In love with love

Eric Trethewey

November 04, 1993|By Eric Trethewey

Because of an editing error, the author of "In love with love," Other Voices, Nov. 4, was misidentified. She is Lucy Lee, a writer in Roanoke, Va. We regret the error.

I'M A REAL sap for a love story. I've seen "Sleepless in Seattle" twice, and I know the soundtrack by heart. Belting out "Stand By Your Man" on the way to the cleaners does wonders for my day, not to mention my marriage.

Although there is no shortage of love stories on the best-seller list, "Wuthering Heights" is still my favorite. The thought of Heathcliff and Catherine's eternal love fills my middle-aged heart with yearning. Although their obsessive relationship was not exactly healthy, it has a certain appeal in today's world of disposable marriages. And talk about passion! Consider the servant's account of the lovers' last meeting, when Catherine is near death:


. . . Do come to me, Heathcliff.

. . . At that earnest appeal, he turned to her, looking absolutely desperate. His eyes wide, and wet, at last flashed fiercely on her; his breast heaved convulsively. An instant they held asunder; and then how they met I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they were locked in an embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be released alive.


A real-life love story is even better. A couple of years ago, my 66-year-old aunt married her high school sweetheart. They had broken up in college, and each eventually married someone else. After decades of fairly wretched marriages and then divorces, they met again and, within the year, were standing at the altar. The bride sniffled through her vows, the groom sobbed through his, and those of us in the congregation could hardly hear for all the nose-blowing. It was the best wedding I've ever attended.

All of these love stories play havoc with my heart, but for sheer romance, high adventure, a riveting courtship complete with marriage and a happy ending, you can't beat Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat." It's a perfect story, and it's even politically correct. An owl and a cat, for gosh sakes? Lear brings new meaning to diversity. It's hard to doubt the success of a courtship that begins like this:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat:

They took some honey, and plenty of money

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

Although the couple is off on a romantic journey, they aren't so besotted that they ignore the realities of life. They know they'll eventually want to eat and probably do a little shopping. But they also know the time is ripe for love:

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

And sang to a small guitar,

"Oh lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,

What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are,

You are, what a beautiful Pussy you are!"

I don't know about you, but this kind of declaration makes an impression on me. Adoration, especially repeated adoration, is always good. And Pussy knows how to go with a good thing:

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl,

How charmingly sweet you sing!

Oh, let us be married; too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a ring?"

Our heroine is no wimp of a woman. In four lines, she acknowledges her suitor's good taste, goes him one better in the compliments department ("You elegant fowl" approaches new aesthetic heights), proposes marriage (making it sound like his idea) and identifies the immediate problem of the ring. And now for the adventure:

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

To the land where the bong-tree grows;

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,

With a ring at the end of his nose,

His nose, his nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing

To sell for one shilling

Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."

So they took it away and were married next day

By the turkey who lives on the hill.

This is a couple your parents would love. They have a long engagement which lets the world know their love is stable. They tie the knot with what must be the world's simplest and most inexpensive wedding.

However, as we know by now, our lovers are not completely bottom-line creatures:

They dined on mince and slices of quince

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon, the moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

Mince? Quince? Runcible spoon? Sounds pretty exotic to me. And who knows what dancing by the light of the moon might lead to?

Although the story has a happy ending, we don't need a marriage therapist to tell us the years ahead will be difficult. Aside from the normal travails of marriage, this couple must deal with the diversity issue. That fowl/feline conflict can be a problem. It may well result in a dysfunctional family. On the other hand, they did dance by the light of the moon.

That counts for a lot with us romantics.

Eric Trethewey teaches English at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va.

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