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Exploring Love and Art Through Lord Byron's 'The First Kiss of Love'




Literature has the power to transcend the ordinary, allowing us to explore the depths of human emotions, love being a particularly potent one. This exploration of Lord Byron's 'The First Kiss of Love' seeks to do just that. The episode poses an intriguing question: can the emotional fulfillment derived from romantic love be replaced by the profound experience of appreciating fine literature and art?


Lord Byron, a prominent figure in the Romantic Movement, challenges the conventional view of love. He underscores the potential of art to portray 'what ought to be', reminding us that love is a conscious choice we make. The repetitive phrase 'the first kiss of love' in his poem highlights the transformative power of love.


As we delve deeper into Byron's work, we unravel an intriguing irony. The poet himself uses his creative output to convey his sentiment, a juxtaposition that invites us to ponder on the intimate relationship between love and creativity. The poem insists on cherishing real-life experiences and cautions against the risks of misplaced idealism.


In this digital age where 'swipe right' culture prevails, the podcast discusses the importance of striving for real love. The episode invites listeners to revisit the poem with a fresh perspective, encouraging them to appreciate the significance of love and creativity in shaping our lives. The importance of art and literature in providing emotional fulfillment is explored in depth, encouraging a reflective stance on our own experiences with love and attraction.


Furthermore, the episode delves into the transformative power of love, as emphasised through Byron's repetitive phrase 'the first kiss of love'. The poem's insistence on cherishing real-life experiences over imagined fantasies and its caution against the risks of idealism resonate in today's society, where often the line between reality and virtuality blurs.


This analysis of Lord Byron's 'The First Kiss of Love' does not just offer a literary critique. It presents an opportunity for self-reflection and exploration of personal experiences with love. It challenges the listener to reconsider their perspective on love and the importance of art and literature in their lives. By urging us to strive for real love, it reminds us of the inherent power of conscious choices and the transformative nature of love.


In conclusion, this episode provides a rich exploration of Lord Byron's 'The First Kiss of Love'. It offers a unique blend of literary analysis and personal reflection, challenging listeners to rethink their understanding of love and the role of art in their lives. Whether you are a literature enthusiast, a lover of poetry, or simply interested in exploring the depths of human emotions, this episode is sure to offer an engaging and thought-provoking listen.

 

The First Kiss Of Love

By Lord Byron


Away with your fictions of flimsy romance;

Those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove!

Give me the mild beam of the soul-breathing glance,

Or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love.


Ye rhymers, whose bosoms with phantasy glow,

Whose pastoral passions are made for the grove;

From what blest inpiration your sonnets would flow,

Could you ever have tasted the first kiss of love!


If Apollo should e’er his assistance refuse,

Or the Nine be desposed from your service to rove,

Invoke them no more, bid adieu to the muse,

and try the effect of the first kiss of love.


I hate you, ye cold compositions of art!

Though prudes may condemn me, and bigots reprove,

I court the effusions that spring from the heart,

Which throbes with delight to the first kiss of love.


Your shepherds, your flocks, those fantastical themes,

Perhapes may amuse, yet they never can move:

Arcadia displays but a region of dreams:

What are visions like these to the first kiss of love?


Oh! cease to affirm that man, since his birth,

From Adam till now, has with wretchedness strove,

Some portion of paradise still is on earth,

And Eden revives in the first kiss of love.


When age chills the blood, when our pleasures are past-

For years fleet away with the wings of the dove-

The dearest rememberance will still be the last,

Our sweetest memorial the first kiss of love.

 

Literary Analysis:


"The First Kiss of Love" by Lord Byron is a poem that celebrates the authentic, raw emotion of first love, particularly emphasizing the exhilarating experience of a first kiss. Byron contrasts this genuine emotion with the artificial and constructed nature of much of romantic poetry of his time. Here's a detailed analysis of the poem:


1. Form and Structure:

The poem consists of seven quatrains (four-line stanzas), following a consistent rhyme scheme of AABB. This predictable structure stands in opposition to the theme of the poem: the unpredictable, authentic emotion of love.


2. Tone:

The poem adopts a passionate and dismissive tone. While Byron speaks fervently of the power of a first kiss, he is dismissive of poets who indulge in insincere romantic fantasies in their works.


3. Themes:

- Authenticity vs. Artifice: Byron critiques romantic poets who pen "fictions of flimsy romance" and "cold compositions of art." For him, true emotion comes from experience, not from an imagined idyllic world.

- Power of First Love: Throughout the poem, Byron glorifies the "first kiss of love" as an unparalleled experience, more potent than any other human emotion or experience.

- **Nature and Paradise**: Byron refers to the idyllic setting of Arcadia and the biblical Eden to argue that the genuine feeling of a first kiss is akin to experiencing paradise on Earth.


4. Imagery and Symbols:

- Soul-breathing glance: Suggests the depth and sincerity of true emotion, a connection that goes beyond the physical.

- Apollo and the Nine Muses: Representations of art, music, and poetry. Byron's advice to poets is to abandon these deities and instead experience genuine love.

- Shepherds, flocks, Arcadia: Common symbols in pastoral poetry that depict an idealized, peaceful countryside. Byron dismisses them as mere fantasies in comparison to real love.

- Eden: A reference to the biblical paradise, symbolizing pure and untainted joy.


5. Diction:

Byron's choice of words emphasizes the conflict between genuine and feigned emotions. Words like "fictions," "falsehood," and "fantastical" are juxtaposed against "soul-breathing," "rapture," and "heart."


6. Message:

Byron's poem, at its core, conveys the idea that there's no substitute for genuine human emotion and experience. While art, music, and poetry have their merits, they cannot replicate the visceral and transformative power of a first kiss or the genuine emotion it evokes.


In summary, "The First Kiss of Love" is Byron's homage to the unadulterated emotion of first love and a critique of the often insincere representations of love in art and poetry. He underscores the idea that true emotion is far more potent and memorable than any crafted or artificial portrayal.

 

Show Transcript:

Today I'm going to read and discuss the poem the First Kiss of Love by Lord Byron, and there's a question that I want you to think about Is romantic love worth it? Can we get enough of the emotional joy and happiness from poetry, movies, literature, drama, television, paintings? Can we just explore and enjoy love and the feeling of our reaction to things in the world that give us pleasure, joyous, emotional pleasure, through art and not through the physical, real love? Can we just live in the kind of non-chivalric world we seem to live in today? It seems like chivalry is dead in the swipe right, swipe right culture. Is that okay? Can we just swipe right, have a few moments of pleasure and get the emotional thing, fuel, value that we need from love supposing we need it, and that's enough? Or can we or should we choose something more? I believe that the two most crucial things, values in life are creative work and romantic love. Romantic love, particularly physicalized in sex, physicalized in some way, particularly sex. Now, in this poem we're not going to get that view of it, but we are going to get the physicalized view of love. I once heard a radio show many, many years ago where a woman wrote in and asked a philosopher if aesthetic pleasure was sufficient to happiness. She never seemed. This woman who wrote in never seemed to be able to find the kind of physical attraction she wanted or needed, or she was stymied in some way. But she got a elevated sense of life and pleasure and joy, and the feeling she always read about, in paintings particularly. Was that enough? And the philosopher said no. He balked at the question Art shows you, shows you what ought to be, but you should work to make it real. Love, romantic love, and its highest potential, is a choice. It's a choice we can all make each and every single day. So I'm going to go ahead and read this poem, the First Kiss of Love, by Lord Byron, and then we will discuss it stands up by stands up. Now, as I always say, even if it's not completely, if it doesn't make a lot of sense at first or if you're a little confused, totally fine. Remember, poetry is meant to be reread, not necessarily merely read once. Read it and reread it and reread it. Okay, so first I'm going to just give us a reading of the poem and then we'll go stands up by stands. There are seven stanzas, so it's not particularly long, but it's longer than a sonnet, but not too long. Okay, the First Kiss of Love by Lord Byron. Away with your fictions of flimsy romance, those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove. Give me the mild beam of the soul breathing glance, or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love. Ye, rhymers, whose bosoms with fantasy glow, whose pastoral passions are made for the grow, from what blessed inspiration your sonnets would flow? Could you ever have tasted the first kiss of love? If Apollo should err, his assistants refuse, or the nine be disposed from your service to rove. Invoke them no more, but adieu to the muse, and try the effect of the first kiss of love. I hate you, ye cold compositions of art. Though prudes may condemn me and bigots reprove, I court the effusions that spring from the heart which throbs with delight. To the first kiss of love, your shepherds, your flocks, those fantastical themes Perhaps may amuse, yet they never can move. Arcadia displays, but a region of dreams. What are visions like these? To the first kiss of love, oh, cease to affirm that man, since his birth from Adam till now, has with wretchedness strove. Some portion of paradise still is on earth and Eden revives in the first kiss of love. When age chills the blood when our pleasures are passed. For years fleet away with the wings of the dove. The dearest remembrance will still be the last, our sweetest memorial. The first kiss of love. Now, more than likely, the thing that struck you first possibly Was the repetitiveness of the first kiss of love line. The first kiss of love is in every single one of these stanzas. So what is he trying to say? And it's also the title. Now, what is he trying to say about the first kiss of love? So let's go through this stanza by stanza and look and think about what he's saying in each one of these lines and stanzas. So away with your fictions of flimsy romance, those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove. Okay. So he's saying get away with your fictions of flimsy romance. So we can think about the Harlequin romance novels. You can think about rom-coms, particularly from the 90s. I've noticed, by the way, romantic movies and romantic comedies today are not really about two people falling in love. It's more about the idea of romance itself seems to be more prominent in many of these movies that come out, and it doesn't even see to be a genre that's very popular anymore. I don't think it's as popular among filmmakers as it once was. So he is saying in this poem away with your fictions of flimsy romance that the Harlequin or the, the dime novels or the they didn't have dime novels back then, but the romance novels of the time maybe you could think like Jane Eyre type things, but even more than that, just cheap little poems that people might flip off that. There's something false there, he. What he says me give me the mild beam, soft light, is how I think of mild beam like give me the soft light of a beautiful look from that a woman gives you. That's that's why I interpret these last two lines. He doesn't want the flimsy romance poems, he wants the real look of a woman. Give me the mild beam of the soul, breathing glance, or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love. I could say that I kind of agree with him here, that there's something you know, I read a lot of romantic poetry or read a lot of novels, plays and watch movies and no matter how great the feeling might be when you see that or hear about that love, when you see, even for a small second, the mild beam of the soul, breathing glance that makes all pales, everything in comparison, all the art and the louvre everywhere, you can imagine all the great artists of the world nothing compared to that feeling. If you have your values set straight and this is something we could talk about some other time, about what the proper romantic love is, what it means to experience romantic love at its height, but we're assuming we have something like that here, or the rapture which dwells on the first, the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love. Okay, let's move on. Yee Reimers, whose bosoms, with fantasy glow, whose pastoral passions are made for the Grove. So now he's addressing poets like himself. By the way, he's a poet and he's a Reimer, but he may be taking aim at other types of poets and maybe there's other poets he's talking about. Do you, poets, rely on imagined things, on fanciful creations? These aren't real, right? You're inventing fairy tales to your quaint passions. These are only for child's play, for the woods, for, for fakeness, for separated from human existence. He goes on in his poem from what blessed inspiration your sonnets would flow. Could you ever have tasted the first kiss of love? So he's saying that don't imagine fantasies that glow when you create your images of love. Go out and experience, taste the first kiss of love and that will bless your sonnets much more. So don't get you know, from muses. We're going to learn about muses and the next muses in the next stanza here, stanza three. If Apollo should ever his assistance refuse, so Apollo's the god of poetry. If he should refuse his assistance to you as a poet, as a Reimer, as a creator, or the nine this is again reference to the muses be disposed from your service to row, walk around, invoke them no more. Bid adieu to the muse and try the effect of the first kiss of love. So this is what I was saying earlier, where, maybe, instead of dreaming of love, thinking of love. You know, I think of John Keats and Fanny Braun, his loving from afar, the unrequited love, the creation of an image of a woman that's separated from the real thing, and then he writes poetry to that separated love Instead of that. Bid adieu to that muse and try the real thing, the first kiss of love, a real kiss of a real person. Now the next stands up. I hate you, you cold compositions of art. Though prudes may condemn me and bigots reprove, I court the effusions that spring from the heart which throbs with delight to the first kiss of love. He actually says he hates art. Well, this is an artist. This is one of the greatest artists of the 18th or the 19th century, the 1800s, one of the great poets of all time, and he is saying that he hates art. Now we'll see if does he really hate art or what's going on here. But I hate you cold art. And he talks about prudes make condemn you. So a prude, remember, is someone who's easily shocked by matters relating to sex or nudity. So he does kind of have. But I think it's more than that. It's someone in this kind of verging on Victorian era in England, someone who maybe is a little standoffish, peakish, about real physical interaction, real, the real stuff, the kissing, the touching, the sexual act is like clutching pearls type thing, and there are a lot of people like that, I think, still today. And that gets in the way, I think, of their enjoyment and their delight they can have from the first kiss of love. So he seeks after the natural power of expressions that derive from the flow of the heart that comes from the first kiss of love, which is real. So this is, this is the again an emphasis on the real as opposed to the fanciful, the artful, the aesthetic, the impressions of things, rather than the real things. Your shepherds, your flocks, those fantastical themes perhaps may amuse, yet they never can move. Arcadia displays, but a region of dreams. What are visions like these to the first kiss of love? So all the fanciful images you romantic poets, you fellow romantic poets maybe create cannot move a real person? Not really. It can give them some good feelings maybe, but can't really move them, is what he's trying to say. I think they could be amused, amusing Although in this case he's talking about shepherd's flocks fantastical themes which are amusing, and these are very common themes of, you know, idyllic scenes in the nature. That was very common with romantic poets. Arcadia, the land of poetry, displays, but a region of dreams. And what is life without a dream? As Zanmen Moustan would say later, what are visions like these to the first kiss of love? I've said on other shows, if you've watched my shows, that I am a lover of love, and that's true. And sometimes, when you are the kind of fantastical, visionary person of looking in the future, you can nurture and nurture yourself on this for two, for longer than you should, and you can forget or ignore the real, the thing itself that you're envisioning. You could be working so long to attain a vision that you don't actually seek out the real thing of that visionary thing you're trying to achieve, in this case romantic love. And that's a very great, great danger of idealists, that's a great danger of lovers of art, that's a great danger of people who have imaginative, visionary, idealistic views is that they will, instead of finding the great love of their life that's right in front of them, they will pine away for an ideal that isn't real, something that's not. That's art in a sense that, even if it's art in their mind, in the sense that it's a creation that's un-disconnected from reality, and that's a great danger. And he goes into this kind of lament. Next, in the next sense, he says oh, cease to affirm that man, since his birth from Adam till now, has, with wretchedness, strove. Some portion of paradise still is on earth and Eden revives in the first kiss of love. So for my literary canon club, where we go through all the classics, we just finished Milton and we. Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost, which is about Adam and Eve and Satan and the temptations that get in the way of this marriage between Adam and Eve and this love between Adam and Eve. And here it looks like Byron is kind of playing on that cease to affirm that man, since his birth, from Adam till now, has, with wretchedness, strove, he's strove, he's gone after wretchedness since his birth, since Adam. But all he needs some portion of paradise. Paradise is reenacted, is created in Milton's Paradise, lost. He says that a heaven or hell is in ourselves. It's not abstract and a literal heaven, disconnected and in some sphere of ephemeral spirit. It's in our own psyches, it's in our own mind. And where is it, according to Byron? Where is Eden? Where is paradise? It revives in the first kiss of love Paradise. All the abstractions, all the artistic creations are revived in reality, revived, breathed life to breathe life into something. So all the arts, which is again not real. In a sense it's an airy creation and we can give life to that with the first kiss of love. Ok, now the last answer. When age chills the bone, excuse me, when age chills the blood, when our pleasures are past, for years fleet away with the wings of the dove, the dearest remembrance will still be the last, our sweetest memorial, the first kiss of love. I think what he's trying to say here is what he is saying here is when there is a reality to the way that our bodies operate. We live today in a time that's much better than what he lived, where we know a lot about libido, testosterone, estrogen. We know a lot about the body. We know a lot about blood. We know a lot about sexual functioning and how it all works scientifically. There's things you can do to extend pleasure where pleasure is not in the past, and you can enjoy the pleasure of sexual activity for a long time. Nevertheless, no matter what happens, no matter how much we might be able to extend it at this point in life, even today, in 2023, the blood may chill over time. When our pleasures are past, there may come a time maybe it'll be our 90s, maybe it'll be in our 150s if we make it that far where pleasures aren't what they used to be, where they fade a little bit with the wings of the dove, our dearest remembrance. What we will remember, the memorial we will have in our minds, the cask, the tomb or the altar that we will be able to pray on as long as we live is that first kiss of love. This poem really meant a lot to me recently because I've been experiencing something grand, and I won't go into details, but I've thought about the first kiss of love. Why does he use the first kiss of love and not the kiss of love? Is the kiss of love and he doesn't? I don't think he actually gives an answer here, but I'll give an answer. I've heard this term and this idea before, that the kiss of love, that to love, to have the first kiss of love, means that if it's true love, it'll be the last first kiss you'll ever have. That's kind of the statement, that's kind of the thought that we sometimes have. But I think there's something here that he's alluding to although again, I don't think it's clearly here, maybe it is. That doesn't line up this is my belief where there is a kind of open, continual choice you have to make with love, with the real thing, where the first kiss of love can be every kiss of love, or at least many of the kisses of love, because it is something that you choose to do. Love to me is not automatic, it's not magical, it's not something that just happens to you and you're struck from above, although it feels that way. What love really is is it's a reflection of your deepest values, which means that you have to identify, you have to nurture, you have to understand your own deepest values and then that way you can reflect them or see them reflected in the person of another. And then as… the flux of life happens and things change, but you orient yourself always To those values and the vision that you have for your future and the changes that occur in life that you adapt to and make that you have to, but you always keep the North Star of that first kiss of love and it will constantly Come to you, it will constantly Be renewed, and we talk about this kind of renewal and this is something that I believe is essential to the continuation of a long-lasting romantic love. And I for one believe that the two valuable things in life of being alive is creative work and romantic love, and both are Equally worthy of the fighting for it, of the striving for it, of the development of it, of the creation and the going after this love thing. So no need to end chivalry and the Illustrating illustration of your love, the going after the striving. Strove for the striving for your love, go out there and strive for love. Nothing wrong with what. The last thing I did want to say I forgot to say this is it's. It is ironic and I, byron, is a very smart guy, so I know he knows this that he's saying all of this against these compositions, against these rhymes in rhyme in composition, in a perfectly structured poem, and so he Obviously doesn't believe that Compositions are cold and useless. They are in this case. It's the experience of that, what I've been talking about, between the aesthetic, the ought to be the vision of the future and the real thing, and you should want the real thing. Okay, so I hope you enjoyed that. Go out and reread the first kiss of love and I'll see you next time.

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