Each year on May day, I am reminded of this poem. Sophomore year of college, I had to take an English Lit class. It was taught by a man who ended up being one of my favorite professors. He was a middle aged, gay man who would come into the classroom, take off his shoes next to the door, then start drilling us on what “the fucking poem” meant.
The class was several hours a day – broken up by his smoke breaks. While he may seem like a drill sergent, he wasn’t. More like a big, gay teddy bear. He loved teaching. The students were his children. His papers were always due at his house on a Saturday afternoon, so he could invite you in for his impromptu party. “I decided on veggies today because you college kids don’t eat enough veggies” would be his explanation for food selection – he would explain this, of course, as he poured you a large, strong gin & tonic.
When we read this poem, he was explaining the old English meaning of May Day. How it wasn’t the chaste, give-a-girl-flowers, then run away sort of holiday it had evolved into. No….it was a grab the girl you’ve been flirting with and find a field of tall grass so you could have sex with her sort of day back then. It was encouraged and expected. The first part of this poem is reflective of those days. About the hours they would spend “suckling cunt-ry” pleasures among other things. The poem itself is about love – love so intense of an experience that it sort of creates a new reality for lovers.
The Good-Morrow by John Donne
I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? were we not weaned till then,
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the seven sleepers’ den?
‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea discovers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown:
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemishperes,
Without sharp North, without declining West?
Whatever dies was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.