What is this thing called Love?

'If music be the food of love play on, give me excess of it ... ' and so on, says Orsino in Shakespeare's Twelth Night. Of course he's actually wanting a lot of music and so much love that it 'sickens and so dies' - until finally he's rid of the pesky nuisance.Actually there's no evidence that you can have too much of a such a good thing as love - or as music for that matter.'

But what is love, actually? I was once asked this question by a young lady suffering the pangs of love unrequited - I hasten to add that I was asked this in the presence of her parents, although I don't know why I should hasten to add that, having been at the time her senior by some forty odd years. But I thought about her question a lot and, whilst driving back to Riyadh from Al Khobar I composed the bones of the following ... which, when finished I sent to said parents and they to said daughter who was serving in the US Army... I hope it helped, but doubt it.


One Question

 “I want to know what love it,” starts the song
And then goes on, “I want you to tell me,”
But the answer has been lost, this century,
Leaving the echo of the question so some
Feel cold the vacuum when replies don’t come

“Come live with me and be my love,”  he wrote
Went on; “And we shall all the pleasures prove:”
Four centuries back you had no need to look above
To find the answer, and Marlowe knew it;
Most folk did then, needed not no poet.

But there are many kinds of love; “Ask not,”
Said JK, “What for me my country does: Just
Ask, my country that I love what I must
Do for thee?”  Golden words burn still so hot -
What greater love than for love, die, die, rot?

“I love (whatever,)” so some car windows say
Thus taking a thing of brightest human light
Down value it, lose it, make it seem so trite:
Without true love can we the pain defray
Of nothing left beyond the dying of the day?

And He so loved the world...” It tells of blood,
That Book; and of the life that’s here on earth
For only we are blessed to know from birth
A love so fearful, tender, altogether good
Thus reaching out to touch the face of God.

“I want to know what love is,” still you ask:
Cindy, it could be all that you can feel
Or need to feel or all of life that’s real
Or all of time or once just now and gone -
Or yours to have and hold from this day on.

Find out.


Bryan Islip  November 96

£For Cindy Sperry,
who had the courage that it takes
to ask the question, out aloud,
late on in the twentieth century.)

I would just add now that I might not know, still, any precise definition for the word love, but I do know what it's for. It's for procreation and I know there's too much of that right now for the goood of this planet and all who sail in her. So maybe Orsino was right. A little sickening and so dying may not go amiss.

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