Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day: Top Ten Most Romantic Literary Moments

Top Ten Most Romantic Literary Moments...

1. A Tale of Two Cities
By Charles Dickens

" . . . I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it."

2. Girl With the Pearl Earring
By Tracy Chevalier

A wonderfully spun story about beauty and cost.

"I came to love grinding the things he brought from the apothecary--bones, white lead, madder, massicot--to see how bright and pure I could get the colors. I learned that the finer the materials were ground, the deeper the color. From rough, dull grains madder became a fine bright red powder and, mixed with linseed oil, a sparkling paint. Making it and the other colors was magical." 


3. This Is Just to Say
By William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums 
that were in 
the icebox

and which 
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

4. This Is Just to Say
By Erica-Lynn Gambino
(for William Carlos Williams)

I have just
asked you to 
get out of my

even though
you never
I would

Forgive me
you were
me insane

5. Gone With the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell

(This one's for you, Lindsay, my most Southern Belle-ish of friends...)

There are far too many words in this particular story for me to select just a few few to  represent its entirety.  So, I'll give you two:

"Rhett Butler."

6. The Highway Man
By Alfred Noyes 

"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
    The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
    The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    And the highwayman came riding—
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door..."

"... 'One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
    But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
    Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
    Then look for me by moonlight,
                      Watch for me by moonlight,
    I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.'" 

"... He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
    Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
    Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
    How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
                      The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
    Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there..."

    "...Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
    With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
                      Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat." 

I urge you to read the whole thing, as this is only a short selection.  It's lovely.  So indulgently dramatic.  And, of course, given special preference due to its use in the Anne of Green Gables movies...
7. Atonement
By Ian McEwan

Even though it's beautiful and has an excellent soundtrack, the movie is nothing compared to the book...

 "The anticipation and dread he felt at seeing her was also a kind of pleasure, and surrounding it, like an embrace, was a general elation - it might hurt, it was horribly inconvenient, no good might come of it, but he had found out for himself what it was to be in love, and it thrilled him."

 "Cecilia wondered, as she sometimes did when she met a man for the first time, if this was the one she was going to marry, and whether it was this particular moment she would remember for the rest of her life - with gratitude, or profound and particular regret." 

(Oh what a sucker for intensely dramatic historical romances am I...)

8. Bright Star
By John Keats

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Erimite
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death. 

Particularly beautiful because of the story behind it. 

9. The Catcher in the Rye
By J.D. Salinger

This isn't a romantic book.  But, that being said-- this moment-- this nice moment with this girl he likes, it's just so sweet and fresh and clear, that it is romantic.

"She was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls, if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hands all the time, as if they were afraid they'd bore you or something. Jane was different. We'd get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we'd start holding hands, and we won't quite till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were."

10. Bonnard’s Nudes
By Raymond Carver
His wife.  Forty years he painted her.
Again and again.  The nude in the last painting 
the same young nude as the first.  His wife.

As he remembered her young.  As she was young.
His wife in her bath.  At her dressing table
in front of the mirror.  Undressed.

His wife with her hands under her breasts
looking out on the garden.
The sun bestowing warmth and color.

Every living thing in bloom there.
She young and tremulous and most desirable.
When she died, he painted a while longer.

A few landscapes.  Then died.
And was put down next to her.
His young wife.

No comments:

Post a Comment