This time of the year always brings attention to the concept and the meaning of love, both platonic and romantic. The poem, “To Eros,” is one of my spouse, Aaron’s, favorites and one that he sometimes recites from memory – although the meaning of the poem – to him, at least – changes often. It was one of the earliest homoerotic poems that he can remember encountering.
“To Eros” was written celebrating same gender love by the gay British poet, Wilfred Owen, who was killed during World War I, November, 1918, just days before the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Aaron suggested that I share this with you and let you determine your opinion of the work.
by Wilfred Owen
In that I loved you, Love, I worshipped you,
In that I worshipped well, I sacrificed
All of most worth. I bound and burnt and slew
Old peaceful lives; fail flowers; firm friends; and Christ.
I slew all false loves; I slew all true,
That I might nothing love but your truth, Boy.
Fair game I cast away as bridegrooms do
Their wedding garments in the haste of joy.
But when I fell upon your sandalled feet,
You laughed; You loosed away my lips; you rose,
I heard the singing of your wings retreat;
Far flown, I watched you flush the Olympian snows
Beyond my hoping. Starkly I returned
To stare upon the ash of all I burned.
It is unknown whether this poem relates to a romantic encounter in Wilfred Owen’s brief life or not. We have to keep aware that in the early years of the 20th Century, little was understood of same gender loving attraction and romance. That is probably the reason that this particular poem by Wilfred Owen isn’t that popular.