"Youth and passionate love -- these are the breath and the spirit of her poetry."
Harold Williams, 1920, Outlines of Modern English Literature1890-1914, "Laurence Hope"
"In all her poems the subjects are three -- Youth, Beauty and Love....Beauty is the gift of God, and youth is the season of beauty, (and) surely not otherwise did the Moslem poet think..."
Otto Rothfeld, 1908, Indian Dust, "Laurence Hope", pg 211
|Raphael, 1509, School of Athens|
I am not sure if I knew the truth
What his case or crime might be,
I only know that he pleaded Youth,
A beautiful, golden plea!
Youth, with its sunlit, passionate eyes,
Its roseate velvet skin—
A plea to cancel a thousand lies,
Or a thousand nights of sin.
The men who judged him were old and grey
Their eyes and their senses dim,
He brought the light of a warm Spring day
To the Court-house bare and grim.
Could he plead guilty in a lovelier way?
His judges acquitted him.
With this ray of sunshine captured in words, Laurence Hope muses on a timeless theme and one of her foundational philosophies - not only is Youth the season of Beauty and Abandonment to Desire, but it is usually and should be forgiven it's mistakes, especially those made in the name of Passion or Love. The poet winks in this lighthearted courtroom tableau, and we nod along in appreciation of the lucky decision handed down by the panel of graybeards, who seem to remember with indulgence their portion of the magical hour called Youth.
|Edouard Manet, 1863 The Little Lunch On The Grass - |
Caused a "youthquake" when exhibited
The elders possess real power, but the young seem to come into possession of a terrifying and premature power for a time as well; a formula that could be written like this --
Love may conquer All,
But Beauty conquers Love,
And Youth conquers Beauty!
The springtime of life is the time for the inexperienced to take risks, when bodies, minds and hearts heal more swiftly. In poem after poem of the Love Lyrics, Hope urges the individual reader to break from the studied behavior and careful protocol of her Raj era British countrymen - follow your impulses! You are only alive once, and you are young even less than that! And if youth has already flown, at least you may enjoy it as a state of mind - an appetite for adventure, for desire, pleasure in new forms and for a sense of optimism and possibility - these are the virtues of a youthful spirit.
|Renoir, 1881, Boating Party Picnic|
|Maxfield Parish, Reaching For The Moon|
"Alas! alas! poor passionate Youth!" mourns Zahir-uh-Din. Now, looking back at her own adolescence, the poet Laurence Hope understands that it all fades in a flash. How much of beauty or passion fades with it is a matter of fortune and fate. Hope's poetry conveys her humanitarian sympathy for the tragedy inherent in every life, especially any life that endures long enough to face the perilous passage into full maturity, with its vain regrets, dimming of the senses and the decay of what seemed to be part of one's essential nature since birth - vitality, joy and optimism.
It is those who give into and enjoy their youthful birthright the most -- those with easy looks, passionate impulsive natures, quick to laughter and with a talent for pleasure -- they have the most to lose if they manage to survive the crushing battles of life. These comrades of the youthful spirit are both adored and mourned by the poet, as the closest in kinship to her own bright, comet-like nature.
Ah romance, folly, poetry, youth! I think you would make a fine poet Orlando.
- Viginia Woolf, Orlando