How is it that the poets have said so many fine things about our first love, so few about our later love? Are their first poems their best? Or are not those the best which come from their fuller thought, their larger experience, their deeper-rooted affections?
For a lot of people, their first love is what they'll always remember. For me it's always been the first hate, and I think that hatred, though it provides often rather junky energy, is a terrific way of getting you out of bed in the morning and keeping you going. If you don't let it get out of hand, it can be canalized into writing. In this country where people love to be nonjudgmental when they can be, which translates as, on the whole, lenient, there are an awful lot of bubble reputations floating around that one wouldn't be doing one's job if one didn't itch to prick.
It is beautiful and healthy if a person has been unfortunate in his first love, has learned to know the pain of it but nevertheless remains faithful to his love, has kept his faith in this first love; it is beautiful if in the course of the years he at times very vividly recalls it, and even though his soul has been sufficiently healthy to bid farewell, as it were, to that kind of life in order to dedicate himself to something higher; it is beautiful if he then sadly remember it as something that was admittedly not perfect but yet was so very beautiful. And then sadness is far more beautiful and healthy and noble than the prosaic common sense that has long since finished with all such childishness, this devilish prudence of choir director Basil that fancies itself to be healthy but which is the most penetratingly wasting illness; for what does it profit a man if he gained the whole world but lost his soul? For me the phrase “the first love” has no sadness at all, or at least only a little admixture of sweet sadness; for me it is a password, and although I have been a married man for several years, I have the honor fight to under the victorious banner of the first love.
The way it happens is that in taking their first love to God the lovers thank God for it. Thereby an ennobling change takes place. … it is truly far more beautiful to take the beloved as a gift from God’s hand than to have subdued the whole world in order to make a conquest of her.
For the happy individualities, the first love is also the second, the third, the last; here the first love has the qualification of eternity; for the unhappy individualities the first love is the instant; it acquires the qualification of the temporal.