The Secret Ingredient To A Happy Life? Love!

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
If there really is a secret ingredient which has the power to instantly improve our lives, then it can only be love. Love is incredible. It gives us strength, comfort and confidence. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives, lifts us when times get tough and inspires us to push harder when things are going well.
Love comes in many forms and all are unique. In our lifetimes, we will experience the love of a mother, father, brother, sister, partner, spouse, friend and so many more. Every single one is slightly different, though. That said, each of these lift us and positively impact our lives. Feeling loved, however, doesn’t have to be dependent on other people. The most important love is not that which we give to, or receive from, others. The most important love is that which we show to ourselves. Self-love is the greatest love.
When you love yourself, you hold yourself to a higher standard. You have too much self respect to allow yourself to waste your talents and lead a life of mediocrity. When we love someone or something, we care for it, nurture it and help it to grow. However, as we do this, we sometimes neglect ourselves without realising. That’s why it’s important that we love ourselves first. After all, how can we serve others when we are neglecting ourselves?
When we love ourselves, respect ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for our own lives, something magical happens. Life gets better, and not by accident. Self-love fosters a positive, growth mindset so that we find ourselves striving every day to improve the quality of our own lives. So, we learn more, do more, achieve more and become more. For me, this is the essence of life – to strive to become the very best version of yourself. When you strive for this, you enrich the lives of your family and friends by inspiring them. If you have a family of your own , you become better able to support them. Outside of your personal life, this positive attitude, fuelled by love, drives you to bring value to the lives of the countless people with whom you will interact. Your example could inspire others to also love themselves and strive to improve their lives every day, and if more people did that, it could hardly be considered a bad thing could it?!
Learning to love yourself is not a simple process that follows a set of rules. Much like riding a bike, it’s about just taking action and perfecting your technique along the way. You will fall, but when you do, just get back up, dust yourself off and get back to work. Self-love is about realising what’s important in your life. From experience, I found that a break from social media worked for me. Because I wasn’t being bombarded by marketers and influencers with messages about what things (usually very pretty but also very expensive) I needed in my life, I was able to take the time to reflect and remind myself who I am, what’s important to me, what I want from life and why. I refocused on what I need, not what Instagram tells me that I’m lacking. I listed my non-negotiables, such as my health and personal and professional development, and revisit these every day to measure my progress.
Self-love is also about having the confidence and courage to say no to people. We constantly get requests from others for help. While this benefits them, we do need to stop and ask ourselves if it’s a good enough use of our time. As selfish as it sounds, it is necessary. Keep saying yes to the requests of others, and you will soon find your own life put on hold as you live someone else’s life. Think about it for a moment. When the majority of your free time is spent doing things for others, you stop doing what’s important to you and what makes you happy. As a result, you get frustrated, angry and disillusioned. In this state, how can you possible impact another’s life positively? We need to serve ourselves before we serve anyone else. That is not selfishness, it’s self-love.
Whenever things are going well, or even when they are not and we need a little cheering up, we like to treat ourselves to a little something, even if it’s just a posh, frothy coffee. The greatest gift we can give to ourselves, however, doesn’t cost a penny and we can have it at any time, because it’s not a thing. It’s a feeling, and so much more. So, today, whether you are in a mood to celebrate or commiserate, put your cash away and instead give yourself the gift of love.

I Am Convinced (Leonard Nimoy)

I am convinced
That if all mankind
Could only gather together
In one circle
Arms on each other’s shoulders
And dance, laugh and cry
together
Then much
of the tension and burden
of life
Would fall away
In the knowledge that
We are all children
Needing and wanting
Each other’s
Comfort and
Understanding
We are all children
Searching for love

Lullaby (WH 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 of the 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 the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

The More Loving One (WH Auden)

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Her Voice (Oscar Wilde)

The wild bee reels from bough to bough
With his furry coat and his gauzy wing.
Now in a lily-cup, and now
Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,
In his wandering;
Sit closer love: it was here I trow
I made that vow,

Swore that two lives should be like one
As long as the sea-gull loved the sea,
As long as the sunflower sought the sun,–
It shall be, I said, for eternity
‘Twixt you and me!
Dear friend, those times are over and done,
Love’s web is spun.

Look upward where the poplar trees
Sway and sway in the summer air,
Here in the valley never a breeze
Scatters the thistledown, but there
Great winds blow fair
From the mighty murmuring mystical seas,
And the wave-lashed leas.

Look upward where the white gull screams,
What does it see that we do not see?
Is that a star? or the lamp that gleams
On some outward voyaging argosy,–
Ah! can it be
We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
How sad it seems.

Sweet, there is nothing left to say
But this, that love is never lost,
Keen winter stabs the breasts of May
Whose crimson roses burst his frost,
Ships tempest-tossed
Will find a harbour in some bay,
And so we may.

And there is nothing left to do
But to kiss once again, and part,
Nay, there is nothing we should rue,
I have my beauty,–you your Art,
Nay, do not start,
One world was not enough for two
Like me and you.

She Walks In Beauty (George Gordon Byron)

She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Echo (Christina Georgina Rossetti)

Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.
Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.
Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago

First Love (John Clare)

I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start —
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice?
Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love’s appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more

Love’s Philosophy (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle-
Why not I with thine?

See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea; –
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

I Wait For You (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok)

I wait for you. The years in silence pass
And as the image, one, I wait for you again.

The distance is in flame — and clear one as glass,
I, silent, wait — with sadness, love and pain.

The distance is in flame, and you are coming fast,
But I’m afraid that you will change your image yet,

And will initiate the challenging mistrust
By changing features, used, at long awaited end.

Oh, how I will fell — so low and so pine,
Unable to overcome my dreams’ continued set!

The distance is such bright! And azure is so fine!
But I’m afraid that you will change your image yet.

I’ve Lived To See Desire Vanish (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

I’ve lived to see desire vanish,
With hope I’ve slowly come to part,
And I am left with only anguish,
The fruit of emptiness at heart.

Under the storms of merciless fate,
My worn and withered garland lies–
In sadness, lonesome, I await:
How far away is my demise?

Thus, conquered by a tardy frost,
Through gale’s whistling and shimmer,
Late, on a naked limb exposed
A lonesome leaf is left to quiver!…

Confession (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

I love you – I love you, e’en as I
Rage at myself for this obsession,
And as I make my shamed confession,
Despairing at your feet I lie.
I know, I know – It ill becomes me,
I am too old, time to be wise …
But how? … This love – it overcomes me,
A sickness this in passion’s guise.
When you are near I’m filled with sadness,
When far, I yawn, for life’s a bore.
I must pour out this love, this madness,
There’s nothing that I long for more!
When your shirts rustle, when, my angel,
Your girlish voice I hear, when your
Light step sounds in the parlour – strangely,
I turn confused, perturbed, unsure.
Your frown – and I’m in pain, I languish;
You smile – and joy defeats distress;
My one reward for a day’s anguish
Comes when your, pale hand, love, I kiss.
When you sit, bent over your sewing,
Your eyes cast down and fine curls blowing.
About your face, with tenderness
I like childlike watch, my heart o’erflowing
With love, in my gaze a caress.
Shall I my jealousy and yearning
Describe, my bitterness and woe
When by yourself on some bleak morning
Off on a distant walk you go,
Or with another spend the evening
And, with him near, the piano play,
Or for Opochka leave, or, grieving
Weep and in silence, pass the day?
Alina! Pray relent have mercy!
I dare not ask for love – with all
My many sins, both great and small,
I am perhaps of love unworthy!
But if feigned love, if you would
Pretend, you’d easily deceive me,
For happily would I, believe me,
Deceive myself if but I could!

Don’t Ask Me Why (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

Don’t ask me why, alone in dismal thought,
In times of mirth, I’m often filled with strife,
And why my weary stare is so distraught,
And why I don’t enjoy the dream of life;

Don’t ask me why my happiness has perished,
Why I don’t love the love that pleased me then,
No longer can I call someone my cherished–
Who once felt love will never love again;

Who once felt bliss, no more will feel its essence,
A moment’s happiness is all that we receive:
From youth, prosperity and joyful pleasantry,
All that is left is apathy and grief…

An Hour With Thee (Sir Walter Scott)

An hour with thee! When earliest day
Dapples with gold the eastern gray,
Oh, what can frame my mind to bear
The toil and turmoil, cark and care,
New griefs, which coming hours unfold,
And sad remembrance of the old?
One hour with thee.

One hour with thee! When burning June
Waves his red flag at pitch of noon;
What shall repay the faithful swain,
His labor on the sultry plain;
And, more than cave or sheltering bough,
Cool feverish blood and throbbing brow?
One hour with thee.

One hour with thee! When sun is set,
Oh, what can teach me to forget
The thankless labors of the day;
The hopes, the wishes, flung away;
The increasing wants, and lessening gains,
The master’s pride, who scorns my pains?
One hour with thee.

My Kingdom (Louisa May Alcott)

A little kingdom I possess
where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
of governing it well;
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And selfishness its shadow casts
On all my words and deeds.

How can I learn to rule myself,
to be the child I should,
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soul
To shine along life’s way?
How can I tune my little heart
To sweetly sing all day?

Dear Father, help me with the love
that casteth out my fear;
Teach me to lean on thee, and feel
That thou art very near,
That no temptation is unseen
No childish grief too small,
Since thou, with patience infinite,
Doth soothe and comfort all.

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win
Nor seek to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be thou my guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in myself
And dare to take command

A Song (Joseph Brodsky)

I wish you were here, dear,
I wish you were here.
I wish you sat on the sofa
and I sat near.
The handkerchief could be yours,
the tear could be mine, chin-bound.
Though it could be, of course,
the other way around.

I wish you were here, dear,
I wish you were here.
I wish we were in my car
and you’d shift the gear.
We’d find ourselves elsewhere,
on an unknown shore.
Or else we’d repair
to where we’ve been before.

I wish you were here, dear,
I wish you were here.
I wish I knew no astronomy
when stars appear,
when the moon skims the water
that sighs and shifts in its slumber.
I wish it were still a quarter
to dial your number.

I wish you were here, dear,
in this hemisphere,
as I sit on the porch
sipping a beer.
It’s evening, the sun is setting;
boys shout and gulls are crying.
What’s the point of forgetting
if it’s followed by dying?

Love (Joseph Brodsky)

Twice I awoke this night, and went
to the window. The streetlamps were
a fragment of a sentence spoken in sleep,
leading to nothing, like omission points,
affording me no comfort and no cheer.
I dreamt of you, with child, and now,
having lived so many years apart from you,
experienced my guilt, and my hands,
joyfully stroking your belly,
found they were fumbling at my trousers
and the light-switch. Shuffling to the window,
I realized I had left you there alone,
in the dark, in the dream, where patiently
you waited and did not blame me,
when I returned, for the unnatural
interruption. For in the dark
that which in the light has broken off, lasts;
there we are married, wedded, we play
the two-backed beast; and children
justify our nakedness.
On some future night you will again
come to me, tired, thin now,
and I shall see a son or daughter,
as yet unnamed — this time I’ll
not hurry to the light-switch, nor
will I remove my hand; because I’ve not the right
to leave you in that realm of silent
shadows, before the fence of days,
falling into dependence from a reality
containing me — unattainable.

I Loved You (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

I loved you, and I probably still do,
And for a while the feeling may remain…
But let my love no longer trouble you,
I do not wish to cause you any pain.
I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew,
The jealousy, the shyness – though in vain –
Made up a love so tender and so true
As may God grant you to be loved again.

Tamerlane (Edgar Allan Poe)

Kind solace in a dying hour!
Such, father, is not (now) my theme-
I will not madly deem that power
Of Earth may shrive me of the sin
Unearthly pride hath revell’d in-
I have no time to dote or dream:
You call it hope- that fire of fire!
It is but agony of desire:
If I can hope- Oh God! I can-
Its fount is holier- more divine-
I would not call thee fool, old man,
But such is not a gift of thine.

Know thou the secret of a spirit
Bow’d from its wild pride into shame.
O yearning heart! I did inherit
Thy withering portion with the fame,
The searing glory which hath shone
Amid the jewels of my throne,
Halo of Hell! and with a pain
Not Hell shall make me fear again-
O craving heart, for the lost flowers
And sunshine of my summer hours!
The undying voice of that dead time,
With its interminable chime,
Rings, in the spirit of a spell,
Upon thy emptiness- a knell.

I have not always been as now:
The fever’d diadem on my brow
I claim’d and won usurpingly-
Hath not the same fierce heirdom given
Rome to the Caesar- this to me?
The heritage of a kingly mind,
And a proud spirit which hath striven
Triumphantly with human kind.

On mountain soil I first drew life:
The mists of the Taglay have shed
Nightly their dews upon my head,
And, I believe, the winged strife
And tumult of the headlong air
Have nestled in my very hair.

So late from Heaven- that dew- it fell
(Mid dreams of an unholy night)
Upon me with the touch of Hell,
While the red flashing of the light
From clouds that hung, like banners, o’er,
Appeared to my half-closing eye
The pageantry of monarchy,
And the deep trumpet-thunder’s roar
Came hurriedly upon me, telling
Of human battle, where my voice,
My own voice, silly child!- was swelling
(O! how my spirit would rejoice,
And leap within me at the cry)
The battle-cry of Victory!

The rain came down upon my head
Unshelter’d- and the heavy wind
Rendered me mad and deaf and blind.
It was but man, I thought, who shed
Laurels upon me: and the rush-
The torrent of the chilly air
Gurgled within my ear the crush
Of empires- with the captive’s prayer-
The hum of suitors- and the tone
Of flattery ’round a sovereign’s throne.

My passions, from that hapless hour,
Usurp’d a tyranny which men
Have deem’d, since I have reach’d to power,
My innate nature- be it so:
But father, there liv’d one who, then,
Then- in my boyhood- when their fire
Burn’d with a still intenser glow,
(For passion must, with youth, expire)
E’en then who knew this iron heart
In woman’s weakness had a part.

I have no words- alas!- to tell
The loveliness of loving well!
Nor would I now attempt to trace
The more than beauty of a face
Whose lineaments, upon my mind,
Are- shadows on th’ unstable wind:
Thus I remember having dwelt
Some page of early lore upon,
With loitering eye, till I have felt
The letters- with their meaning- melt
To fantasies- with none.

O, she was worthy of all love!
Love- as in infancy was mine-
‘Twas such as angel minds above
Might envy; her young heart the shrine
On which my every hope and thought
Were incense- then a goodly gift,
For they were childish and upright-
Pure- as her young example taught:
Why did I leave it, and, adrift,
Trust to the fire within, for light?

We grew in age- and love- together,
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather-
And when the friendly sunshine smil’d,
And she would mark the opening skies,
I saw no Heaven- but in her eyes.

Young Love’s first lesson is- the heart:
For ‘mid that sunshine, and those smiles,
When, from our little cares apart,
And laughing at her girlish wiles,
I’d throw me on her throbbing breast,
And pour my spirit out in tears-
There was no need to speak the rest-
No need to quiet any fears
Of her- who ask’d no reason why,
But turn’d on me her quiet eye!

Yet more than worthy of the love
My spirit struggled with, and strove,
When, on the mountain peak, alone,
Ambition lent it a new tone-
I had no being- but in thee:
The world, and all it did contain
In the earth- the air- the sea-
Its joy- its little lot of pain
That was new pleasure- the ideal,
Dim vanities of dreams by night-

And dimmer nothings which were real-
(Shadows- and a more shadowy light!)
Parted upon their misty wings,
And, so, confusedly, became
Thine image, and- a name- a name!
Two separate- yet most intimate things.

I was ambitious- have you known
The passion, father? You have not:
A cottager, I mark’d a throne
Of half the world as all my own,
And murmur’d at such lowly lot-
But, just like any other dream,
Upon the vapour of the dew
My own had past, did not the beam
Of beauty which did while it thro’
The minute- the hour- the day- oppress
My mind with double loveliness.

We walk’d together on the crown
Of a high mountain which look’d down
Afar from its proud natural towers
Of rock and forest, on the hills-
The dwindled hills! begirt with bowers,
And shouting with a thousand rills.

I spoke to her of power and pride,
But mystically- in such guise
That she might deem it nought beside
The moment’s converse; in her eyes
I read, perhaps too carelessly-
A mingled feeling with my own-
The flush on her bright cheek, to me
Seem’d to become a queenly throne
Too well that I should let it be
Light in the wilderness alone.

I wrapp’d myself in grandeur then,
And donn’d a visionary crown-
Yet it was not that Fantasy
Had thrown her mantle over me-
But that, among the rabble- men,
Lion ambition is chained down-
And crouches to a keeper’s hand-
Not so in deserts where the grand-
The wild- the terrible conspire
With their own breath to fan his fire.

Look ’round thee now on Samarcand!
Is not she queen of Earth? her pride
Above all cities? in her hand
Their destinies? in all beside
Of glory which the world hath known
Stands she not nobly and alone?
Falling- her veriest stepping-stone
Shall form the pedestal of a throne-
And who her sovereign? Timour- he
Whom the astonished people saw
Striding o’er empires haughtily
A diadem’d outlaw!

O, human love! thou spirit given
On Earth, of all we hope in Heaven!
Which fall’st into the soul like rain
Upon the Siroc-wither’d plain,
And, failing in thy power to bless,
But leav’st the heart a wilderness!
Idea! which bindest life around
With music of so strange a sound,
And beauty of so wild a birth-
Farewell! for I have won the Earth.

When Hope, the eagle that tower’d, could see
No cliff beyond him in the sky,
His pinions were bent droopingly-
And homeward turn’d his soften’d eye.
‘Twas sunset: when the sun will part
There comes a sullenness of heart
To him who still would look upon
The glory of the summer sun.
That soul will hate the ev’ning mist,
So often lovely, and will list
To the sound of the coming darkness (known
To those whose spirits hearken) as one
Who, in a dream of night, would fly
But cannot from a danger nigh.

What tho’ the moon- the white moon
Shed all the splendour of her noon,
Her smile is chilly, and her beam,
In that time of dreariness, will seem
(So like you gather in your breath)
A portrait taken after death.
And boyhood is a summer sun
Whose waning is the dreariest one-
For all we live to know is known,
And all we seek to keep hath flown-
Let life, then, as the day-flower, fall
With the noon-day beauty- which is all.

I reach’d my home- my home no more
For all had flown who made it so.
I pass’d from out its mossy door,
And, tho’ my tread was soft and low,
A voice came from the threshold stone
Of one whom I had earlier known-
O, I defy thee, Hell, to show
On beds of fire that burn below,
A humbler heart- a deeper woe.

Father, I firmly do believe-
I know- for Death, who comes for me
From regions of the blest afar,
Where there is nothing to deceive,
Hath left his iron gate ajar,
And rays of truth you cannot see
Are flashing thro’ Eternity-
I do believe that Eblis hath
A snare in every human path-
Else how, when in the holy grove
I wandered of the idol, Love,
Who daily scents his snowy wings
With incense of burnt offerings
From the most unpolluted things,
Whose pleasant bowers are yet so riven
Above with trellis’d rays from Heaven,
No mote may shun- no tiniest fly-
The lightning of his eagle eye-
How was it that Ambition crept,
Unseen, amid the revels there,
Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt
In the tangles of Love’s very hair?

The Village Street (Edgar Allan Poe)

In these rapid, restless shadows,
Once I walked at eventide,
When a gentle, silent maiden,
Walked in beauty at my side.
She alone there walked beside me
All in beauty, like a bride.
Pallidly the moon was shining
On the dewy meadows nigh;
On the silvery, silent rivers,
On the mountains far and high,–
On the ocean’s star-lit waters,
Where the winds a-weary die.

Slowly, silently we wandered
From the open cottage door,
Underneath the elm’s long branches
To the pavement bending o’er;
Underneath the mossy willow
And the dying sycamore.

With the myriad stars in beauty
All bedight, the heavens were seen,
Radiant hopes were bright around me,
Like the light of stars serene;
Like the mellow midnight splendor
Of the Night’s irradiate queen.

Audibly the elm-leaves whispered
Peaceful, pleasant melodies,
Like the distant murmured music
Of unquiet, lovely seas;
While the winds were hushed in slumber
In the fragrant flowers and trees.

Wondrous and unwonted beauty
Still adorning all did seem,
While I told my love in fables
‘Neath the willows by the stream;
Would the heart have kept unspoken
Love that was its rarest dream!

Instantly away we wandered
In the shadowy twilight tide,
She, the silent, scornful maiden,
Walking calmly at my side,
With a step serene and stately,
All in beauty, all in pride.

Vacantly I walked beside her.
On the earth mine eyes were cast;
Swift and keen there came unto me
Bitter memories of the past–
On me, like the rain in Autumn
On the dead leaves, cold and fast.

Underneath the elms we parted,
By the lowly cottage door;
One brief word alone was uttered–
Never on our lips before;
And away I walked forlornly,
Broken-hearted evermore.

Slowly, silently I loitered,
Homeward, in the night, alone;
Sudden anguish bound my spirit,
That my youth had never known;
Wild unrest, like that which cometh
When the Night’s first dream hath flown.

Now, to me the elm-leaves whisper
Mad, discordant melodies,
And keen melodies like shadows
Haunt the moaning willow trees,
And the sycamores with laughter
Mock me in the nightly breeze.

Sad and pale the Autumn moonlight
Through the sighing foliage streams;
And each morning, midnight shadow,
Shadow of my sorrow seems;
Strive, O heart, forget thine idol!
And, O soul, forget thy dreams!

To Isadore (Edgar Allan Poe)

Beneath the vine-clad eaves,
Whose shadows fall before
Thy lowly cottage door–
Under the lilac’s tremulous leaves–
Within thy snowy clasped hand
The purple flowers it bore.
Last eve in dreams, I saw thee stand,
Like queenly nymph from Fairy-land–
Enchantress of the flowery wand,
Most beauteous Isadore!

And when I bade the dream
Upon thy spirit flee,
Thy violet eyes to me
Upturned, did overflowing seem
With the deep, untold delight
Of Love’s serenity;
Thy classic brow, like lilies white
And pale as the Imperial Night
Upon her throne, with stars bedight,
Enthralled my soul to thee!

 Ah! ever I behold
Thy dreamy, passionate eyes,
Blue as the languid skies
Hung with the sunset’s fringe of gold;
Now strangely clear thine image grows,
And olden memories
Are startled from their long repose
Like shadows on the silent snows
When suddenly the night-wind blows
Where quiet moonlight lies.

 Like music heard in dreams,
Like strains of harps unknown,
Of birds for ever flown,–
Audible as the voice of streams
That murmur in some leafy dell,
I hear thy gentlest tone,
And Silence cometh with her spell
Like that which on my tongue doth dwell,
When tremulous in dreams I tell
My love to thee alone!

In every valley heard,
Floating from tree to tree,
Less beautiful to me,
The music of the radiant bird,
Than artless accents such as thine
Whose echoes never flee!
Ah! how for thy sweet voice I pine:–
For uttered in thy tones benign
(Enchantress!) this rude name of mine
Doth seem a melody!

Give All To Love (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-fame,
Plans, credit, and the Muse,-
Nothing refuse.
‘Tis a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But it is a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
It was not for the mean;
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
It will reward,-
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.
Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,-
Keep thee today,
To-morrow, forever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Christmas and the gift of giving

“No holiday should manipulate you to the point where you’re going into debt just to show someone you love them”

Jim Carrey

This quote recently popped up on Instagram, and I had to share it. Commercialism has taken over Christmas and we are fast forgetting this holiday’s true meaning.

Christmas is, of course, a time of giving but you can do that without splashing the cash or running up credit card debt on expensive gifts. It feels great to make someone smile, but this doesn’t have to cost a penny. Christmas is about love, family and friends and spending quality time together. Give your time to them. When you’re together, be present instead of glued to your smartphone. Reconnect with loved ones you may not have seen or spoken to in a while.

Companies spend a fortune on advertising and bombarding us with visions of how a certain toy or item of jewellery will make someone’s Christmas. Don’t fall victim to their siren’s song, and land yourself in debt. If money is tight, search for smaller gifts which are more affordable but have meaning. It can be as simple as a book on a topic which the recipient is particularly interested in, or taking them for a meal at their favourite restaurant.

Of course, if you have children, spending wisely is easier said than done. For them, it’s a magical time and let’s be honest, they deserve a bit of spoiling!

Christmas is a time of giving, but it doesn’t have to involve giving hard-earned money for expensive gifts. Give your time and attention to your friends and family. Or give your time to help those less fortunate than you.

The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
”Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
”Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more.’

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
‘Sir,’ said I, ‘or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering,
fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Lenore!’-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.’

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and
flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed
he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, ‘art sure no
craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as ‘Nevermore.’

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, ‘other friends have flown
before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, ‘Nevermore.’

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
‘Doubtless,’ said I, ‘what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never- nevermore’.’

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and
door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking ‘Nevermore.’

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
‘Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he
hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

‘Prophet!’ said I, ‘thing of evil!- prophet still, if bird or
devil!-
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

‘Prophet!’ said I, ‘thing of evil- prophet still, if bird or
devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

‘Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,’ I shrieked,
upstarting-
‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my
door!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the
floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!

Annabel Lee (Edgar Allan Poe)

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes! – that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.