I have been watching the new series of Poldark, curled beneath a blanket with one last cup of tea for the evening while squalls or silence batter my cottage, depending on which night it is and whether the world is teetering into winter or back a little into summer. Last week I found the first episode a little boring, but this week it has very much improved. But then, I would watch it even if it was boring, for Cornwall, and northern skies, and Demelza.
Apparently women everywhere have been going wild over its star Aidan Turner and his topless scenes. I myself am not interested in this kind of thing. Give me instead the denuding of the eyes and of the careful facial expression. Give me the naked soul. I look for this always in a hero - tender human vulnerability, even at the heart of their strength.
We are the children of kings. For millenia, we have valued power, dominance, the force of arms and of intelligence. But the deep knowledge of what true strength is, of being honest, fragile, hopeful - naked as it were - before each other, lives on in old stories. Women's stories. Fairy tales.
The prince who goes on his knees, shoe in hand, heart in mouth, before the serving girl.
I have a friend who agrees with me that while Elizabeth Poldark may be lovely, elegant, and rich, Demelza is to be preferred. And not because of which woman wins the hero Poldark's heart, but because of who each is within herself. There may be comfort and ease in Elizabeth's situation, but Demelza has all the true wealth of the world. How could anyone choose gold rings and careful ringlets over the luxury of the wild night sky, the wind, a good dog at your side? Oh, but so many women do. They choose a convenient love, betraying their own grief. They think beauty is in clothes and porcelain plates. And they mistake what a king is.
A real king is not the man on his throne, the hero on his horse, the sexy guy with his shirt off. It is the man who has a quiet, ordinary conversation with you in the corridor late at night - because you are worth talking to, not because you are beautiful. It is the man who sees your value even when you are asleep to it, or covered in soot, or walled up behind glass or stone. It is the man who honours you with his fragility, the nakedness beneath his skin.
The man becoming this, the woman choosing this (and choosing herself, if she hasn't already) - that is the greatest romance of all in my opinion, because it's about our souls' relationship with love and truth.
Some people have been comparing Poldark to gothic tales like Wuthering Heights. To me, it is like a fairy tale. And so I'll be watching on, not for the moments when Ross Poldark takes off his shirt, but when he takes off his brooding countenance, and shows the lonely, frightened, beautiful soul within.
And for when Demelza lifts her face to the wind.