What's Love Got to Do with It?
May 1, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Point me in the direction of your favorite writing(s) about love - you know, the stuff that talks about it in a way that you always wished you'd thought to.

I'm getting married in NH in October. If NH doesn't pass their same sex legislation (fingers crossed that they will), we will do a short&sweet civil, legal ceremony in MA the day before our ceremony/reception. Either way, the NH ceremony will be the main event.

I'm writing the ceremony and am on the hunt for amazing writing about love. I'm not really looking for "readings" per se - rather chunks of novels/memoirs, interesting articles, blog entries, etc. that talk about love in a profound/meaningful way that leads to that sigh at the end of it where you think..."yeah, that's why I'm with her" or "that's why I want to make every effort to spend the rest of my time on this planet with her." It doesn't have to be "fluffy" (in fact, I'd prefer more philisophical, political, spiritual, passionate pieces - humor also always welcome). I want things that will help me frame what I'm going to put into the ceremony more than direct quotes or readings.

While I don't want all things related to same sex issues, I would definitely love it if you've read particularly poignant things on this topic - recent articles, court decision language, blog entries. Having been in the midst of what is an amazing shift - I sometimes undervalue the broader relevance of the decision we are making - I'd love to highlight that in some way. This is particularly apropos since NH hangs in the balance right now and the state's (or rather Gov Lynch's) decision could completely change the tenor of our big day.

Mostly, though, I want writings that help explain why so many of us are willing to (seemingly) forego "rational" thought to pursue the hope of having a marriage that will be one of the ones that ends up just as we've intended - full of love, passion, humor, communication, balance, support, and the ability to work through everything that isn't any of those things.

I've started my own collection but find that the responses on this site always provide new insight. As always - thank you for your help!
posted by jasbet07 to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
The Wild Rose
by Wendell Berry

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart.

Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,

and once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.

posted by Joe Beese at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2009 [8 favorites]

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, ’tween the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride:
so I love you because I know no other way
than this; where *I* does not exist, nor *you*,
so close that your hand on my chest is my mine,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

-Pablo Neruda
posted by sickinthehead at 8:31 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

A couple of friends of mine who just got married incorporated this very lovely reading into their ceremony:

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was, nor forward to what it might be, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. For relationships, too, must be like islands. One must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits — islands surrounded and interrupted by the sea, continuously visited and abandoned by the tides. One must accept the serenity of the winged life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Gift from the Sea
posted by ourobouros at 8:31 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, it's kind of bittersweet, and in the context of the movie he didn't end up with Annie, but still this just about sums it up for me:

"this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs. "

-Woody Allen
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:33 AM on May 1, 2009

W. H. Auden

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Every farthing cost" should be "Every farthing of the cost"
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:43 AM on May 1, 2009

The two readings we had at our wedding in March:

On Marriage
by Kahlil Gibran

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog
by Taylor Mali

First of all, it's a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you're walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain't no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn't like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don't you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you're all wound up and can't move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.
posted by Grither at 8:44 AM on May 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

"She's my Rushmore." --Bill Murray to Jason Schwartzman in, you guessed it, Rushmore.
posted by scratch at 8:44 AM on May 1, 2009

I can't recommend highly enough Michael Perry's memoir Truck, which chronicles his year-long passage from contented, quirky bachelordom deeply agnostic of the very prospect of marriage to happy newlywed. He manages to be rhapsodic about the institution (and more importantly, the person with whom he entered into it) with both feet squarely on the rhetorical ground. The last half of the book is chock full of quotable passages, but one that gives you a sense of it talks about the sense of injustice he feels at the fact that the three officiants for their wedding, all of whom are gay, are prevented from enjoying the same right:

"While everyone celebrates downstairs, you see what has happened here. Anneliese and I are arrived at this moment of pure joy only because three very distinct people -- Reverend Virginia, Minister Katrina, and now Bob -- shared their time, their hard-won wisdom, and their love with us. All that they might guide us to the entrance of a covenant from which they are excluded. Having been given grace, how can I stand for the deprivation of those who freely gave it? This is not about indulging a kink. This is about beating the incalculable odds of finding another human being who loves you and suffers you and holds your most secret secrets in a fortress of commitment, but is shooed from your sickbed. Who knows your shirt size, your white lies, and why you can't sleep some nights, but will receive no privileged consideration under the law without the prodigious tangle of paperwork and high-dollar lawyering required to cobble up an approximation of the real deal. I say let them be joined. If Bob was afflicted with a kink, the other boys would have beat it out of him at recess years ago."
posted by dr. boludo at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I like Martin Buber's I and Thou.

it's a fairly dense meditation on intimacy. it starts with the observation that a rational approach to life misses out on something, and then goes on to explore what that something might be.

I'm at work, without my copy, so I can't share any of my favourite passages. if you do go looking for it, be sure to get Walter Kaufman's translation.
posted by spindle at 9:05 AM on May 1, 2009

The lyrics to Somebody by Depeche Mode.
posted by yawper at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2009

"Coming of Age in Karhide" by Ursula Le Guin - it's not online (legitimately) that I'm aware of, but it's a fabulous short story with bonus meditations on gender.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:16 AM on May 1, 2009

The story of Abelard and Heloise, and the letters between them, are my all-time favorite works on romance: this book by James Burge is a good start.

It has everything - two incredibly smart geeks of the Dark Ages (hell, they named their son Astrolabe!); rebellion against the social mores of the day; betrayal, castration, and exile; and an incredibly passionate and intense love that lasted until their deaths, even while separated by force and confined to religious orders.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:18 AM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the responses so far - the poems are really great.

I would definitely be interested in some more prose, articles, movie scenes, etc - again, I'm looking more for things that I can read to help me frame what I'd like our overall message to be rather than just things that will be read verbatim at the ceremony. Essentially, I'd like to learn about love through the eyes of novelists, philosophers, scientists, judges, journalists, bloggers, etc.

The poems capture that for sure...but I tend to relate more to prose.

dr. boludo and spindle - this is just what I had in mind - can't wait to check them out.

Keep them coming!
posted by jasbet07 at 9:19 AM on May 1, 2009

"His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete."

Fitzgerald, Gatsby
posted by dersins at 9:23 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

W.B. Yeats
posted by dersins at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

My favorite love song is This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) by The Talking Heads.

Not only is young John Donne funny, wry, scientific and all-embracing (he was super-straight but would totally jump for gay marriage), he could get into anyone's bloomers with his love poetry. My favorite is maybe this one, which is probably too intimate for your ceremony but will ring true every time it's 7:45 on a Wednesday morning and you both have to get up and go to work but goddammit you need just ten more minutes of making out.

Elizabeth Bishop wrote love poetry that is only now making its way to mass publication, most of it directed to her two major female lovers. This one is lovely especially when you consider the ambiguous pronunciation of the first words.

Close close all night
the lovers keep.
They turn together
in their sleep,
close as two pages
in a book
that read each other
in the dark.
Each knows all
the other knows,
learned by heart
from head to toes.

posted by zoomorphic at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

There was a postcard on PostSecret that read "My [partner] helped me discover parts of myself that I never knew existed." That one hit home for me.

I don't remember if the wording was husband, boyfriend or what.
posted by soelo at 9:42 AM on May 1, 2009

Here's a couple prose-y readings we used in our wedding ceremony.

* * *

"How will I know when to get married or even if I should get married?"

A question asked of me by a former student who has been living with a man for three years. Their romance began in college and kept right on going through graduate school and into the "real" world of jobs and setting up housekeeping. Marriage was not in their plans because as long as things worked out just living together and taking one day at a time, why should they mess with a good thing? But she’s twenty-seven now. "And...well...you know..." she says, shrugging with eyebrows raised in that gesture people use when words can’t get at exactly what’s on their minds.

Well, I do know, as a matter of fact. One of the long-term benefits of having taught school is the ongoing relationship with people who come along behind me going through all the stages of growing older. And I’ve had this conversation before. Quite a few befores, actually.

Here’s Fulghum’s Formula for Marriage Testing, as passed on to my young friend.

"Heather, give me your first gut reaction to three questions." She’s ready.

"First, if I asked you to take me and introduce me to the person you’ve known at least five years and would think of as your closest friend in the world, who would it be?"

Her eyes answer. "Him."

"Second, if I asked you to take me to where 'home' is for you, where would it be?"

Her eyes answer. "Wherever he is."

"Third, do you ever lie in bed at night with him, cuddled up spoon fashion, your back to his front, and his arms around you and neither of you is thinking of sex; instead you are thinking how content you are just being there like that—at home, with your closest friend, who just happens to be the man you love?"

Quiet. She is in tears. "How did you know?"

Well, for one thing, I have a home of my own.

And I told her that if he feels the same way, they’re married and just don’t know it yet. I pronounced them husband and wife right there. It’s only a question of whether or not she wants to have a party to celebrate that.

Source: Robert Fulghum. Uh-Oh. Ivy Books: New York, 1991. pages 68-70.

* * *

Marriage has certain qualities of contract, in which two people take on the housekeeping tasks of living, together, to enhance life's joy.

However, marriage is more than a contract. Marriage is a commitment to take that joy deep, deeper than happiness, deep into the discovery of who you most truly are. It is a commitment to a spiritual journey, to a life of becoming, in which joy can comprehend despair, running through rivers of pain into joy again.

And thus marriage is even deeper than commitment. It is a covenant—a covenant that says:
I love you.
I trust you.
I will be here for you when you are hurting, and when I am hurting, I will not leave. It is a covenant intended not to provide haven from pain or from anger and sorrow. Life offers no such haven. Instead, marriage is intended to provide a sanctuary safe enough to risk loving, to risk living and sharing from the center of oneself. This is worth everything.

Source: Margaret A. Keip
posted by anderjen at 9:46 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

From "Everything is Illuminated" by Jonathan Safran Foer

"I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else. "
— Jonathan Safran Foer

I read this every once in awhile, because it reminds me of the way that I feel about my fiance.
posted by JennyJupiter at 10:00 AM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

All of The Little Prince
posted by ekroh at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2009

One of my favorite recent things about really, profoundly loving someone: Alice Munro's "The Bear Came over the Mountain", which was made into the lovely film Away from Her.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2009

"The Idea of Love" from The Idea of Prose by Giorgio Agamben
Love's Work by Gillian Rose
posted by OmieWise at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2009

Welp, not to get all Captain Obvious or anything, but a certain Joyce passage is probably in the tops of any list about surrendering to love/passion:

"I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "
posted by Skot at 11:15 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

From The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera:

"Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman)."

Congratulations, by the way!
posted by Ms. Informed at 11:17 AM on May 1, 2009

I know you said you had enough poems, and you're going to get a lot of Auden, but it would be a shame to miss:

O Tell Me The Truth About Love

Some say love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like Classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn't over there;
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn't in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its time at the races,
or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

WH Auden
posted by The Bellman at 11:36 AM on May 1, 2009

Amadou & Mariam je pense a toi
posted by citron at 11:47 AM on May 1, 2009

The indiebride forums have a large repository of readings, but here's my favorite

A Baby Elephant

Right now my love for you is a baby elephant
Born in Berlin or in Paris,
And treading with its cushioned feet
Around the zoo director's house.

Do not offer it French pastries,
Do not offer it cabbage heads,
It can eat only sections of tangerines,
Or lumps of sugar and pieces of candy.

Don't cry, my sweet, because it will be put
Into a narrow cage, become a joke for mobs,
When salesman blow cigar smoke into its trunk
To the cackles of their girl friends.

Don't imagine, my dear, that the day will come
When, infuriated, it will snap its chains
And rush along the streets,
Crushing howling people like a bus.

No, may you dream of it at dawn,
Clad in bronze and brocade and ostrich feathers,
Like that magnificent beast which once
Bore Hannibal to trembling Rome.

Nikolai Gumilov
posted by benzenedream at 12:27 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, from Ulysses:

Love loves to love love. Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14A loves Mary Kelly. Gerty MacDowell love the boy that has the bicycle. M. B. loves a fair gentleman. Li Chi Han lovey up kissy Cha Pu Chow. Jumbo, the elelphant, loves Alice the elephant….and you love a certain person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody.
posted by benzenedream at 12:29 PM on May 1, 2009

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeleine L'Engle.

When I am married, this is what I want it to be like.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2009

Here are some quotes from Merle Shain you may like & a love song frome Christine Kane called She Don't Like Roses.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:14 PM on May 1, 2009

[I want things] that talk about love in a profound/meaningful way, you say, I'd prefer more philisophical, political, spiritual, passionate pieces.

Have you considered the reality than anything written with the intent to be seriously philosophical about love has criticized it? And not as silly, but a fundamentally ugly human flaw?

JennyJupiter quoted Jonathan Safran Foer:

"I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you [∞].

What? At what point do we become truly realistic about love? You wish to have "profound" passages of love that aren't "fluffy" but also assert some collective notion that another person is the meaning of life, the whole universe, and everything else.

This might sound completely off-topic, but if you are a person getting married, then it seems you have the moral burden to qualify love not as a rosy portrait of life but as simple fact of life—that part of the human condition might be to need someone else.
posted by trotter at 1:33 PM on May 1, 2009

Have you considered the reality than anything written with the intent to be seriously philosophical about love has criticized it? And not as silly, but a fundamentally ugly human flaw?

I disagree. War and Peace talks about love (as it talks about everything) in a deep, nuanced, thoughtful way, and it I wouldn't say that Tolstoy's conclusion is that love is ugly or a fundamental flaw. You have to read the whole book to get the entire picture (a course of action I highly recommend, by the way), but for a quick summary of his attitudes, check out Book 15, Chapter 15 and First Epilogue, Chapter 10. (*both of these excerpts are from near the end of the book and contain spoilers galore, if you're worried about that sort of thing).

Also, check out "What If?" by Isaac Asimov: a husband and wife are given the opportunity to see what their lives would have been like if their first chance meeting had never happened. It's Asimov, so it's not brilliant prose, and it's a little dated, but it's a good story, and an interesting take on the concept of "true love".
posted by Commander Rachek at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2009

Sorry about the poor quality of the Asimov link; that was the only one I could find. That story is also published in the anthology Nightfall and Other Stories if you'd rather read it on paper.
posted by Commander Rachek at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2009

I'm madly in love with Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I'm sending a copy to a friend along with his wedding gift, actually.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:45 PM on May 1, 2009

There's a lot in Anna Karenina that's really great and thought-provoking. Take a look at this chapter, right after Levin and Kitty get married, particularly this bit:

It was only then, for the first time, that he clearly understood what he had not understood when he led her out of the church after the wedding. He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. He felt this from the agonizing sensation of division that he experienced at that instant. He was offended for the first instant, but the very same second he felt that he could not be offended by her, that she was himself. He felt for the first moment as a man feels when, having suddenly received a violent blow from behind, he turns round, angry and eager to avenge himself, to look for his antagonist, and finds that it is he himself who has accidentally struck himself, that there is no one to be angry with, and that he must put up with and try to soothe the pain.

Never afterwards did he feel it with such intensity, but this first time he could not for a long while get over it. His natural feeling urged him to defend himself, to prove to her she was wrong; but to prove her wrong would mean irritating her still more and making the rupture greater that was the cause of all his suffering. One habitual feeling impelled him to get rid of the blame and to pass it on her. Another feeling, even stronger, impelled him as quickly as possible to smooth over the rupture without letting it grow greater. To remain under such undeserved reproach was wretched, but to make her suffer by justifying himself was worse still. Like a man half-awake in an agony of pain, he wanted to tear out, to fling away the aching place, and coming to his senses, he felt that the aching place was himself. He could do nothing but try to help the aching place to bear it, and this he tried to do.

I also like the bit from this chapter:

And he saw all that Pestsov had been maintaining at dinner of the liberty of woman, simply from getting a glimpse of the terror of an old maid's existence and its humiliation in Kitty's heart; and loving her, he felt that terror and humiliation, and at once gave up his arguments.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:18 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might find A Natural History of Love by Diane Ackerman helpful. It is definitely interesting.

Also, perhaps reading Against Love: A Polemic by Laura Kipnis will shed some light on something through its very opposition?
posted by Brody's chum at 9:28 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway. Here.
posted by obliquicity at 10:05 PM on May 1, 2009

I know you said you were looking for more prose-based stuff, but Walt Whitman's "When I heard at the close of the day," really seems to fit the bill. It's a great love poem, and if you want to do a biographical reading of it, then it would appear Whitman is the speaker and he's writing about another man. Really, I don't know of another poem that captures the excitement, joy, and contentment of seeing someone you love after a long absence. I'm including the poem below, but I'm not sure if the line breaks will come through correctly, so here's a link.

WHEN I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv’d with plaudits in the
capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow’d;
And else, when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d, still I was not happy;
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh’d, singing, inhaling the
ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light,
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing, bathed, laughing with the cool waters,
and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend, my lover, was on his way coming, O then I was happy;
O then each breath tasted sweeter—and all that day my food nourish’d me more—and the
beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy—and with the next, at evening, came my friend;
And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands, as directed to me, whispering, to congratulate
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night I was happy.
posted by 6and12 at 5:42 AM on May 2, 2009

Try Chaucer's "Merciles Beaute." Okay, it's in Middle English, but it's all courtly and dramatic and posits the most potent physiological effect of even a sidelong glance of your love, to wit (partially updated):
Your eyen two will slay me suddenly
The Mediaeval Baebes did a cover of the poem on their album The Rose that is just haunting.
posted by adoarns at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2009

There is a chapter in a novel called "History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters" by Julian Barnes that is worth chasing down. The rest of the book is so-so, but his chapter on love had me misty-eyed, thinking about my own partner and smelling him while he sleeps. worth tracking down just for that chapter. If I had my own copy, I'd put an excerpt up for you.
posted by chronic sublime at 2:07 AM on May 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone! I can't wait to find all of these and hunker down with them to get some great ideas.
posted by jasbet07 at 9:09 AM on May 4, 2009

Plato's Phaedrus and Symposium
posted by aesacus at 11:06 AM on May 7, 2009

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