A Lesson in “The Way”

I usually don’t have too much to say about the subject of love. I have not had that many romantic relationships. The few that I have had have been brief. The longest lasted less than a year. I loved him — and I’d like to believe he loved me — but he left me without so much as a goodbye. It’s been ten years and my heart is still recovering from the sting of that one.

Now, for the first time in ten years, my heart wants to heal — and I long to be in the arms of another man. Only time will tell if this feeling will last but in the meantime, I have more to say about the subject of love.

“The Way” by Robert Creeley begins, “My love’s manners in bed / are not to be discussed by me…” Immediately, the word “honorable” comes to mind. I don’t “kiss and tell.” I expect the same from my lovers. Also, I don’t make love with men I don’t trust. This seems like a no-brainer, right? But there are plenty of foolish people in the world – women and men alike – who give themselves up entirely to the wrong people. Trust comes from an innate sense of wrong and right — that is, what is wrong or right for you. Knowing oneself is the key here. Knowing what you value and can tolerate in another person, which virtues and flaws, allows you to make a judgment on whether you should invite them into your heart and into your bed. I believe I am a good judge of character.

Creeley finishes that initial thought with: “…as mine by her / I would not credit comment upon gracefully.” I believe he is being modest here. Perhaps he feels he is a clumsy or ungraceful lover and that this is what his love would reveal, were she to “kiss and tell.”

The second stanza makes a subtle allusion to chivalrous imagery: woods, a lake, a castle and strongholds. Creeley writes, “…and [I] have a small boy’s notion of doing good.” Small boys are often fascinated by tales of knights. Chivalry still lives within the hearts of small boys. Perhaps this idea is where the title comes from–chivalry, courtly love, etc.

Creeley brings us back to the twentieth century by beginning the third and final stanza with “Oh well…” He ends the poem with a wish for his fellow chivalrous knights:

Oh well, I will say here,
knowing each man,
let you find a good wife too,
and love her as hard as you can.

I like the idea of loving someone “hard” — with all one’s heart and all one’s might. There is something divine about it. Anything less would not be worthy of the word “love.”


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