In honour of Valentine’s Day lets take a look at some literary lovers. Love, as a mysterious thing, so hard to describe is widely pondered throughout literature. There is a wealth of it to be found in, unrequited love, tragic love, young love, perfect love, confusing love, indescribable love. So here is a look at some romantic couplings, some obvious but hey…all you need is love!
1. Romeo and Juliet
A classic to begin, what is left to be said about Shakespeare’s ultimate star crossed lovers? Households at war, naive love, tragedy, and loss. Still as beautiful and tragic as it was when it was written, there is a reason they are still held up as the pinnacle of romantic love. Even if their being teenagers makes it a bit creepy to the modern mind!
Best moment – A long one!
Juliet. Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.
Romeo. It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
Juliet. Yon light is not day-light, I know it, I:
It is some meteor that the sun exhales,
To be to thee this night a torch-bearer,
And light thee on thy way to Mantua:
Therefore stay yet; thou need’st not to be gone.
Romeo. Let me be ta’en, let me be put to death;
I am content, so thou wilt have it so.
I’ll say yon grey is not the morning’s eye,
‘Tis but the pale reflex of Cynthia’s brow;
Nor that is not the lark, whose notes do beat
The vaulty heaven so high above our heads:
I have more care to stay than will to go:
Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so.
How is’t, my soul? let’s talk; it is not day.
2. Catherine Barkley and Lieutenant Frederic Henry
Ernest Hemingway might not be the obvious choice when it comes to love, but Frederic and Catherine’s war torn romance, another tragedy (what does this say about me that so far all my choices are tragedies?!) is so beautifully sad and desperate. The need to cling to something, anything, just to make it through the utter annihilation of WWI is utterly heartbreaking. And try getting to the ending and not sobbing your eyes out.
Best moment – a moment which epitomizes the clinging desperation of their love
“Will you be away a long time?” Catherine asked. She looked lovely in bed. “Would you hand me the brush?”
I watched her brushing her hair, holding her head so the weight of her hair all came on one side. It was dark outside and the light over the head of the bed shone on her hair and her neck and her shoulders. I went over and kissed her and held her hand with the brush and her head fell back on the pillow. I kissed her neck and shoulders. I felt faint with loving her so much.
“I don’t want to go away.”
“I don’t want you to go away.”
“I won’t go then.”
“Yes. Go. It’s only for a little while and then you’ll come back.”
“We’ll have dinner up here.”
“Hurry and come back.”
3. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy
Another classic but Austen’s literary lovers in Pride and Prejudice and their journey to love is wonderful. The errors, the pride, the prejudice, and of course, the happy ending.
Best moment – Darcy declares his love (doesn’t hurt to picture Colin Firth saying it either!)
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority — of its being a degradation — of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
4. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester
I know, I know, another classic, I am obviously a complete sap for the classics, sigh! Jane overcomes so much, and despite her utter heartbreak at the hand of Rochester, eventually returns to him, blinded in the rotting corpse of what once was Thornfield Hall. But she returns to him and they live happily ever after…well it is Bronte after all, it isn’t going to be all sunshine and roses!
“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”
5. Wesley and Buttercup
Fairytale romance, utterly hilarious, and a cast of fantastic characters rounding out the wonderful The Princess Bride.
Best moment – there really can be only one, Wesley’s coded declaration of love
“As you wish.”
That was all he ever answered. “As you wish.” Fetch that, Farm Boy. “As you wish.” Dry this, Farm Boy. “As you wish.”
6. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar
A forbidden love set among the vast sweeping landscapes of Wyoming’s Brokeback Mountain. Tragic, raw, and beautiful, another one to read if you don’t mind shedding a tear or a thousand. A moment has never broken my heart like this one can…a final act of love, when it is already too late.
The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeve’s carefully worked down into Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own, two skins, one inside the other, the pair like two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.