On Valentine’s Day, Love that dare not speak its name

On the holiday dedicated to the celebration of love, we take note that not all love is celebrated.  In fact, gay love, in many places around the world, is vilified, outlawed, and punishable by death.  Even in our own country, states are passing laws banning books by LGBT+ writers, book about our love for each other, our families, and ourselves.  They’re going so far as to forbid the discussion of “love that dare not speak its name.”

This is not merely an attempt to erase who we are, what we are, and our stories but censoring some of the greatest writers in history.  They are depriving students of a full and well-rounded education by not exposing them to the words and ideas of literary giants because of who they loved.

Today, we celebrate gay love and gay writers who dared to express it when doing so meant risking their reputations, careers, and even their freedom.  Still they did it and lived their lives and loved who they chose. Their words, stories, and poems told us we were not alone giving generations of gay men the courage and self-acceptance to love openly, love fully, and know love is love.

First, the poem by Lord Alfred Douglas which gave us that iconic phrase, but also helped betray, convict and imprison his lover, Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

Two Loves

I dreamed I stood upon a little hill,
And at my feet there lay a ground, that seemed
Like a waste garden, flowering at its will
With buds and blossoms. There were pools that dreamed
Black and unruffled; there were white lilies
A few, and crocuses, and violets
Purple or pale, snake-like fritillaries
Scarce seen for the rank grass, and through green nets
Blue eyes of shy peryenche winked in the sun.
And there were curious flowers, before unknown,
Flowers that were stained with moonlight, or with shades
Of Nature’s willful moods; and here a one
That had drunk in the transitory tone
Of one brief moment in a sunset; blades
Of grass that in an hundred springs had been
Slowly but exquisitely nurtured by the stars,
And watered with the scented dew long cupped
In lilies, that for rays of sun had seen
Only God’s glory, for never a sunrise mars
The luminous air of Heaven. Beyond, abrupt,
A grey stone wall. o’ergrown with velvet moss
Uprose; and gazing I stood long, all mazed
To see a place so strange, so sweet, so fair.
And as I stood and marvelled, lo! across
The garden came a youth; one hand he raised
To shield him from the sun, his wind-tossed hair
Was twined with flowers, and in his hand he bore
A purple bunch of bursting grapes, his eyes
Were clear as crystal, naked all was he,
White as the snow on pathless mountains frore,
Red were his lips as red wine-spilith that dyes
A marble floor, his brow chalcedony.
And he came near me, with his lips uncurled
And kind, and caught my hand and kissed my mouth,
And gave me grapes to eat, and said, ‘Sweet friend,
Come I will show thee shadows of the world
And images of life. See from the South
Comes the pale pageant that hath never an end.’
And lo! within the garden of my dream
I saw two walking on a shining plain
Of golden light. The one did joyous seem
And fair and blooming, and a sweet refrain
Came from his lips; he sang of pretty maids
And joyous love of comely girl and boy,
His eyes were bright, and ‘mid the dancing blades
Of golden grass his feet did trip for joy;
And in his hand he held an ivory lute
With strings of gold that were as maidens’ hair,
And sang with voice as tuneful as a flute,
And round his neck three chains of roses were.
But he that was his comrade walked aside;
He was full sad and sweet, and his large eyes
Were strange with wondrous brightness, staring wide
With gazing; and he sighed with many sighs
That moved me, and his cheeks were wan and white
Like pallid lilies, and his lips were red
Like poppies, and his hands he clenched tight,
And yet again unclenched, and his head
Was wreathed with moon-flowers pale as lips of death.
A purple robe he wore, o’erwrought in gold
With the device of a great snake, whose breath
Was fiery flame: which when I did behold
I fell a-weeping, and I cried, ‘Sweet youth,
Tell me why, sad and sighing, thou dost rove
These pleasent realms? I pray thee speak me sooth
What is thy name?’ He said, ‘My name is Love.’
Then straight the first did turn himself to me
And cried, ‘He lieth, for his name is Shame,
But I am Love, and I was wont to be
Alone in this fair garden, till he came
Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill
The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.’
Then sighing, said the other, ‘Have thy will,
I am the love that dare not speak its name.’

 

Oscar Wilde

“Love is a misunderstanding between two fools.”

“There is no feeling more comforting and consoling than knowing you are right next to the one you love.”

“Love is fed by the imagination, by which we become wiser than we know, better than we feel, nobler than we are: by which we can see life as a whole, by which and by which alone we can understand others in their real and their ideal relation. Only what is fine, and finely conceived can feed love. But anything will feed hate.”

 

E. M. Forster

“He educated Maurice, or rather his spirit educated Maurice’s spirit, for they themselves became equal. Neither thought “Am I led; am I leading?” Love had caught him out of triviality and Maurice out of bewilderment in order that two imperfect souls might touch perfection.” ― E.M. Forster, Maurice

“He was not sure, but liked it. It recurred when they met suddenly or had been silent. It beckoned to him across intellect, saying, “This is all very well, you’re clever, we know—but come!” It haunted him so that he watched for it while his brain and tongue were busy, and when it came he felt himself replying, “I’ll come—I didn’t know.”
“You can’t help yourself now. You must come.”
“I don’t want to help myself.”
“Come then.”
He did come. He flung down all the barriers—not at once, for he did not live in a house that can be destroyed in a day.” ― E.M. Forster, Maurice

 

Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden

“Think of two people, living together day after day, year after year, in this small space, standing elbow to elbow cooking at the same small stove, squeezing past each other on the narrow stairs, shaving in front of the same small bathroom mirror, constantly jogging, jostling, bumping against each other’s bodies by mistake or on purpose, sensually, aggressively, awkwardly, impatiently, in rage or in love – think what deep though invisible tracks they must leave, everywhere, behind them!” Christopher Isherwood

 

Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo

“What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.”

“Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person.”

 

James Baldwin

“Love him. Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters? And how long, at the best, can it last, since you are both men and still have everywhere to go? Only five minutes, I assure you, only five minutes, and most of that, helas! in the dark. And if you think of them as dirty, then they will be dirty – they will be dirty because you will be giving nothing, you will be despising your flesh and his. But you can make your time together anything but dirty, you can give each other something which will make both of you better – forever – if you will not be ashamed, if you will only not play it safe.”  – James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

 

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

“People don’t have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you’re dead, when they’ve killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn’t have any character. They weep big, bitter tears – not for you. For themselves, because they’ve lost their toy.”― James BaldwinAnother Country

 

Paul Monettette

“If it’s true that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else, then I suppose a certain self-regard must’ve kept me above water during my decade of drowning alone. But I think that in my case it was the other way—that I learned to love myself because someone else finally loved me. Seeing myself whole in another man’s eyes, deeper than any mirror, and neither of us looking away because there’s so much lost time to make up for.” ― Paul Monette, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

“What love gives you is the courage to face the secrets you’ve kept from yourself, a reason to open the rest of the doors.” ― Paul Monette, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

“Love and fuck in the same breath, even if it’s your last.” ― Paul Monette, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

Armistead Maupin

“Being in love is the only transcendent experience.”

“Like I’ve always said, love wouldn’t be blind if the braille weren’t so damned much fun.”

“My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”

 

Matthew Lopez photo courtesy of the NY Times

“How can that be true? Hearts still love don’t they? And Break. Hope, fear, jealousy, desire.  Your lives may be different but the feelings are the same. The difference is merely the setting, context, costumes.  But those are just details.” — Matthew Lopez, The Inheritance

 

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