Jack’s Naughty Bits: Ephelia, “Love’s First Approach”

Pin it

Jack's Naughty Bits
Tell me, lovers, when do you know? A lot of “Love at first ___ ” phrases get volleyed about: first sight, first kiss, first touch (the jaded among us might add first fuck, frig or fellation, not to forget First Bite — that celluloid George Hamilton vehicle, mainstay of my family’s communal TV-viewing pleasure), but when do you know that you have moved from hoping to having, from a future indeterminate to a future determinate, from a life lived in one to a life lived in two? Is there a moment when you feel that you have just, that second, fallen in love, as when you touch your forehead and say, “That was a raindrop”? Or is it like the flick of a razor, so subtle and sharp there is no pain, not even recognition? One day you find a photo framed on your desk, a message on your machine from someone else’s mother, a ring tucked deep in your pocket. Maybe you deliberate using the word, holding it back till you’re absolutely sure, or maybe it just slips out one day, and there it is. In almost all things of consequence — history, philosophy, emotion — the materiality of change lags behind the reality of the having been changed. The rational mind, looking for evidence, is never able to account for the gap. There are only phrases like: “You wake up one morning . . . ” By the time you know you know, the truth has probably long been staring you in the face, watching your movements, wondering when you would finally wake to it. Not so for the pseudonymous seventeenth-century poet Ephelia. In the poem below, she sees and she knows: Strephon is her man. Literature tells us this can happen; life, perhaps, does not. Let us only hope that, however tardily, we come to know, and to feel for what it is love’s rush, flush and feather-heavy crush.


Love’s First Approach, by Ephelia

Strephon I saw, and started at the sight,
And interchangeably look’d red and white;
I felt my blood run swiftly to my heart,
And a chill trembling seize each outward part:
My breath grew short, my pulse did quicker beat,
My heart did heave, as it would change its seat:
A faint cold sweat o’er all my body spread,
A giddy megrim wheel’d about my head:
When for the reason of this change I sought,
I found my eyes had all the mischief wrought;
For they my soul to Strephon had betray’d,
And my weak heart his willing victim made:
The traitors, conscious of the treason,
They had committed ‘gainst my reason,
Look’d down with such bashful guilty fear,
As made their fault to every eye appear.
Though the first fatal look too much had done,
The lawless wanderers would still gaze on,
Kind looks repeat, and glances steal, till they
Had look’d my liberty and heart away:
Great Love, I yield; send no more darts in vain,
I am already fond of my soft chain;
Proud of my fetters, so pleas’d with my state,
That I the very thought of freedom hate.
O mighty Love! They art and power join,
To make his frozen breast as warm as mine;
But if thou try’st and can’st not make him kind,
In love such pleasant, real sweets I find;
That though attended with despair it be,
‘Tis better still than a wild liberty.