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The Greatest Love Above Any Other (Ross and Demelza Poldark: The Love Story -Pt5)

Art of Vera Adex @Veraadexer_Art

This is the fifth blog in the series for the love story of Ross and Demelza Poldark. It follows from the last one (The Magic of the 'Fall' in Love) where during a moonlit night Ross declared his love for Demelza. So now that a mutual love between Ross and Demelza had been established in the journey so far, what was next to do was to build on this. In doing so it was clear that the next phase was Graham demonstrating that from its almost clumsy and slightly angst beginning bloomed a love that was beautiful, passionate and strong. A love which to Ross he discovered '...carried the knowledge of beauty in its heart.' With most readers falling for them as hero and heroine, protagonist and co-protagonist, and both extremely good hearted and likeable people, the ingredients for good will for their love are secured. Now was to build on that love and establish that Ross and Demelza meant more to each other than any other person and therefore that their love for each other truly was a love above any other. 

A saving grace 

Once Ross fell in love with Demelza it was evident that their love was building and becoming something quite special. Demelza continued to be a light for Ross in the dark and his joy on a joyless day. For example when returning from Trenwith for Uncle Charles's funeral '..Ross's annoyance began to leave him at the prospect of seeing Demelza again.' As Demelza's happiness was also reflected in her running and skipping to join him, for him it was a '..peculiar pleasure to see her face light up..' Their love and joy in each other was now undoubtedly mutual and there was further confirmation that she had altogether changed his experience and mood in life. For instance, in referring to the time he returned from war hoping to marry Elizabeth but finding her engaged to his cousin, Ross told Demelza that "Before I found you, when I came back from America things looked black for me..." The contrast clearly being that it was Demelza who had since brought him out of that darkness. His thoughts there were reminiscent of his thoughts not long after marriage to Demelza that '..those few bad moments when Elizabeth called were almost forgotten and altogether discarded.' Demelza had turned things around for him. Also not long after the marriage Verity then gives the reader a third party perspective after she stayed with them at Nampara for a short break. In that time and even as a stranger to Demelza she could see for herself that Ross was very much in love with Demelza. But she too marked it as a life changing thing for Ross when telling Demelza " seem to have made him fall in love with you, and that ..has changed his whole life..."  Further to that she told her that "There's such a change in Ross, and it is your doing." Whereas before, when Ross knew himself to be happy but not why, now, he clearly linked Demelza with his own happiness and early in their marriage after scolding her for moving the spinet and potentially injuring herself, in his anxiety about her back pains he reminded Demelza to "...remember that you have a selfish man to consider whose happiness is part of your own." 

Tempting fate with a tempting Ex

There is no doubt that Ross was a man in love. He could be confident in Demelza's love of him and he unashamedly wanted to show her off too. But before taking her out into society the first big test was meeting the family and more significantly meeting the woman he had thought of as his first love. Elizabeth. 

Ross's decision to accept the invitation for Christmas at Trenwith with Demelza was highly significant and risky in this early stage of their love. Ultimately their love did prove to be strong enough but Demelza's anxiety about mixing with Ross's family and his ex girlfriend (who was several classes above her), was then quite understandable. Demelza had been anxious enough about Verity coming to stay at Nampara but to her surprise found that Verity had proved to be warm, approachable and non judgmental.
The bigger deal was facing the woman who Ross had loved, intended to marry and who as readers we are led to believe he still did love. For Ross he was so invested and in love with Demelza that it did not occur to him that there was any danger in this adventure. For him, 'He wanted Elizabeth to see that he had been content with no common substitute, either from his own class or another.' As a starting point it was both endearing and reaffirming of his love of Demelza that Ross should regard her so well that he thought others would also do so regardless of her class but because of the person that she was. However at this stage the reader might still have been worried that it was a dangerous business for Ross to tempt fate with, and that maybe he was thinking naively. Still, in building on this love story it was an important first test for Ross and Demelza in order to establish what their love was made of when exposed to a possible threat quite early on. In proving that their love was indeed not a fickle one, as stated, i
t did transpire that they passed this relationship milestone with flying colours. They remained completely absorbed in each other and much to most reader's relief at this point Elizabeth presented as no threat to Ross and Demelza's love.

'In her own queer way she rivalled Elizabeth.'

In the knowledge imparted by the narrator that Elizabeth was an incredibly beautiful woman, upon seeing both her and Demelza together it is quite a coup for them that Ross still thought that in respect of Demelza ' her own queer way she rivalled Elizabeth,..' Even with having a private one to one conversation with Elizabeth at this festive family gathering, and apart from an initial recognition that all feeling for Elizabeth was not completely dead and she was still some kind of fever to him, there was no narrative of Ross to a worrying extent being so disorientated by her or having a surge of longing for her. Instead for him it was an evening spent mainly in awe of his new wife. Demelza was a success for herself at Trenwith as well as for Ross. Being the former kitchen maid did not prevent her being well received by the gentlefolk including John Trenoglos who was highly appreciative and charmed by her. His flirting with her was very much to his wife's (Ruth Trenoglos nee' Teague's) annoyance. In highlighting that it was Demelza's charm that was particularly appealing, Francis admitted that he liked Demelza and her 'mettlesomeness'. But with Elizabeth presented to the readers in the saga as the most sought after and the vision of the 'ideal woman', it appeared that Graham used Francis to drop this idea that having the ideal woman did not necessarily prove to be the ideal after all.

Thus in contrast to Francis's praise of Demelza he referred to own his wife, as being '..perhaps more of an angel than a wife' and one who ''makes life a mortal serious business." To continue that contrast, and as if in reverse, we are told that during the evening 'Ross thought with sudden pleasure of Demelza upstairs...full of youth and good spirits.' Also that 'The thought of Demelza warmed his mind and lit it up...' In this there therefore appeared to be a tale of two marriages here with Francis drawing gloom and doom from his wife and Ross finding pleasure and warmth in his. Certainly Demelza rivalled Elizabeth in that she was a source of pleasure and interest to both of Elizabeth's love interests. This would later cause Elizabeth to lose her cool with Francis in a later conversation in book two first edition (Demelza) where she is unable to hide her irritation at Francis's compliments towards Demelza.

Retaining ascendancy over Ross

It becomes clear later in the next book, book two (Demelza) that despite Elizabeth being married and Ross now also married to Demelza, that Elizabeth still viewed Demelza competitively as her rival. Retrospectively we are told of Elizabeth, that looking back 'At Christmas she had been a little piqued by the young Demelza's success...'  Indeed Graham made it clear at this stage in the love story that in coming face to face with Ross's first love at that Christmas gathering, that Demelza had still managed to be 'successful' in retaining her ascendancy in Ross's mind. She had not been usurped by Elizabeth. In fact it was this that would prompt Elizabeth to as a result take 'pains to rebuild her ascendancy over Ross....' because at this stage she had not impacted on or outshone Ross's love for Demelza. He was only consumed with thoughts of his wife and his pride in her. Graham tells us of Ross that 'He felt pleased and stimulated and proud of the developing character of his young wife." 

As for Demelza, although she had observed Elizabeth over a seven hour period with Ross and that in that time Elizabeth had been 'making eyes at him like a she-cat...', if there was any doubt whether his love and interest was stolen away by her Graham made sure to eliminate this. He wrote in a closing and beautiful love scene where with Demelza having been referred to several times as a 'bud' all evening and lastly by Graham  likened to a 'white flower', she received tender kisses in foreplay from Ross later in bed. Letting him first do what he wanted to her Graham wrote that 'the white heart of the bud was free of its petals.' Leaving the rest of their night antics unwritten and therefore to reader's imagination, and speaking of Demelza to Ross, he wrote that just before this release 'she put up her hands to his face and kiss(ed) him in return.'

The fever of Elizabeth Poldark

As referred above it is not at all the case that Ross was completely unaffected by seeing his first love Elizabeth. It would not have slipped the reader's attention that when he first saw her he realised he still had feelings for her, thought of her as a 'fever' and that rather than Demelza being an inoculant to this he thought that she was perhaps a separate fever. Although his focus and absorption with Demelza was all consuming the knowledge that Elizabeth was still a fever to Ross means that in literary terms there was still a fire from his connection with her that was not altogether put out for the story. Therefore Demelza was not altogether safe and the reader should have expected that this seed of competition would indeed bear fruit in due course. Of course, this is to be expected in a good love story with a love triangle. However Demelza's success and ability to outshine Elizabeth here at Trenwith for Christmas was perhaps a foreboding that in the final battle when Ross fell to Elizabeth's temptation, that Demelza would not be so obviously out of her league and standing so little chance. In fact she did prove to be the stronger contender and maybe it was the case that she had been a slow burning cure to the fever of Elizabeth after all. 

'Their relationship at that moment had no flaw'- The greatest of all

If anything came from that first Christmas at Trenwith it was to document the strength of Ross and Demelza's love, their bond and confirmation that it was not extinguished on sight of the apparently divine Elizabeth. Also this was something more than a 'shabby' affair that Ross had thought he had before he fell in love with Demelza. Graham certainly conveyed it was more than this where here at six months into their marriage we are told that on this evening with his wife and before the so called freeing of the petals of the white flower 'Ross had a moment of unspoiled satisfaction. He received love and gave it in equal and generous measure.' But 
as they casually talked of the night's event all this to Ross was 'The intimacy of pure companionship.' Hence, it was indeed special to him and in a sentence of further confirmation Graham wrote that 'Their relationship at that moment had no flaw.' On their way home Ross was 'filled with a tremendous sense of enlightenment.' Then 'Ross thought: again I am happy. This is something different again, and in some new way the greatest of all.' So happy was Ross that as he walked home with Demelza he thought he would like to stop life and that 'This is all I ask God. Let me hold it. Let me hold it.' (*)  

Demelza- Surer of Ross's love

On Demelza's side after that Christmas at Trenwith she felt a boost of confidence and security in her love with Ross and in his love of her. Graham revealed that she had been worried that ever since Ross had fallen in love with her there really had been nothing to distract him and nothing for him to compare her against. But now there was a triumph that despite the 'she-cat eyes' from Elizabeth that Ross had still wanted her. Demelza. So in her thoughts she too felt a happiness and Graham cited 'Demelza thought: I am nearer sure of him than I have ever been before.' The reader is also invited to feel a little surer of Ross's love for her too and that it was quite significant that after spending time with and facing the allure of Elizabeth, he still felt his happiness in his love with Demelza was 'the greatest of all.'

She meant more to him that any other 

As the love story continues and particularly in book two (Demelza), it is made clear that Ross's focus and happiness was in Demelza as the woman that meant more to him than any other. Echoing his narrative in the first book, when Demelza's father disrupts Julia's christening Graham again reminds readers that Ross is a different man because of Demelza and is still '...grown away from his disappointment; the content and happiness he had found with Demelza had softened his intolerance.' So thoughts of Elizabeth did not cause him to feel an incline of disappointment in his life and who he ended up with. During the labour of Julia, Ross tells Demelza that he loves her but it is worrying that when under duress from Demelza to deny that he was in love with Elizabeth too, that he did deny it but privately thought he did not really know this for sure. We know that Ross's confusion later and the 'fever' of Elizabeth is the seed that Graham left to sprout for a later date.
This will be covered in the later blogs of this series but meanwhile it is nevertheless significant that he went on to tell Demelza with conviction that "Nothing else matters but you. Remember that. All my relatives and friends- and Elizabeth and the house and the mine....I'd throw them in the dust and you know it...if you don't know it, then all these months i've failed and no words I can give you now will make it otherwise." Though the average reader may suspect that he just said this to appease her, this is unlikely as the same idea is confirmed and consistent not just with further statements made by Ross but more significantly in his own private thoughts. In fact just later in this second book Graham tells us that for Ross, whilst holding Demelza 'He was struck by the mystery of.....the young woman (Demelza)...that this dark curling hair and head meant more to him than any other because it made up in some mysterious way just that key which unlocked his attention and desire and love.' This was a very powerful thought which certainly confirmed a truth in his earlier comment that faced with a choice he would rather throw Elizabeth in the dust than Demelza. That does makes sense because whatever he felt for Elizabeth he felt sure that Demelza was the one that meant more to him. Again it supports his original feeling that to him his happiness with Demelza was 'the greatest of all.' It is therefore another nugget of foreboding left by Graham as to the likely outcome of the future climax to the love triangle and who between Elizabeth and Demelza would ultimately take and keep Ross's heart. In hindsight it would in fact appear that the question of who Ross really loved or loved more was answered as early as the start of this second book.

No More Torture In Seeing Elizabeth 

Previously before his marriage to Demelza Graham documented Ross's feeling of loss when seeing Elizabeth. For the Truro Charity ball six months after her marriage to Francis ' the unexpected sight of Elizabeth his make-believe enjoyment crumbled away.' The thought of another man enjoying Elizabeth was to Ross ' the torture of damnation.' But now that Ross had found a happiness with Demelza in his frustrated and failed love story with Elizabeth, we are shown a Ross relatively unaffected by Elizabeth. Ross ended up seeing Elizabeth a number of times after Christmas at Trenwith 1787. For instance at Julia's christening, Demelza's first ball and the Warleggan after party. At these events Graham no longer provided narration or private thoughts of Ross which documented a sadness or longing for Elizabeth in place of Demelza. So if anything as the one that meant more to him, at this point, it was Demelza that served as a distraction to him from Elizabeth, rather than Elizabeth distracting him from Demelza.  It is in the third book 'Jeremy' when Ross did start to have a resurgence of longing for Elizabeth. Although as will be explored elsewhere it seemed as if his life woes at that time after the death of his first child caused him to view her as a point of escapism but that while still questioning his feelings for Elizabeth even then he knew with certainty that he loved Demelza devotedly.

Certainly at this point in the love story of Ross and Demelza, 
Elizabeth was not presenting as a disarming threat to them and Ross did not succumb to the temptation of Elizabeth in the early days of wedded bliss. Although for Ross, Demelza was not his first love, they both demonstrated that they were each other's greatest love above any other. Hence with Graham's narration, Ross's private thoughts and with Verity's observations too, it is more than clear that Demelza made Ross the happiest he had ever been and they experienced a happiness that for them really was the 'greatest of all'. Therefore the ground was laid for the reader to see if their love could stand the test of time and the stronger storms coming ahead. Also the reader may now have some more faith these such storms might be overcome and that it would be worthwhile if they did. This included during those difficult years of disappointment in each other, hardship, struggle and stress as covered in book three (Jeremy Poldark) and the blogs 'Love the Cherish, Forgive and Forget' and 'A Love for better or Worse'. What is also significant is that even when Elizabeth implied during a flirtatious conversation in book four (Warleggan), that she loved Ross (better than Francis), again Ross did not fall to this temptation but once again found that this only intensified the warmth of his feelings towards Demelza and his gratitude for having her. 

Storms Ahead-Future Temptations

Of course, we know that Ross did eventually fall from grace as he later did yield to temptation (or anger!) with Elizabeth. Whether this was motivated by a real and more powerful love above his love for Demelza is to be explored in the upcoming blog 'Surviving Romantic Temptations'. This will also cover Demelza's fall from grace with Hugh Armitage. But in these indiscretions neither appear to debunk the idea that Ross and Demelza did not still remain each other's greatest love above all. It is for this reason they would conquer the small storms of difficult times and then the bigger ones in those infidelities. 

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