An epithalamium (other spellings include the title that John Donne used in his famous poem) is a nuptial poem. Sometimes, in Roman days, a choir of all-girls might have sung it to the wedding party. Over the years many of the great poets have contributed their versions of this poetic form. I particularly like Donne’s moving “Epithalamion, or Marriage Song on the Lady Elizabeth and Count Palatine being Married on St. Valentine’s Day.” Listen, yes listen, to the words as you read John Donne’s opening lines:
“Hail Bishop Valentine, whose day this is; all the air is thy diocese, and all the chirping choristers and other birds are thy parishioners; thou marriest every year the lyric lark, and the grave whispering dove, the sparrow that neglects his life for love”
While I appreciate Donne’s mastery, I prefer Milton: John Milton. No, not that John Milton! Our John Milton: John Michael Ellis Milton! Our son gave us an epithalamium of sorts, twenty-five years later, on this our Twenty Fifth Wedding Anniversary—June 8, 2010. Without further adieu, here is the wonderful poem that our son gave to us as his gift:
On this very special day There is something I should say To each and every one of you Yes, I know there are only two Firstly, Mom, my matriarch The one who governs o’er my heart Taking care of Dad and me (Not to mention all for free!) Now for Dad, whom I hold dear Even if you cannot hear I really do love you a lot And I’m thankful for all you’ve taught Apart, both great, but together: Gee! Nothing less than heavenly harmony! So on his Anniversary Day Of twenty-five, we shout “Hooray!” And now there is offered the greatest toast From the kid who loves you the most!
John Michael E. Milton
As you might well suppose, this is our favorite epithalamium ever, as it is a wedding poem for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Thank you John Michael. You could not have given us anything more personal or touching or memorable! Now, you join the ranks of Theocritus, Spenser, Tennyson and Donne. And of course Milton.June 8, 2010