The Guarded Heart

We end the month of Love by looking at a broken relationship, still tied together but with one person’s having a guarded heart.


“Fortress Around Your Heart”

Enniskillen Castle

Video Here and Lyrics Here

Sting is above other songwriters for this singular reason:  he never seeks

the mundane metaphor that everyone else is selecting.

In “Fortress”, a guarded heart is a walled city, guarded because of constant emotional hurts.

He Speaks

The love who caused the emotional damage—by something as simple as continual slights or inconsistencies or as painful as unfaithfulness or perfidy—must besiege the city to conquer the guarded heart.

Of course, the relationship is already doomed.  Love is not a battlefield (Sorry, Pat Benetar.)  As e.e.cummings told us (see the 2/14 blog here), relationships should be between two equally independents who are enriched by the love and the loved one.

Neither of the two people in “Fortress” are so enriched.  The speaker recognizes “the walls” he caused.  He’s done so much wrong with her and to her and away from her and without her that just approaching her is crossing a minefield.  Every step brings up a trap partially buried.  Not even partially, really.

He recognizes the “chasm” between them that his idiocy caused—but he still wants to try.  He wants to build a bridge:  span that deep chasm of trouble and avoid the minefield, connect to her guarded heart and burn out—with passion—the walls protecting her heart.

She Listened

Poor, gullible woman:  she believed him.  She must have, for in Stanza 2 they had declared a truce.  That “tattered flag” they made, it’s still flying.

But he’s repeating his sins.  He goes off, leaving her behind, to pursue his own goal.  And she, when she thinks about him and their relationship—well, she keeps it going, but she wishes she didn’t have to do so.

Is this Separation Worthy?

Is he a soldier, sent off to war?  Nyah.  That’s too simplistic.

Is this Sting and his pursuit of fame and fortune at the expense of his relationship?  Maybe.

Is this all of us?  Bingo!

Heart wrapped in barbed wire

We involve ourselves in a relationship, but we devote ourselves to other things: jobs, hobbies, grown-up toys (Bass boat, painting, coaching, shopping with friends, gaming, children).  We leave no room for couple-time, and when the partner expresses dissatisfaction then increasing complaints, we ignore or cast them off.

Stanza 3 repeats most of S1, except for the first two lines, the key ones:  When we cause too much emotional damage, then the hurt heart will place themselves in a prison, and everyone will suffer.

Last Words on Lost Love

The unusual extended metaphor builds a depressing little song for a depressing little condition.  The problems are never quite enough to explode, and everyone serves a sentence of pain.

Catchy tune, though:  bright chords, interesting brass line—juxtaposed with the bleak lines.  Great irony here:  we can’t have our passion-fruit cake and eat everything, too.

This series of blogs is for poetry lovers, hosted by Emily R. Dunn of Writers Ink Books.  Visit our page on every multiple of 7 (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.

Philia: One of the Four Types of Love

The Greeks classified four types of love.  In modern life, we often get hung up on passionate love alone, but the other three also enrich our lives.

Eros :: the love that includes sexual passion.  This is the love that we usually mean, the miraculous and mysterious love that joins two hearts in a relationship

Storge :: the love between parents and children, familial love.  It has expanded to include the love we feel toward a protective patron (such as patriotic love for our nation) or fan-based love (“That’s my  sports team.”)

Brotherly Love is Mutual Protection against the Zombies that Devour our Life 😉

Agape :: the love of God for people and of people for God;  the charity of Corinthians 13.

Philia :: “brotherly love” which is loyalty, comradeship, affectionate friendship;  community compassion.

Philia is our focus on Love in this blog.  Many of us have experienced that desirous connection to family and community that drives us to reach out to those in need.

This brotherly love forms the basis of Rufus Wainwright’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother,” the 1969 hit by the Hollies.

Video Here and Lyrics here


In our road of life, with its twisting turns and steep hills and declines, we do need the occasional support of others.  If we have the philia when we see someone troubled, we want to help.  We are all equal, linked together by ties as strong as blood.

And those we help, they do not seek to “encumber” or overly burden us.  They are equally on the road.

Unfortunately, we must admit that some people’s dysfunction means they want to share misery rather than hope and gladness.

Remember, Wainwright, tells us, it’s memento mori, not carpe diem.  We all come to the same dark mysterious end, and when considering that end, we should reach out to others.  Then our own burdens will not “weigh [us] down”.


Easy metaphors, easy alliteration, easy repetition.  The only interesting line is the 2nd about the road that “leads us to who knows where who knows when”.  That oblique line is more clearly expressed in the 1st line of the last stanza :: Death.  That’s depressing.

Which is Wainwright’s point.  With death at the end, life is depressing enough.  Make it brighter by connecting to family and community.

Help others, for we are then helping ourselves.  Love others, for we are then loving ourselves.

Ain’t that the truth?

Coming Up

Broken Hearts on the 28th before we launch into the fertility of March and the rebirth of Spring

This series of blogs is for poetry lovers, hosted by Emily R. Dunn of Writers Ink Books.  Visit our page on every multiple of 7 (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.


Greatest Love Poem in the World

What should love be? 

equal and interwoven hearts
Celtic Love Knot

Insta-Lust?  No, love is lasting.

Weak when faced with problems?  No, love is strong.

Selfish and self-focused?  Love is mutually focused.

True love is integral to the soul.  It colors and brightens our world and gives us guidance in the other spheres of life, helping us survive the professional slog and the communal drivel.  It gives potential to the elements necessary for growth and abundance.

This poem expresses all of that.

i carry your heart with me

Personally, e.e.cummings is one of the few poets who still intrigues me.  This poem is proof that he is more than the gimmick of unusual punctuation and capitalization.

What does the poem say?

Speech and thought go hand in hand, side by side, just as a couple should.  “Whatever is done by me” is not me alone.  The other half of the whole contributes just as much, just not in the same way.  Each powers the other, even when each is alone in the brutal world.

They are destined, fated, to be together.  The moon of romance and the sun of living are intrinsically within each other for each other.

The power of the third stanza is the meaning carried beyond the words.  The nourishing and spreading root, the blossoming and nectar-filled bud, the over-arching and all-covering sky—these represent love and still do not say it all.

Love is wondrous and inexplicable.  cummings’ word choice calls upon us to figure out the riddling miracle that can never quite be untangled from its mystery.

Line structure plays its own part in that riddling mystery. 

Why is “i fear” on a line alone and thrown to the right side? Is it intended to join the two equal stanzas?  That is what love does:  it joins two equal and independent selves and sets them on a journey forward, together.

Alone in the world, a person does fear.  Linked with another, we “fear no fate”.  Yet why is that line thrown to the right?  To be rightly joined—is that the answer?  To be not “unequally yoked” but rightly joined.  That’s logical.

Punctuation gives more meaning.

cummings pares his punctuation down to parentheses (6 uses), two semicolons, four commas, and two apostrophes.  Is he “speaking to us” with these marks?

Commas link.  Okay, that’s easy to connect to the meaning.

Semicolons link equal and independent statements.  That echoes the linkage of the first two stanzas, rightly and equally joined.

Parentheses are for additional information not considered necessary but deemed by the writer as needing to be added.  Wow.  Just—wow.

Apostrophes—both contractive, not possessive.  Oh, my.  Love brings two people together, yet neither “owns” the other.  They remain equally independent, together by choice.  Not necessary to each other but needed by each other.

That’s—that’s—well, I did not see it truly until I examined it.

Yes, the Greatest Love Poem

cummings certainly has more going on than a gimmick—and his explanation of a heart-filled relationship is the definition of love.

Coming Up

The Greeks have four separate words for love, each expressing a different type.  We’ll examine these on the 21st.  Join us.

This series of blogs is for poetry lovers, hosted by Emily R. Dunn of Writers Ink Books.  Visit our page on every multiple of 7 (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.

A Love Sonnet for all Time

WIS continues our series of blogs on poetry: sharing & examining, analyzing & interpreting.

February is Love, and poetry is my particular love. ~ Emily R. Dunn

While I love experimental poetry, the sonnet exhibits a poet’s fluency with words and deftness with structure.  The majority of sonnets are actually poetic arguments, as the poet presents a conflicting problem and works to a solution.

Several poets have exceptional skill with the sonnet form:

  • Any sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay but especially “Time Does not Bring Relief, You all Have Lied”, about her lost love.
  • Robert Frost’s “Once by the Pacific” which alludes to William Blake’s “The Ancient of Days”
  • Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” as well as her “Sonnet”
  • Octavio Paz’s “The Street”
  • and the master, William Shakespeare, especially his Sonnet 18, which serves as the focus for this blog.
Trap Questions can doom a relationship.

In Sonnet 18, the persona’s love has asked the  perennial question that everyone in a relationship faces: “Do you think I’m pretty?”

That question is a trap.

Why?  The trap contains the following ideas behind the question.  Those ideas can snare the unwary:  Do you love me because I’m pretty?  Will you still love me when I lose my prettiness?  What do you find my prettiest feature?

Shakespeare’s persona sidesteps the question with a question of his own:  The prettiest thing in his mind would be a summer’s day:  hot as love without burning up, clear of troubling clouds, no problems on the horizon, everything blooming and growing and fruiting.

And then he answers his own question:  you are better than a summer’s day, not just for its beauty but also for being “temperate”, moderate.  Smart man:  he just said her personality is as wonderful as her appearance.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Evidence Wins Hearts Every Time

The next two lines following by two more quatrains of the sonnet present evidence in support of the persona’s statement.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, / And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Clever, clever persona:  Everyone loves May, the first true month of warm weather, filled with flowers, lacking the April showers.  Remember, though, that May will still have lingering showers and the tender new flowers won’t stand up to the bad weather . . . while Summer’s growth—and therefore their love—is strong enough to stand up to storms.

The problem with Summer, however—and the reason that she is better than a summer’s day—is that it never lasts long enough.  The poem continues in the second quatrain to present additional problems with Summer.  And he infers that she does not have any of those problems.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines / And often is his gold complexion dimm’d, / And every fair from fair sometime declines, / By chance, or Nature’s changing course untrimm’d.

A clever man appeals to his love’s intelligence as well as her emotions.  He admits when things are not perfect—and then reminds that perfection is not what he wants because it’s not real.

  • Summer days get too hot (and he’s already called her “more temperate”).
  • Clouds cover the sunshine, sometimes for days on end. (She, therefore, is never so dimmed.)
  • Every fair wonderful things can never been constantly fair. At some point it will “decline”.  No relationship, he suggests, is always perfect, whether a problem occurs through accidental chance or through an action we take by mistake.

The best times in the natural world are only temporary.  She’s more than temporary to him.

And As our Love continues . . . 

So, his love says, “You love me.  You think we’re going great.  But what happens when we get older?  Will you still love me?  Or will you go after some other young pretty thing?”

“Ah, sweetheart,” he replies, “have you forgotten?  I don’t love you because of your appearance alone.  That may have attracted me, but your personality caught me.”

But thy eternal summer shall not fade / Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st.

Nothing Lasts Forever.  Or Can It?

“Will you love me when I’m gone?  Or will you forget about me?”

Clever, clever man with your sonnet:

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade / When in eternal lines to time thou growest.

“Death may have you, but I will always remember you.  See, sweetheart, this poem will remind me even when I am in my decrepancy.”


“No, sweetheart, look.”  And he gives her a revelation in the sonnet’s closing couplet:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see  / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Their love is immortalized.  Now everyone will know, for all eternity, that he loves her for herself, her soul, not for any temporary consideration.

Using More than Words as Proof of Love

The English sonnet (or Shakespearean sonnet, if you prefer), is a simple three quatrain and one couplet structure.  This poem maintains without much twisting the required ten syllables per line, but a strict iambic meter is not maintained—nor necessary.

Rhyme is not necessary to tie a poem together, but this one rocks not only an abab scheme but also four additional methods to “couple” them even more closely:

  • Repetition >> summer, more, sometime (and yes, that is sometime, not sometimeS), fair, long, and life/lives.
  • Alliteration >> “fair from fair”, chance / changing, long / lives
  • Internal Rhyme >> “lines to time”
  • Anaphora >> 3 lines that start with “and” (with two of those coupled) then a 4th that starts with “but”, 2 coupled lines starting with “nor”, and the last two lines coupled with “so long”.
Three Steps to Build Lasting Relationships

Sonnet 18 is a lovely poem for lovers in a lasting relationship.  Attraction may have drawn them together.  Compatibility may have formed the relationship.  Yet it’s devotion to the individual, our personality, that holds together the relationship through chance and changing times, through times better and worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Thank you for joining us.

Return on Valentine’s Day for the most beautiful love poem in the world.
And check out the following love stories by M. A. Lee: 

 A Game of Hearts

  A Game of Spies

A Game of Secrets  

Digging into Death