Two in the Campagna

17 June 2024 by Jian Zhi Qiu

Quote from Dear Su Yen pp. 51-52

Dear Su Yen
The beginning of your last story reminded me of an evocative and rather sad poem by Robert Browning called Two in the Campagna. I'm sure it will be in that book of Browning's poems you bought from the library. As he says, we do not choose to love or not to love; it is not rational, and maybe we fall in love with love itself and not with a person; very few people will be good enough for that perfect dream so there is always loss because we cannot grasp the infinite. But I feel that while the poet here is sad because he did not find perfect love he knows that it was not perfect and so is not too sad; he is not like someone who believes they had found perfect love and have lost it forever.
Here are just a few verses.

Two in the Campagna, by Robert Browning (1812-1889)

How say you? Let us, O my dove,
Let us be unashamed of soul,
As earth lies bare to heaven above!
How is it under our control

To love or not to love?

I would that you were all to me,
You that are just so much, no more.
Nor yours nor mine, nor slave nor free!
Where does the fault lie? What the core

O' the wound, since wound must be?

I would I could adopt your will,
See with your eyes, and set my heart
Beating by yours, and drink my fill
At your soul's springs-your part my part—

In life for good or ill.

No. I yearn upward, touch you close,
Then stand away. I kiss your cheek,
Catch your soul's warmth, — I pluck the rose
And love it more than tongue can speak—

Then the good minute goes.

Already how am I so far
Out of that minute? Must I go
Still like the thistle ball, no bar,
Onward, wherever light winds blow,

Fixed by no friendly star?

Just when I seemed about to learn!
Where is the thread now? Off again!
The old trick! Only I discern-
Infinite passion, and the pain

Of finite hearts that yearn.

"The old trick,' the old story: as you say, repeated so many times.