I have always remembered this line, having read it for the first time at an age when I could not distinguish between violets and roses. And then, as the similarity between flowers and chains became more obvious, the imagery of these verses has always remained with me.
I will not discuss Marlowe's play here. My aim is to talk about Helen, Sweet Helen. For those like Paris and mortals like me, the imagery of the verses found resonance with the gloom and doom of adolescence.
Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?
The affairs of the heart, that hearts know of, are secret and dark. They are bred within chambers where the merest stir of meaning and reason spells the end of spells. It is within this tight and taut room, where no light enters, that faces that launch ships create storms that drown even waves.
One searches for the woman of dreams but what dreams are these? Who knows, what one dreams, what even one searches.........these marble white thoughts are so delicate. The face that launches, the eyes that call, oh, the enormity of that search.
Then sometimes, near a river, by a tree, under a rain shelter, by a cafe, near a graveyard, one sees that this lady could be the lady of flowers, for she has flowers. She could be the one called Suzanne, only she feeds tea and oranges that come from china?
When I first read Cohen's dirge for Suzanne, I thought now that adolescence is over, she has always been my lover could take my hand and feed me oranges was the same who could launch a thousand ships too. That this woman could feed even though not reach the topless towers of Ilium was compensation for being a mortal.
However, when the lady wearing a red ribbon walked past my eyes, under many December skies, I felt that Helen give me my soul again was reaching an end. I could wear thy colours though I had no crest and had found beauty clad in a thousand stars.
Many waters have risen and fallen since then, many words having left their morose, melancholic stains on lips and hands, smoke and fire. Yet, that image, of Sweet Helen reappears, reminding of further crimes against a heart of stone, many stones.
This Helen is brighter than jupiter, and one prays for innocence, for being given one's soul back again. There are now no more oranges and the distinction between one and the other has become apparent.
The search for that face of faces, of long hair and eyes that have stones and roses in equal measure, of slender fingers, of prose and poem, of dull and raging fires is restored again.
Come, Sweet helen, make me immortal with a kiss.