kiss kiss

June 13, 2012
In "Driving With Plato", Robert Rowland Smith begins the chapter "Having Your First Kiss" with a bit of Shakespeare:
ROMEO [To JULIET.]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

ROMEO
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

JULIET
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray -- grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

ROMEO
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
[KISSES HER]
...A kiss is a matter of delight, of play, of a delicious hide-and-seek, as light as a feather and as solemn as the prayers to which Shakespeare's lovers allude. It hovers like a net to catch all their fluttering feelings: hope, expectation, anxiety, curiosity, relief, abandon. It waits for them teasingly at the end of the sonnet, to bless the miracle of love at first sight. Listening to Romeo and Juliet, one wants to say that above all kissing proves there are more mysterious and wonderful things in the world than are dreamed of by science.

But what's interesting is that this romantic wondrous-ness finds itself enhanced rather than diminished by the formal elements, the scientific structure, of the verse, and that the young lovers themselves seem more than a little aware of it. That repeated s, for example, makes the lines sound like the kissing they describe, especially because the  s often combines with a p, not only in the words lips itself, but also palmers, prayers and pilgrims. Each time Romeo or Juliet speaks, he or she repeats at least one key word that the other has just enunciated, as if their fates were becoming laced together through each letter of that word. The final two lines create not only a couplet but a couple: they demonstrate the union and symmetry between the love-birds.
"Driving with Plato" is a pretty good book! I need to check out his earlier work "Breakfast with Socrates" (which is about what philosophy has to say about every day events, vs "Driving"'s emphasis on major life milestones, like a first kiss...