Modern Matrimony

Yesterday’s blog post on sanction patterns came to mind, while I was reading this poem, published in Motley Measures, Bert Leston Taylor, 1913.

Modern Matrimony

Dear one, when we exchange our vows
We’ll knot the loosest sort of tie;
For our ideals, like our brows,
Are broad and high.

A simple hitch I should prefer,
As simple as we can devise;
A lovers’-bowline, as it were—
One yank unties.

This nuptial pact shall not coerce
Our own sweet wills a single jot.
We’ll chop ‘for better or for worse,’
And all that rot.

My love, your sentiments are mine;
I echo them with all my heart.
I simply can’t endure that line—
‘Till death us part.’

My idol, I am overjoyed!
I shan’t love twice, but if I should
This contract will be null and void:
That’s understood.

I shall not dream of liberty,
But if I should—you’ll understand
The bonds that bind us now will be
As ropes of sand.

I am the needle, you the pole!
O Pole, my constancy you know.
But should I not remain heart-whole
I’m free to go.

I am the flower, you the sun!
O Sun, you know my constancy.
But if I choose to cut and run
You quite agree.

Since you love me as I love you,
Herewith a sacred troth we plight.
Each to the other will be true:
If not—good night!

Our modern (1913?!) Romeo and Juliet are quite prepared to pledge their mutual affection, but they have some reservations about its duration. Best not to make promises you can’t keep. But they aren’t exactly the stuff from which heroes and heroines are made.

If Romeo and Juliet had ended with Romeo saying, “oh, why bother? It’s too much grief,” we wouldn’t still be reading that play today.

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