October 10, 2014

Chivers: Love, Joy, and Grief

Thomas Holley Chivers knew about love, joy, and grief. The Georgian poet had experienced a troubled life but took great joy in his family, including his parents and siblings, as well as his children. His children, however, all died young, and his first marriage proved disastrous. By October 10, 1839, he knew enough about love, joy, and grief to write a poem appropriately called "The Poetry of Love, Joy, and Grief":

To hang upon his breast by day.
   To lie close by his side by night;
To heed whatever he may say,
   And do it with as fond delight;
To make each thought of him thy sigh,
   To love him more than God above,
And think that he can never die—
   This is the Poetry of Love.

To think him, absent, by thy side-
   Whatever he may do is right;
To love him as when first his bride,
   And think each one thy bridal night;
To live through life unchanged in years.
   With love that time cannot destroy,
And have each thought expressed in tears—
   This is the Poetry of Joy.

To sit down by his dying bed,
   To count each pulse—to feel each pain—
To love him after he is dead,
   And nevermore to smile again;
To love him after as before—
   To find his grave thy sole relief—.
And weep for him forever more—
   This is the Poetry of Grief. 

The poem, written in the perspective of a woman, may also have been a somewhat passive-aggressive reference to his first wife, who had left him not long after their marriage. Or, perhaps, it was more referential to his second wife, who he had married not long before writing the poem. The theme of death or dying was fairly typical for Chivers's poetry. "The Poetry of Love, Joy, and Grief" was included in his self-published collection The Lost Pleiad in 1845.

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