The Blank Book


The Blank Book

Sometimes you have to be a Blank Book, so why not on your birthday? Happy Birthday, Bella!

Apt image by Scuzzi who captions it ‘A List Of Unfortunate Events’ ( According to her Flickr profile, Scuzzi is ‘chunky, 5’7″, Chinese, quick tempered, dragon personality (zodiac sign)’ and she had to update (trim down) her contacts list because it had grown overwhelmingly long. She is ‘serious about viewing good photos and meeting people with the same interests,’ thank you. Interesting, I’m a dragon myself (1940). But what struck me was Scuzzi’s photograph of her memory bank she has titled The Blank Book and subtitled A Series Of Unfortunate Events. That’s what I call creativity.

Searching among Flickr photos for “midlife” (without the quotes), when I saw Scuzzi’s photograph, I immediately thought it was appropriate for what I had in mind to say, if vaguely at the start, to someone who is celebrating her birthday today, 17 November 2006. I am writing this one especially for Bella, the wife of my good friend Dr Tony Oposa, Surgeon General; she is 51 today, 17 November 2006 (never mind how old Dr Tony is).

Again, Happy Birthday, Bella! I will now invite you by paraphrasing Robert Browning, the English poet:

Grow old along with us!
The best is yet to be,
the last of life,
for which the first was made.

Yes, I’m also interested in Robert Browning and his wife, the poet Elizabeth Barrett. They make an interesting couple, as interesting I believe as Dr Tony and Bella. Erin Marie echoes my sentiments, saying of Elizabeth and Robert ( ‘I have always been fascinated by Elizabeth and Robert Browning. I think their love has always been awesome.’ I think so too.

I think that love is not love enough if it isn’t awesome.

I know very little of the story of Dr Tony and Bella, but I am at heart a romantic, so I like to believe that one’s age doesn’t matter as long as one’s love doesn’t age – or, if it ages, it ages like wine, tasting better and better. But of course, as King Solomon knows, ‘How much better is thy love than wine!’ (Song of Solomon 4: 10)

You have to pardon me if I dwell more on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning because I just love the love poems of Elizabeth written during their 3-year courtship, Sonnets From The Portuguese – he had nicknamed her ‘the little Portuguese’ as he fell in love with her and her poetry (The Victorian Web, 2004,

Elizabeth didn’t think that she was worthy of the love of Robert because she was an invalid, broken-hearted, and had a nervous disorder (Glenn Everett, 1993, But Robert loved her and finally convinced her of his deep affection; in fact, her poetry was one reason why he loved her that much (Laurelyn Douglas, 1991, A poet admiring another for the other’s poetry. He wrote her: ‘How can I put your poetry away from you?’ She inspired him with her poetry; he inspired her for her poetry. They wrote love letters to each during their secret courtship because the father would not approve of Robert. Thomas Hampson ( describes those letters as ‘some of the most eloquent in the language.’ Most eloquent in thelanguage called English, and in the language called love.

Her poetry is passionate and beautiful, I say. They make me feel like falling in love again. Here is the first poem in her collection called Sonnets From The Portuguese, and I dedicate it to both Bella and Dr Tony. My prescription: If you don’t have time to read these 15 lines, just read the last two lines and you’ll get my point.

Sonnet #01
I thought once how Theocritus had sung

I thought once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,—
“Guess now who holds thee!”—“Death,” I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, “Not Death, but Love.”

Special note: Theocritus, of ancient Greece, is the creator of pastoral poetry (VEK Sandels, 2004,; the poet’s mention of Theocritus invokes the countryside as the ideal world of innocence, beauty, nature and divinities (to borrow from Kelly Blanchfield, Jamie Jones & Carrie Lefler, 2006,

‘I thought once how Theocritus had sung’ – this sonnet I believe is one of the most powerful romantic poems ever written.

The poem begins sweetly, proceeds eerily, and ends with a sweet surprise. ‘Guess now who holds thee! … Not Death, but Love.’ So much like The Blank Book which used to contain ‘A series of unfortunate events’ but now contains nothing but hope and love. I like surprise endings, especially if they end with love.

Explore posts in the same categories: Birthday, creative thinking, Creative Writing, Creativity, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, old age, Poetry, Robert Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, The Blank Book, Theocritus

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