Of course, Friedrich Nietzsche and several other great philosophers like him do not make ideal poster figures for Valentine’s Day. They are remembered for their critical thinking and scholarly pursuits; but love and romance? Zilch.
Nietzsche, in particular, had a disastrous love life. He proposed thrice to the same woman but was rejected in all his attempts. He lived alone for most of his nomadic life, though he believed and wrote in one of his works that serial marriage would be good for men. In his mind, women were cut out for domestic life.
In a letter to the woman he wanted to marry, he wrote:
“I would greatly wish to be allowed to be your teacher. In the end, to be quite frank: I am looking for people who could be my heirs; some of the things that preoccupy me are not be to found in my books—and I am looking for the finest, most fertile ground for them.”
That’s a classic declaration of love – Nietzsche style.
SØren Kierkegaard is another tragic romantic. He fell in love and was loved in return. A month after his engagement, he broke off with his fiancée and was said to return his engagement ring to her – via mail. Fearing that he could not be a good husband, theologist, and literary critic all at the same time, he chose to remain unmarried.
His regret over this failed romance can be seen in these lines from Either/Or (1843), his first published work:
“If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or do not marry, you will regret both…”
The following great thinkers aren’t very inspiring either.
“You know, it’s quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don’t do it.” — Nausea (1938)
“Love is a trap for men to perpetuate the species.”
Where science rules, love is also a widely studied subject. But to talk about lust and attraction in terms of testosterone, adrenaline, dopamine, or serotonin could be quite formidable.
So, if you want to anatomize love, click here.
And that explains, perhaps, why all the world loves a poet. Poem writers love rhyme and rhythm. They capture pure emotions in beautiful lines. In school we were told to memorize lines, or even entire poems; and some of those come in handy on certain days – like today.
‘Roses are red, violets are blue,’ for example, is more than just a nursery rhyme. It has been the inspiration for many Valentine greeting cards and love letters. And if you were around in the ‘60s, you might have sung this tune, too.
Years after school, it seems Elizabeth Barrett Browning and How Do I Love Thee never left us. I know some schmaltzy seniors who are still counting the ways — and can recite the poem from memory.
Remember the wedding scene in the movie Love Story? The character Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) recites Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman, and Jenny (Ali MacGraw) reads Elizabeth Browning’s Sonnet XX11.
And this scene from the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral? The poem is by W. H. Auden.
Click here for more love verses.
To end this post, here’s one of Shakespeare’s famous sonnets.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Heart eyes, anyone?