by Norman M. Brown Ph.D. |
“Don’t take this heaven from one” carries on the combination of demand and pleading from the first stanza—without any “please” that might tilt the meaning towards request instead of demand. “Heaven” also suggests that the in-love state is timeless or eternal like the perception of beauty and state of heaven itself. It also connects with Christian cosmology to imply that the beloved’s choice to take away heaven would plunge the lover into hell. This is a significant emotional dimension of love, that its potential to stop time in eternal bliss comes paired with the potential to plunge us into eternal burning pain when bliss is taken away. These intensely opposite emotions make this love unique, for the great depth of distress in separation can only be relieved by the return of great height of communion between the lovers.
“If you must cling to someone” personifies the fearful desperation with which an infant-mother-like reunion may be consummated in a lover’s imagination. This image suggests both fear and shame. For when a child clings to its mother it normally hides its eyes from all other eyes except its mother’s. Being scrutinized by others can trigger shame, against which hiding one’s eyes is a normal defense. And finding intimate approval in one’s mother’s eyes is a way that love can heal shame. “Now and forever” renews the lover’s fervent wish that the beloved will grant asylum to a heart so acutely aware of a communal promised land right now for the start of love’s forever. So both commitment and wish are repeated, “let it be me.”
The bridge summarizes the lover’s experience during what might be either a dating period or the inevitable intermittency in most couple relations: “Each time we meet, love, I find complete love.” “Complete love” implies that the “we-ness” of this particular romantic love may be unprecedented in our lives. It refers back to “bless the day” by suggesting that there’s something wondrous and amazing about each meeting, like a repeating surprise that has never happened before. And “without your sweet love” reminds us that sweetness, like mother’s milk, is the neuro-transmitter flavor of touch, sex and love, and of visual beauty and beautiful music, that is joy.But “what would life be?” reminds us that the joy of romantic love has become unique as the central focus of life. And therefore the deprivation of this one special person’s love is now the greatest distress the lover can imagine.
“So never leave me lonely” re-emphasizes pleading against separation distress. “Tell me you’ll love me only” seeks reassurance that nobody else will ever get the love that’s desired. “And that you’ll always let it be me” who seeks this one-of-a-kind love reemphasizes that the present moment of the greatest joy may be, and sooner or later will be fleeting, rather than eternal as the feeling it awakens yearns for.
To summarize the emotional dynamics described in this lyric, distress from separation, fear of loss and the hurt that signals emotional disharmony act together with joy itself to intensify the yearning for joy that is natural to romantic love. And they also serve to amplify our wonder at the emotional value of the love that grows greater and more surprising when it keeps coming back repeatedly both in spite of and because of repeated interruptions by negative emotional moments. These include the frequent separations that life requires, the disappointments and perceived or actual hurts due to occasional but inevitable emotional mismatches, and the feared possibility that more major vicissitudes of life might take the beloved away, including the eventual certainties of declining health and finally death.
Thus the inevitable fluctuations in life between negative and positive moments inspires unique devotion because both the intensity and magnitude of our good feelings and the ever-present threat of losing their human source loom larger than anything else in our experience. To value someone else as much or more than ourselves is widely praised as the height of romantic love.
Yet such love is also considered a dangerous dependence or even an addiction, depending on how it affects the lives of the lovers and others in their personal sphere. Determining whether to support or condemn a particular relationship for oneself or someone else as abusive is an important moral choice for each person. But enduring prolonged stormy periods of mixed positive and negative emotion in couples has probably supported the survival and growth of children in less civilized times. Thus in the greater scheme of our species the power of romantic love over couples has been both a positive and negative addiction. However, we may yet be able to craft better guidelines for developing romantic love in our present and future by improving the access and competence of both sexes with the full spectrum of emotions.