I Am Not Yours, by Sara Teasdale
I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.
You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.
Oh plunge me deep in love — put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.
These stunning words are the words to a piece that we are singing in University Choir at Eastern. I’m so relieved to be back in a choir – yes, the word really is relieved. It does good things to my soul to be astonished by the beauty of music and voices. Certain songs can do that to me. This is one. “Lost as a candle lit at noon; lost as a snowflake in the sea.” In other words, I long to lose myself completely in you, whoever the you may be, immortal or mortal, person or idea. I long to be so small, to be nothing, so caught up in you. I want what you are to consume me.
As I sang this piece today, I couldn’t help but relate it to something I recently read. In my class, The Good Life, we are reading Plato’s Symposium, in which Aristophanes, an ancient Athenian playwright, makes a speech about love. He tells the story about how every human being was once whole, and Zeus cut us all in half, so it is only when we are united with our other half that we are truly complete. You’d think that would make us desire nothing else, that this would be the end of our lack. But it isn’t so. Aristophanes says, “When a person meets the half that is his very own…the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment. These are the people who finish out their lives together and still cannot say what they want from one another…It’s obvious that the soul of every lover longs for something [other than sex], his soul cannot say what it is…’Love’ is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete” (Symposium 192D).
Aristophanes here seems to be saying that there is something that he can’t put his finger on, but something that every human being senses a lack of, and wants, and it’s something we can’t get simply through another human being.
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
There is the seed of eternity inside us, that’s just itching to sprout, to grow, for us to achieve our end: to dwell in eternity in the most beautiful place with God. I see this poem hint at it – the writer longs to be lost in love, “swept by the tempest of your love, a taper in a rushing wind.” Swept by the tempest of a love so strong that it consumes. How glorious. Aristophanes sees that there’s a longing inside that a lover cannot fill. The longing we feel was planted inside us, and no human being can satisfy the longing to be fully known, and in spite of all the darkness and depravity that is revealed, to be fully loved.
Another song that we’re singing in choir, the Gloria Patri, and also the benediction my professor uses to begin class:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, who was from the beginning and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.