In the throes of romantic love, some of the world’s most famous poets wrote great poems full of expressions of undying love and eternal devotion. But what if those folks had been stuck in a difficult thirty-year marriage? Might their poetry have been a bit different?
Shall I compare thee to day old bread?
Thou art more crusty and less full of taste.
Rough edges do dull the aging buds half dead,
And bread’s expiration hath all too short a date.
Sometimes too hot the two-slice toaster shines,
And often is the morning toast burnt;
And all freshness from each slice declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course unlearnt;
But thy eternal mouldy face shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that pockmarked frown;
And Death shall shudder under your shade,
When your countenance suggests a frightful clown.
So long as I can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this eternally punishes me.
She snores a beauty, all damn night
With sleepless climes and starry skies;
I shudder at the very sight
Of each evil aspect of her eyes.
Thus married to that awful fright,
Which peace each day to me denies.
One dram the more, one bottle less,
Had half impaired my pitiable face
Which hides from every graying tress
To gather some small private space
And dream of leaving all this mess
To quick rejoin the human race.
And on that cheek and o’er that brow
So lined, so harsh, so virulent,
The shrieks that win, the scowls that show,
Of years in silent torture spent,
If I could get some peace below,
Without my ears so rudely bent.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I tolerate you? Let me count the ways.
I tolerate you to the depth and breadth and height my patience can reach,
When sweeping out of sight the ends of cigarettes and pizza crusts.
I tolerate you to the level of your college stereo,
With its excessive volume and bass control.
I tolerate you barely, as the shredded underwear
That clings to your sagging cheeks.
I tolerate you purely as an exercise in self abuse.
I tolerate you with a passion usually reserved
For rancid cheese and dirty socks.
I tolerate you with a patience I seemed to lose
When the kids left home.
I tolerate you with the breath, odor and hygiene of a locker room,
And, if God choose, I shall but tolerate you better after death.