A love poem from the 17th Century
eripuisti oculus: oculos mihi redde, puella.
erispuisti animan: redd, puella, animan.
eripuisti ipsum cor: redde, puella, cor ipsum.
eripuisti ipsum me: redde mihi!
Girl, you have torn out my eyes: give my eyes back to me.
Girl, you have torn out my soul: give my soul back.
Girl, you have torn out my very heart: give back my heart itself.
You have torn out my very self: give me back to myself!
We always, and with anticipation, look forward to the world we create in our minds. When you fall in love with someone, you think it will be so different from all other relationships. You will love this person, and this person will love you equally.
But it is seldom equal love – either you will love more, or the other person will love more. Someone will have a heart that is always aching a little. When the one that loves less has a kind heart, at least the relationship will have a growing chance.
Yes, I know most people will dispute me on this. It is not that the one that loves less is a bad person, only someone who is interested in so many other things that you, the one who loves more, are not the priority.
During a healthy relationship the roles often switch, and for a while the one who used to love more will become the priority of the one who used to love less. With that security the one who used to love more will then be able to grow in other areas. This growth is necessary, so that the relationship can be stable and blossom. Without this growth the relationship will become something that smothers both parties. There can be growth in both the adoration and the aching, but only in equilibrium.
Take this out of the context of a romantic love relationship. Now look at it from the perspective of the love of a mother and a child, the love of a citizen towards a country, the love of a scholar towards a study field, the love of an employee towards a job. We need the aching, the adoration, and the growth.
Without the aching you will lose interest. Without the adoration you will never feel appreciated, loved. Without the growth you will never be able to put something worthwhile back into the relationship.
We fall out of love with a country when the heartache is more than the adoration, or the adoration is more than the heartache, when there is a stale situation with no growth. We misuse the opportunities at the workplace when we are never given the opportunity to grow, when we are never appreciated, or when we do not feel the heartbreak necessary to make a difference, to change things for the better, to put in more than what is asked.
The most difficult of these situations is probably the relationship between a parent and a child. It is so difficult not to be smothering, not to always ache, to always want something more and better for the other person, but in the process to hinder the growth.
It is also difficult in a study field, where you can feel that you put so much into it, but get nothing back – or that you put so little into it, that there is also no return. No growth, and no equilibrium.
One should sometimes sit back and think: have you torn out my very self, or have I torn out my very self? Am I growing, and am I allowing others to grow? Do I love and care enough, and do I, at times, distance myself enough? (This reminds me again of Kenetha Stanton’s essay, “Detachment: Living with open hands“.) No, I have not been talking about romantic love. I have been talking about our other loves.
to give, but also to take back our eyes,
to give, but also to keep our souls,
to give, but also to protect our hearts,
to give, but also to be ourselves.
by Elizabeth Viljoen.
Unisa. 2012. Study guide 1 for LAN1501. Pretoria.
Related poems and essays:
- Hemlock and heroes (luhambo.org)
- The village (luhambo.org)
- Autostereogram (luhambo.org)
- A flea ridden dog (luhambo.org)
- Carrying pain (luhambo.org)
- No (luhambo.org)
- Sibling rivalry (luhambo.org)
- A love worth suffering (luhambo.org)
- Frustration and respite (luhambo.org)
- being rich (luhambo.org)
- The Beauty of Imperfection (luhambo.org)
- Tea (luhambo.org)
- Generations (luhambo.org)
- Early light (luhambo.org)
- A Perfect Ending (luhambo.org)
- Grey (luhambo.org)
- The Poetry of Being: A Friday Thought (luhambo.org)