There are so many Emily Dickinson poems inspired by romantic “Valentine” preoccupations. I decided for this Valentine season to start, as they say, at the beginning. “Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,” launches every comprehensive collection of Dickinson poems. The very first poem I find if I start reading at the beginning recalls those delicious feelings of teenage puppy love while it also tries to sound very grownup. Another teenage trait.

Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,
unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!

Oh the Earth was made for lovers, for damsel, and hopeless swain,
for sighing, and gentle whispering, and unity made of twain,
all things do go a courting, in earth, or sea, or air,
God hath made nothing single but thee in His world so fair!
The bride, and then the bridegroom, the two, and then the one,
Adam, and Eve, his consort, the moon, and then the sun;
the life doth prove the precept, who obey shall happy be,
who will not serve the sovereign, be hanged on fatal tree.
The high do seek the lowly, the great do seek the small,
none cannot find who seeketh, on this terrestrial ball;
The bee doth court the flower, the flower his suit receives,
and they make merry wedding, whose guests are hundred leaves;
the wind doth woo the branches, the branches they are won,
and the father fond demandeth the maiden for his son.
The storm doth walk the seashore humming a mournful tune,
the wave with eye so pensive, looketh to see the moon,
their spirits meet together, they make their solemn vows,
no more he singeth mournful, her sadness she doth lose.
The worm doth woo the mortal, death claims a living bride,
night unto day is married, morn unto eventide;
Earth is a merry damsel, and Heaven a knight so true,
and Earth is quite coquettish, and beseemeth in vain to sue.
Now to the application, to the reading of the roll,
to bringing thee to justice, and marshalling thy soul:
thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone,
wilt have no kind companion, thou reap’st what thou hast sown.
Hast never silent hours, and minutes all too long,
and a deal of sad reflection, and wailing instead of song?
There’s Sarah, and Eliza, and Emeline so fair,
And Harriet, and Susan, and she with curling hair!
Thine eyes are sadly blinded, but yet thou mayest see
six true, and comely maidens sitting upon the tree;
approach that tree with caution, then up it boldly climb,
and seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or time!
Then bear her to the greenwood, and build for her a bower,
and give her what she asketh, jewel, or bird, or flower;
and bring the fife, and trumpet, and beat upon the drum –
And bid the world Goodmorrow, and go to glory home!

The first time we have a teenage crush on someone, an infatuation, we don’t know we have started the long road to learning to balance feelings that provide for lasting attachments, “…strain divine”, with an equally strong urge to be possessive: “tie my Valentine!” The painful problem especially of “tweens” is of wanting a friend to pay attention only to “me” alone.

The heavenly transformation from this self-absorbed condition is captured in poem after poem of Dickinson’s work. Dickinson’s sense of awe toward love relationships was just getting started when she wrote this Valentine poem. The spiritual mystery of romance as a catalyst for selfless action and spiritual self-denial, produced many poems that served as gateways to the poet’s highly evolved spiritual understanding.

I have an aunt, the youngest of Daddy’s sisters, who turns 91 this month. She had a long and happy marriage to “her Johnny” before he died. In a few short years after Johnny died, Aunt Claire, who was in her late 70s at the time, met an 80-year-old deacon in the church they both attended. She described to me the feelings she had when he first invited her to a church social. “I was all giddy inside,” she said. “I felt like a teenager. Isn’t that silly?”

“No, of course not, I said.”

I might have added, “and seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or time!”

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way