Wing to wing, oar to oar.

Amy and Leon Kass edited an anthology of “readings on courting and marrying.” I have a copy of the book, which I bought after hearing them interviewed at length on the Mars Hill Audio Journal. In that series of discussions they said that they found, from talking with many of their students — and they were both university professors — that modern young people aren’t prepared to fall in love in the way their ancestors found so easy. They hoped that providing certain thoughtfully-chosen literary readings for these impaired youth might compensate for the unfortunate changes iAmy and Leon small_0n society as a whole that had led to this sad situation, which did not facilitate good marriages, and worked against people getting married at all.

I have always wondered if their project bore fruit, if the Kasses ever heard of anyone being helped toward a normalization of love and marriage by the reading of their anthology. I’d like to go back and listen again, to think more about their assessment of the problem and its causes, but that is not the subject of my post.  I mention them because for the title of the anthology they used a phrase from Robert Frost, found in a poem he wrote on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding. That poem is the main thing I wanted to share here.

For the Kasses the poem captures “the togetherness of the married couple empowered to resist the flux of wind and water. Frost is not the first to use the language of speed or quickness to show how love may quicken the life of a couple into a vitality that far exceeds what each partner might attain alone. But Frost also plays on the archaic meaning of ‘speed,’ ‘prosperity or success in an undertaking,’ as well as on its Latin root, spes, meaning ‘hope,’ to point to the possibility of rest within motion, permanence within change, the eternal within the perishable.”

~ Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass, from Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marriage

THE MASTER SPEED

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste,
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still —
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

~ Robert Frost

6 thoughts on “Wing to wing, oar to oar.

    1. Yes, Anna, that is the edition of Mars Hill (The audio journal that I should have mentioned is not connected to Mars Hill Church in any way), in which the Kasses talked about this “replacement of romantic imagination with youthful cynicism about love and marriage,” and many such changes in the last decades. Growing up just gets harder and harder!

      Thank you for posting the link!

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  1. Lovely poem! I do enjoy Robert Frost.

    I understand the cynicism…I found myself surrounded by it throughout college and at my various workplaces. It was one of the several reasons I didn’t date and made rather a point with several young men that I Was Not Interested Period. The concept of courtship was foreign to most of them, and when I explained it there was a very clear “who would bother with that?” sort of response. It really saddened me.

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  2. Prayers for the Kass book. Sadly, no public library in my mid-western city owns it. There’s one (only one!) in Los Angeles, where my son lives. I can buy a used copy online for under $3.00. One left, the note says. Such is the fate–too often–of important books. I am grateful for your bringing both the Frost poem and the courtship book to my attention. I’ve been married a long time, and I still have a lot to learn, or remember to do.

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  3. It makes me wonder, considering the last line, if Frost is referring to sailing, since there is a lot of water imagery here. “Wing on wing” is a type of sailing, a way of configuring or using your sails, so that one sticks out one side of the boat, and one the other, so that your boat captures the maximum of wind.

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