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Literature, Love, and Art

Calligraphy by Hon'ami Kôetsu (Japanese, 1558–1637). Poem by Kiyowara no Fukayabu with Design of Wisteria (detail), early 17th century. Edo period (1615–1868). Collection of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto

Visitors come to the Metropolitan Museum expecting to be immersed in beautiful art from various eras. Whether they're looking for a particular piece or intending to stroll casually through the galleries, they might be surprised to get wrapped up in a story. People often look for art that is visually pleasing, but through pieces such as the poem above—currently on view in the exhibition Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art—they may find a sensation entirely different from what they expected.

In this work of calligraphy, one gorgeously detailed character stands out and creates the sensation that it is something more than simply a character. In fact, it represents the beginning of a profound poem about love. Translated, the poem reads:

If I die of a broken heart,
No other name than yours
Will be raised in blame,
But no doubt you'll just say,
"That's life: nothing lasts forever."

—Trans. John T. Carpenter

Audrey. It All Falls to Thee, 2012. Cut tissue and watercolor on paper


What is your favorite love poem?

We welcome your response to this question below.

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