Have you been madly in love before? Especially when the person you fell in love with did not even notice it because of the odd circumstance you were in, or simply because you were too shy to say it.
Félix Arvers (1806 - 1850)
One hundred and seventy years ago, in Paris, a shy French poet and playwright named Félix Arvers was madly in love with Marie Nodier, the wife of his friend and protector. Finding no way to open up his soul and mitigate his distress, he confided his desperate heartache in a sonnet. The poem was so touching and struck such a responsive chord with its powerful romantic imagery and profound emotions among the habitués of the Paris literary salons that it was fondly circulated for recitation among them for years before becoming a classic of French romantic poetry after his death in 1850.
Since this was the only well-known poem in his oeuvre titled Mes heures perdues, Félix Arvers was referred to in French literature as "The Poet of a unique poem."
The sonnet known around the world as the "Sonnet d'Arvers" speaks of the torments and tribulations of love, the loneliness and pain from frustrated desire, the anguish and forlorn hope of a proximity ignored. His are cries of despair that go unheard, the bleeding of a heart and the rending of a soul that elicit no response, and the utter loneliness that tears at every fiber of his being. Because he dares not speak or ask, he receives nothing.
The verses in which he confides the turbulence of his inner self, even if read
by the woman he secretly loves, devoted, faithful angel of indifference that
she is, will only puzzle her and not be understood. There simply is no hope.
In 1990 in Paris, exactly 159 years after the Sonnet d'Arvers was written, a Vietnamese poet by the name Dã Thao (Wild Grass) published an anthology in which she entrusted her secret feelings of love and despair. One particular poem titled An Interminable Day evokes the same strong emotion of hopelessness that the Sonnet d'Arvers captures: a desperate, unrequited love. Hers, however, explores the consuming passion and its physical and psychological effects on the hapless lover. The inner feelings manifest themselves in behavioral patterns that are described in detail with startling realism and accuracy.
The feverish aimless flurry of floor pacing, the surge of longing that lasts through the eternal day, a thinly veiled unconsummated sensuality, the bitterness of defeat, the retrenchment of the heart, and finally the profound solitude.
Furthermore, it is an all-revealing confession of a woman secretly, madly in love, a rather uncommon case in the annals of Poetry.
Just as what Montaigne refers to as le fond humain (human nature) is unchanging, love-sick feelings are universal and transcend cultures. But in Dã Thao's poem the intensity of her pain and suffering are more real to her readers and especially to me. Her sincerity and candor touch me. The poetic pictures she evokes are breathtakingly beautiful and the rhythm of her verses completely enthralls me.
Yes, I feel exactly what Dã Thao describes, because I was madly in love once before. And I remember that touch of innocence. That rush of blood. The sighs. An uncontrollable feeling in my guts. The endless days of waiting. And a lonely pain that lasts a lifetime.
I will now let the voice of this talented contemporary Vietnamese poet,
a Parisian by choice, speak for itself.
In keeping with an ancient oriental literary tradition, a praised poem calls for the introducer to respond with a creation of his own to express his personal feelings on the subject. In that way, the original author will feel more appreciated, and the audience will also have the opportunity to enjoy the extra literary activity.
One early morning some time ago, my reminiscences took me back to a misty past, and suddenly those feelings of a distant lost love came flooding in to my consciousness. The bittersweet memory of those days that I thought had been forever buried deep in my unconscious came back to life as if they happened only yesterday. Overcome by the surge of emotions, I set them down in 4-verse heptameter.
To honor Dã Thao and in recognition of her remarkable poem, here is my Dewdrop
in the Rose.
Nụ hồng hé nhụy đón xuân phong
20 July 2001
Back to Paris after her summer journey to the Far East, the peripatetic Dã Thao
responds to my encomium with a graceful stanza to "lessen the solitude of your rose," as
she puts it. In it she invokes the joyful spring season that inspires love, and
beautifies it as if with delicate embroidery. She extols the refreshing virtue of its
breezes and the caresses that they bestow on the roses of love. In its
evocative splendor, Dã Thao's Spring Roses
Gió xuân ve vãn những cánh hồng
27 July 2001