I am borrowing a line from the British poet William Wordsworth who wrote “The Rainbow” on March 26, 1802. “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky…..” I cannot compete with Wordsworth but I continue after his first opening line, and I will give a try..
My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky
My heart leaps up when I am told that true love cannot die.
My heart leaps up when I receive a gift from heaven above
To me below the greatest gift… the gift of cherished love.
We often use the word “love” in ways that are more meant as “like”. We say “I love chocolate ice cream” when we really mean “I like and prefer chocolate ice cream”. We say “I love that red dress” when we really mean “I prefer the red dress rather than the blue one”. We say “I love that television program” when we really mean “I enjoy very much watching that television program”.
The English use of the word “love” is too frequently abused. We should take a lesson from the ancient Greeks who, in their wisdom, used three different words to convey the feeling of love.
AGAPE is the greatest of love for everyone. It can be physical or spiritual. It is a love that knows no bounds.
FILIA is the love of friendship, the love of a son for his family, the love of devotion, the patriotic love of country.
EROS is the love of sexual passion and erotic thoughts and behavior. It has no relation to the previous Greek words for love.
And yet, the three ancient Greek words convey a deep sense of love, albeit in different respects.
In William Wordsworth’s poem, his intent to describe the joy in his love upon seeing a rainbow in the sky, is certainly a manifestation of AGAPE…. A love for all things, all people, all beauty.
If I were to apply Greek words to my sense of love they would be both AGAPE and FILIA… the total and complete love of wife and children and childrens’ children. A love that is without limits or boundaries. AGAPE for my family, FILIA for devotion to my friends.
When I meet a friend of the past 60 plus years, truly “my heart leaps up…” and I rejoice in the devoted friendship of so many of those years. One can have many acquaintances but few real friends.
The Hebrew poet Saul Tchernichovsky best expressed it in his poem “Ani Maamin”, I believe.
“I believe in friendship and in one I do believe; one whose heart beats with my heart and with mine, rejoice and grieve”.
Tchernichovsky was a colleague and friend of our greatest Hebrew poet, Chayim Nachman Bialik, the first poet laureate of Israel in the 1930’s. Bialik was a poet of Jewish nature while Tchernichovsky was a poet of human nature, often thought to be paganism. He expresses that pagan image in his lengthy poem “Before the Statue of Apollo”.
Both of the two great poets expressed their idea and ideal of love in different ways. Bialik, in the Jewish way and Tchernichovsky in the Grecian way.
I feel a stronger kinship with Bialik. But I “love” (prefer, enjoy, admire) Tchernichovsky’s “Ani Maamin” which had been set to music and was a very beloved and favorite song in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
“Sachki sachki al ha chalomot, zu ani ha cholem sach
Sachki ki ba adam a’amin, ki odeni maamin bach”
“Laugh at all my dreams, my dearest, just as I, the dreamer, do.
Laugh for I believe in mankind just as I believe in you”.
Tchernichovsky’s passion is contagious and I was long years ago “infected” by it.
My heart leaps up when I can read a poem written by Saul,
In every word, in every line, his love embraces all.