Don Juan, Cue the Music: Let Me Count the Ways – Part Six

by |February 12, 2010

Valentine’s Day is finally upon us, there is no escape.

We all just have to make the most of it.

Whether you’re in love, that state of blissful self-delusion, or in a long term relationship, that state of blunt, monotonous reality, you will have to do something for your partner.

Those in the violent throes of new love will leap at the chance to express their irrepressible longing – they will go away for a romantic getaway, bungee jump or skydive in tandem, get their bottoms tattooed, make love for 48hrs non-stop and write passionate poetry with the blessing of mighty Venus…  The long married may drag their feet. The 12th, 13th and half of 14th of February may pass before the word Valentine is uttered. Once mentioned, however, they will feel obliged to do something.

There’s doubtless something in domestic doings
Which forms, in fact, true love’s antithesis;
Romances paint at full length people’s wooings,
But only give a bust of marriages;
For no one cares for matrimonial cooings,
There’s nothing wrong in a connubial kiss:
Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch’s wife,
He would have written sonnets all his life?

Lord Byron- Don Juan, Canto III

Married soul, you may still fight against the judgement of literature. You may buy your partner a card, a funny one with a picture of a chimpanzee kissing a frog. You may get flowers, though this may remind your partner that… you don’t bring me flowers… any more. (Bloody Streisand!)You might even go out to dinner together, though this could end in disaster if you wipe your mouth with the tablecloth again, or after a couple of drinks, give into temptation and pat the waiter’s pert buttocks as he goes by.

Fidelity in love for fidelity’s sake had less attraction for her than for most women; fidelity because of love’s grip had much. A blaze of love, and extinction, was better than a lantern glimmer of the same which should last long years. Thomas Hardy – Return of the Native

On Valentine’s Day the married do not have to suffer unduly. A glass of wine and a quiet reminisce may do very well. Lover’s have always shared stories, what better story is there than the story of how the pair met?

What liars poets and everybody were! They made one think one wanted sentiment – muses Lady Chatterley in D.H. Lawrence’s  novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

And having shared a story or two, and having drunk a bottle or two, for a brief moment the cares and habits of the domesticated beast can be forgotten. A wilderness has opened up before you and into it you may both stagger, to be as Adam and Eve, for a time, till morning comes, and with it, expulsion from the Garden.

Plato was right in deciding to banish you poets from his republic, for you have done us great harm. Your ambrosia has but added to the bitterness of our wormwood, and how much more barren and desolate our life seems to us after we have feasted our eyes on the vistas of the infinite which you have revealed to us. How dreadful is the struggle which your dreams have waged against the stark realities of our existence, and how ruthlessly did those rough fighters maltreat and trample on our hearts during the fray.

Théophile Gautier – Mademoiselle de Maupin

My short series – Let Me Count the Ways – has come to an end. Together we strolled from Romantic Love to Self Love, from Unrequited Love to Forbidden Love, from Love By the Book to Love’s Death, from True Love to Awkward Love and from Private Love to Married Love.

We have travelled far and wide but seem, after all, to have moved not at all.

But I shall not leave you with a bitter taste in you mouth, that would be cruel…

Dear Lovers! If it were not for you, how dreary the world would be! Never shall a pair of you pass me without a kindly discreet glance and a murmured wish, “Be happy”.

How my heart warmed to an old French poet as we walked slowly on the Boulevard, and the lovers in the soft evening air passed us by, hand so close in hand, bodies so amorously near, eyes so sparkling and alive! Now and then, in the intoxicating air of the spring and the tolerant kindliness of the Parisians, a pair would feel so exuberant and so enthusiastic and so moved with each other’s perfections, that they would have to stop and exchange a long kiss, perfunctorily hidden by a quite inadequate tree-trunk. Nobody interrupted them, nobody scowled, no policeman arrested them for indecency.

And the old poet paused, and laid his hand on my arm, and said : “Mon ami, I grow old! I am nearly sixty. And sometimes as I pass along the streets and see these warm young people I find myself thinking: ‘How impudique! Why is this permitted? Why do they intrude their passions on me?’ And then I remember that I too was young, and I too passed eagerly and happily with one or other of my young mistresses whom I thought so beautiful, each of whom I loved with so immortal a love! And I look at the lovers passing and I say to myself: ‘Allez-y, mes enfants, allez-y, soyez heureux!’” *

Dear Lovers! Let us never forget that you are the sweetness of the bitter world.

Richard Aldington – Death of a Hero

* Go ahead, kids, go ahead, be happy!

You may wish to revisit – Let Me Count the Ways Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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