Love and #LetsBlogOff

The Tomb of Heloise and Abelard

I’m in Paris at last and I’m heading to Pere Lechaise, the famed cemetery, in a few minutes to visit the tomb of Heloise and Abelard, the doomed lovers whose story has stood the test of time because nothing could stop them from their longing to be together, even though they spent years apart and lonely in that vast devastation. What signifies love more than two people who never give up on their feelings for each other, even when everything in the physical realm is conspiring against them? I give you a poem today by my poetry professor at Vermont College, Tom Absher. It’s from his book Forms of Praise, which holds a series of poems written in their voices–missives to and about each other–that meld into one heartbreaking litany of unrequited passion.

II Living Alone

Abelard

After working all day in the fields

helping prepare the earth for seed,

I return to my room and wait for sleep.

I have almost given up on reading.

Watching the fading light soften the edges of things

I begin to let go of my loneliness.

A chair sends forth its thin shadow

like a thinker thinking of himself.

The sky runs through its last hues

and miraculously the chair, the room,

we vanish together.

Gradually I hear the monks talking in sleep—

they speak of their fathers, of women, of miracles.

I make the cross in the darkness

and may God forgive me I think only of you.

                             Tom Absher (from Forms of Praise)
  • Joseph

    I’ve always known the story of Heloise and Abelard to be one of the great love stories. Some years back I read it in one of my history books, all about the priest who loved a woman who eventually a nun, so they could not live together as man and wife. When I recounted the details became of the story to my wife, her response was, “If he really loved her, he would have left the church and married her!”

  • Saxon Henry

    I do think it’s easy to take that stance from our contemporary mores but we have to remember that these were much earlier times when social customs didn’t allow people so much freedom. I always appreciate how you stop in and leave such meaty comments, Joseph. Thanks so much! I’m very touched by the Heloise and Abelard story so it was a nice way to be able to share it with my #LetsBlogOff buddies.

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  • Chamois

    I’ve heard/read so many different variations on what exactly happened between Heloise and Abelard. Some say he was her tutor and took advantage of her, her uncle forcing her into the convent after learning of the affair. Others recount a tremendous love to last the ages, etc, etc. The controversies surrounding these two unfortunates just go to show how subjective history can be and how little we can depend on it. But look at that tomb! If that doesn’t shout undying love, I don’t know what does. So whether it’s the cynic’s view of a handsy Abelard or the romantic’s idea of a lifetime of longing – still, unable to touch each other in their “entombed images” – we cannot deny that there was something between the two. I’m going to play along with unrequited love. Excellent choice for today’s LetsBlogOff.