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On Love, On Grief

July 23, 2013

From Pericles and Aspasia

On love, on grief, on every human thing,
Time sprinkles Lethe’s waters with his wing.

–Walter Savage Landor 1836

COMMENTS: This poem was initially published as part of a long prose work, Pericles and Aspasia, a series of imaginary letters between a Greek politician and prostitute. The lines stand alone, memorably, achieving a remarkable combination of completeness and compression. The wings time typically uses for flying (tempis fugit) are here revivified with a new function as they sprinkle the waters of forgetfulness. There is pairing here, like a pair of wings, both loss and consolation: love and grief being forgotten equally. What is most beautiful about the poem, though, is the music, in particular the way the three pauses in the first line set up the sprinkling fall of sound in the second.

 

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