Monday, 14 February 2011

Gifts: a love poem

Here's one of my favourite love poems, by the Australian Aboriginal poet Oodgeroo Noonucal. In contrast to all the tedious, unimaginative hype that surrounds Valentine's Day each year, this poem portrays something quite wonderful and quite essential about the nature of romantic love:

Gifts

‘I will bring you love,’ said the young lover,
‘A glad light to dance in your dark eye.
Pendants I will bring of the white bone,
And gay parrot feathers to deck your hair.’

But she only shook her head.

‘I will put a child in your arms,’ he said.
‘Will be a great headman, great rain-maker.
I will make remembered songs about you
That all tribes in all the wandering camps
Will sing forever.’

But she was not impressed.

‘I will bring you the still moonlight of the lagoon
And steal for you the singing of all the birds;
I will bring down the stars from heaven to you,
And put the bright rainbow into your hand.’

‘No,’ she said, ‘bring me tree-grubs.’

7 Comments:

Pamela said...

A fine piece of work by one of our First Peoples. Thanks Ben.

Paul Tyson said...

Though I sing often of rose fingered dawn, the glorious sun, the silver moon, the wine red sea
Though I sing her beauty to her every day
Though children - yet not all living - do I put into her arms
And the gem stones of the night sky I name for her
Yet... try as I might, tree grubs I cannot find to give to her.
"Never mind," with gentle, patient love, she says to me.
"Your songs are enough."

Paul Tyson said...

I don't mean to deny that if love is not practically costly then its most likely nothing other than mere self love, mere infatuation, and hence no love at all worthy of the name. However, practical failures need not be of necessity failures in love, and may well have the heart of true sacrifice. And a gift that is words - if the heart, and the all of the person (including practical cost) be given in them - can be true gift even so. And if she is only interested in him because he gives her tree grubs for her favors, then his selfish infatuation meets her instrumental manipulation in ideal union - but in neither case is it love.

roger flyer said...

@Paul. I like it.

@Ben-I copied the poem and gave it to my wife for Valentine's Day. She cried, then laughed.

"Can I bring it to school to show my friends?" she asked.

Francine said...

My impressions of this lovely poem is a universal problem of couples.
She married a romantic and romantics are known to have their heads in the clouds. He thinks of all these poetic things to give her, but all she wants is for him to find food. Women are much more practical than men think. As my mother used to say...words are cheap. It's what men "do" for their women that women cherish. In today's terms...dishes, supper, change a baby etc. It's true...I swear!!!

roger flyer said...

"Ah Francine, my dear, ma cheri. Mon petit chou. My darling. My only..." he said, with chocolates.

"The baby's nappy is dirty," she said.

Paul Tyson said...

All true Francine - I like to think of myself as a romantic who sees the beautiful side of baby shit, dishes, home maintainance, garbage etc (and this romance is a practical one - the seeing is in the doing, not as an outside contemplative). I don't see any necessary barrier to being both a romantic man and a practical man, in their with the real business of child rearing, home care etc - but the truth is, I'm not that good at "bread winning".

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