Sunday, May 4, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Friendship After Love" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Friendship After Love" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day and the offering from Poets.org's Poem-A-Day for May 4, 2014.  The poem was first published in Wilcox's collection, Poems of Passion, in 1883.  The poem is in the public domain and legally reprinted here.

Friendship after Love
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

After the fierce midsummer all ablaze
    Has burned itself to ashes, and expires
    In the intensity of its own fires,
There come the mellow, mild, St. Martin days
Crowned with the calm of peace, but sad with haze.
    So after Love has led us, till he tires
    Of his own throes, and torments, and desires,
Comes large-eyed friendship: with a restful gaze,
He beckons us to follow, and across
    Cool verdant vales we wander free from care.
    Is it a touch of frost lies in the air?
Why are we haunted with a sense of loss?
We do not wish the pain back, or the heat;
And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 - 1919) (pictured) lived most of her life north of Madison, Wisconsin.  Poems of Passion was her most famous collection of poetry.  She was a well-known and popular poet during her lifetime.  Her most enduring poem, "Solitude," contains the famous lines:

Laugh, and the world laughs with you
Weep, and you weep alone.

Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poemhunter.com/ella-wheeler-wilcox/ and here:  https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/145c6ccca3d33387.

St. Martin's Day, or Martinstag, is celebrated in Germany on November 11.  It features celebrations of altruism and modesty, traits associated with Saint Martin of Tours.  Food and feasting are also prominently featured, as a fast until Christmas Day follows.  Reference to this and additional information about St. Martin's Day may be found here:  http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/germany/st-martin.

Ah, the "friend zone," as unpleasant in 1883 as it is over 130 years later.  In this traditional Shakespearean sonnet, Wilcox skillfully applies the conceit that love is summer, while the friendship that may follow a failed love affair is St. Martin's Day.  The holiday is nice enough, with its celebration of altruism and modesty, but "a touch of frost lies in the air," and the great fast--a passionless, sexless friendship--is soon to follow.

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