possible in today's feminist-dampened culture, Ms. Nehring believes. "We inhabit a world in which every aspect of romance from meeting to mating has been streamlined, safety-checked, and emptied of spiritual consequence," she says. "We imagine that we live in an erotic culture of unprecedented opportunity when, in fact, we live in an erotic culture that is almost unendurably bland." Not that feminism has been a total bust, of course; legal equality and the expectation of female sexual satisfaction are surely pleasant results of centuries of activism. Ms. Nehring concedes this but notes: "We need not trash feminism's flowers to dispose of the rotting fruit in its cellar."… To make her case, she takes us into a dark forest to show us the doomed lovers Tristan and Iseult, lying with a sword between their hot bodies. She opens a window into Emily Dickinson's chaste New England boudoir, where we see the recluse penning breathless letters to her mysterious "Master." We hear the bawdy laughter of Chaucer's Wife of Bath, conquered at last (with a clout to the ear) by husband number five. Any of these love stories submitted to a modern-day advice columnist would come back with a diagnosis of troubling pathologies: co-dependent adulterers, a sexually frustrated agoraphobe, a battered wife. Ms. Nehring wants us to see how impoverished this worldview is; how our fixation on successful, "healthy" relationships cuts us off from the profound, inspiriting and sometimes wounding effects of romantic intensity.

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 6/16/09

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