A lot of the world has changed over the centuries, but there are things that will always remain the same. Change, some clever boffin once observed, is the only constant - but there are plenty more. Romantic poetry and teenagers' extreme squashiness seem to be a few other constants.
There used to be a time when star-crossed lovers would plot ingenious ways to meet their amours and whisper sweet nothings into their ears. It was all in a day's work to shimmy up a balcony in Verona at the risk of breaking your neck or be murdered by your sweetheart's formidable family. Romeo didn't mince his words, either, about how anxious he was to meet Juliet, prattling on about how "With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls / For stony limits cannot hold love out".
The reason I have taken to musing on poetry's position in a teenage romance is because my friend Katrin has had some poems sent to her by her boyfriend Michael. Compared with Romeo, he has a rather easy mode of communicating to his beloved, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. Messaging Katrin on Facebook, he has finally declared his undying love for her and composed a verse of musical poetry in her honour.
"Whoa!" Katrin replied. "That's amazing, did you write that yourself?" Cue, Michael waffling about how he thinks that expressing himself through poetry is the only way he can really let out the emotions raging in his soul, and his feelings for her inspire him. ("Sensitive, creative - what more could I want?")
Katrin met us the other day with her face glowing like a Chinese lantern. "Oh my goodness," she announced, without preamble, "I am the luckiest girl in the whole world, I'll read out the stuff Michael's written for me." With much blushing, she called up her Facebook messages on her BlackBerry, clearing her throat and assuming the air of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address:
"She walks in beauty, like the night," she read dreamily, "Of cloudless climes and starry skies. And all that's best of dark and bright..."
"Meet in her aspect and her eyes," finished Lisa, an English student, with her eyes narrowed.
"What - how did you know? Isn't it gorgeous?"
"Yeah," nodded Lisa, "because Lord Byron wrote it."
"Who's Lord Byron?"
It would be physically painful to describe the scene that followed, but Katrin didn't speak to Lisa for a week afterwards. Lord Byron would probably be quite glad that he's safely out of the way and could only be treated to the choicest of posthumous descriptions - unlike the unfortunate Michael. Hell hath no fury.
I am immensely glad that modern, lovesick poets are keeping alive and - this time - adding original work to English literature's rich heritage. It was wonderfully entertaining to read Michael's conciliatory attempts: "My love, my love, my love, my love / Why doth you discard me like an old glove?" Why, indeed?
Lavanya Malhotra is a 17-year-old student in Dubai