Wednesday, February 15, 2017

`It Pains a Man When ’t Is Kept Close'

I wish I had known Sir John Suckling’s poem, sometimes called “Love’s Offence”, when I was young and too easily infatuated. It might have served as prophylaxis for the more delicate sentiments:

“If when Don Cupids dart
Doth wound a heart,
    we hide our grief
    and shun relief;
The smart increaseth on that score;
For wounds unsearcht but ranckle more.”

On this day after St. Valentine’s Day, obligatory card and candy consumed, it’s good to take a refresher course in the booby traps of love. It’s not all nectar and ambrosia. Suckling suggests we suck it up – a wounded heart, that is – and put a lid on it. No Swain, no gain, as the boys say down at the gym. The Cavalier poet goes on:

“Then if we whine, look pale,
And tell our tale,
    men are in pain
    for us again;
So, neither speaking doth become
The Lovers state, nor being dumb.

Suckling discourages both “sharing,” as moderns would call it, and also shutting up. So what’s a lover to do?

“When this I do descry,
Then thus think I,
    love is the fart
    of every heart:
It pains a man when ’t is kept close,
And others doth offend, when ’t is let loose.”

In his Dictionary, Dr. Johnson cited that final stanza in his entry for fart, which he defined rather delicately as “wind from behind.” J. Geils articulated Suckling’s insight for contemporary sensibilities.

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