Thursday, 6 October 2011

How to send messages across the ages

The Longest poem series in history.

In this age of mass communication how can you send a message for all the world to see in two hundred years time? Can you send a phone message, an e-mail, or even write a letter? Luxury Hedonist could be a little cynical, but I do not believe the message would make it by any of these formats. You could, however, make a video but even YouTube may not be showing it in a hundred years time, unless it was truly exceptional.
Similarly, if you wanted to send a message or even a reply to something somebody had written in the past, what would you do? Phone messages, e-mails and even letters are definitely means of communication for the present. But there is a means of communication which has been successful in the past and could be successful in the future. What is this means of communication I hear you ask? Poetry, simple poetry.

However, there is a sting in the tail. The poetry will need to be of a high enough standard and quality to be published, recognised and to stand the test of time.  It is not surprising therefore that Luxury Hedonist can think of only one good enough example of this happening, but this has lasted four hundred years, and may still be on-going.

It all started with a love poem written by Christopher Marlowe entitled ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’ in 1599, followed by a reply by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1600, only one year later. C.S. Lewis picked up the torch in the 1920’s with an even starker reply to Marlowe, more than 300 years later. So as to not to let the baton fall, Luxury Hedonist has penned a more optimistic reply in 2011. So here we go:-
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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
 Christopher Marlowe
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flower, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.  

This is a lyrical poem which sets out the image of the perfection of love in the idyllic setting of the English countryside and is very materialistic. The shepherd makes a series of promises in his attempt to woo his lady. Would he succeed?
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The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd

 Sir Walter Raleigh


If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complain of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy bed of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

 Raleigh brings us back to earth with his more negative poem, pointing out that real life love is no roll in the grass. He shows how time flies, and love could well fade as the participants grow old. He points out the possibility that the Shepherd could be lying to entice his love.

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Reply to Marlowe & Raleigh
                                                                Cecil Day-Lewis


Come, live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of peace and plenty, bed and board,
That chance employment may afford.

I handle dainties on the docks
And thou shalt read of summer frocks:
At evening by the sour canals
We hope to hear some madrigals.

Care on thy maiden brow shall put
A wreath of wrinkles, and thy foot
Be shod with pain: not silken dress
But toil shall tire thy loveliness.

Hunger shall make thy modest zone
And cheat fond death of all but bone -
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

C.S. Lewis’ reply in 1935 was obviously tainted by the horrific economic conditions of the Great Depression, with the associated problems of unemployment, hardship and hunger. This poem takes an even tougher look at the realities of life and love at that time, where poverty was widespread and optimism was not to the fore.

A Reply to Marlowe, Raleigh and C.S. Lewis

Love’s Match

Luxury Hedonist


No false promises will I ever make,
Whilst searching for my true love’s sake,
So that I, a lady’s mind might move
To live with me and be my love.

For love stands surely for itself,
Makes ground by show, or else by stealth,
And if fate gives me a match, I’ll share
Both love’s troubles and its beauties fair.

Love has its own strong will,
If captured, love’s life will stand still;
So let there interaction be,
If the hearts are tied, the minds must stay free.

For no heart or mind should dominate,
That can only love’s course frustrate;
So let love and life both be free,
And they will long and lasting be.

I will remain me, and you you,
In this disparity, our hearts will hold true;
These things a lady’s mind might move,
To live with me and be my love.

So lady, if you so shape your mind,
Pledge your heart, and I’ll reciprocate in kind,
And then I might my mind to move
To live with you and be your love.

This poem gives the theme of more love a more modern theme, reflecting the more independent lifestyles between two life partners, and how wooing does not just have to come from the men. May the series go on for a very long time yet!

 Do any readers want to contribute to the longest poem series in history?  Please send contributions to

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