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Dying of Love
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I would have loved to have met the Romantic Poets. Not just Lord Byron, famously handsome, but Percy Shelley as well. John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Up close, of course, be one of their little society. Didn’t women die of love for each of them? There must be something to it, to those men themselves, to cause dying of love.
Anthony Lane, such a thorough scholar, writes another of his delving studies in the New Yorker on George Gordon, Lord Byron, quoting him and his cleverness throughout the article. Lane cites a woman who, when Byron spoke to her “in a doorway,” could hardly answer him because her “heart beat so violently.” One wonders: was that his “fame?” Or his sensuality? The next phrase suggests the latter: “He had a sort of under look.”
In short, he smoldered, was sexy.
Shelley, whose picture in the anthologies I used to teach from made him appear to be an effete, bedraggled wraith of a person, sent his first wife to suicide when he left her for Mary Wollstonecraft, that is, Mary Shelley. Those women had several children to him.
He was a rebel, an adventurer, sent women swooning (not, however, on the basis of that awful picture!).
Keats was milder, sick, didn’t last, was faithful to Fanny. But one would be stricken by the sensitivity of his “Nightingale,” his “Saint Agnes Eve” and so on. One would be tempted to take him in her arms with love while he was dying.
I’d go to bed readily with the person who wrote “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” be in love with him for sure, no preliminaries or foreplay. The mariner understood the rejection of love, “Alone, alone, all all alone!”
People seem to die from lack of love. Byron’s prisoner in Chillon, Shelley’s wives.
And to shift totally in time, Truman Capote, if one can believe the series. He disgraced “the swans” – his little coterie of high society—they shunned him; he was lost without their adoration, in many ways died from love’s lack.
A person’s’ dying of love – so many—the suggestion that Truman Capote did– takes us to writers, to performers, who, when the attention falls away, wilt and fade away themselves, rather “die” for not having the love they once had.
Me too, really. I’m not dying. But it is difficult to live without love. Everyone takes it so much for granted – the love of a spouse, the love returned by children, grandchildren—they all talk about their relatives a great deal. Of course they do. They talk to me, too, who no longer has any of it, any of that built-in love.
I look like I’m managing. I don’t look like I am “dying” of love, of not having it anymore. That intense love that kept me going no longer keeps me going. What does? Have I “died” in that sense? Well, the way the word is understood, I have not literally died of love. Death seems, though, in Hamlet’s words, to be “a consummation devoutly to be wished. . . to die, to sleep. . . no more.”
But here I am.


Jackie, I love the way you unpack these prompts and infuse your writing in response to them with both social commentary and the personal. And, of course, your masterful use of dry humor. This piece ends poignantly, and beautifully. Bravo!

You already know I love your writing, but I want this one on audio!

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