Just for you: A perfect evocation of love in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. ♥️
TOUCH THE AIR SOFTLY by William Jay Smith Now touch the air softly, step gently, one, two … I’ll love you ’til roses are robin’s egg blue; I’ll love you ’til gravel is eaten for bread, And lemons are orange, and lavender’s red. Now touch the air softly, swing gently the broom. I’ll love you ’til windows are all of a room; And the table is laid, And the table is bare, And the ceiling reposes on bottomless air. I’ll love you ’til heaven rips the stars from his coat, And the moon rows away in a glass-bottomed boat; And Orion steps down like a river below, And earth is ablaze, and oceans aglow. So touch the air softly, and swing the broom high. We will dust the grey mountains, and sweep the blue sky: And I’ll love you as long as the furrow the plough, As however is ever, and ever is now. ~ from The Girl in Glass: Love Poems (Books & Co., 2002)
I was totally enchanted by every word of this lyrical gem, which is alternately titled “A Pavane for the Nursery.” Something about, ‘step gently, one, two’ struck me as an ingenuous invitation to delight.
This poem has been set to music by several composers, is a popular choral piece, and is often sung or recited at weddings.
A former U.S. Poet Laureate, William Jay Smith once said, “Great poetry must have its own distinctive music; it must resound with the music of the human psyche,” and this poem certainly bears that out.
Smith favored traditional poetic styles to free verse, hence his use of a rhymed metrical-stanzaic structure here. His pronouncements are charming as well as disarming despite the formal style. Who can resist “the moon rows away in a glass-bottomed boat,” or “we will dust the grey mountains and sweep the blue sky”?
Brooms are symbols of good luck, as they can be used to “sweep away” evil spirits or bad fortune. According to an old Welsh custom, newlyweds should enter their new home by stepping over a broom so luck will follow them. Similarly, if a bride and groom jump over a broom during their marriage ceremony, good luck and fortune will flourish in their union.
Upon reading this poem, I thought immediately of Marc Chagall. After all, he’s considered “the ultimate painter of love.” He masterfully captured the euphoria of love with his levitating lovers, who blissfully float on air, defying gravity, soaring beyond earthly realms as one.
His wife Bella was not only the love of his life, but the muse who inspired his best work. He said, “Is it not true that painting and color are inspired by love? In art, as in life, all is possible when conceived in love.”
I thought Chagall’s flying lovers a good match for Smith’s poem, for it is the life-sustaining purity of air that blesses those united in love, enfolding them in their own universe.
After listening to several renditions of this poem put to music, I decided my favorite is by Minnesota folk musician Peter Mayer. His crisp, warm, fluid acoustic treatment is perfection.
♥️ HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! ♥️
The lovely and talented Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink. Waltz on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend and watch out for cupid’s arrows next week. 🙂
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