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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Andrew Marvell: The Definition of Love


File:Kibble Palace Mirror.JPG

      My love is of a birth as rare
      As 'tis for object strange and high;
      It was begotten by Despair
      Upon Impossibility.

      Magnanimous Despair alone
      Could show me so divine a thing
      Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown,
      But vainly flapp'd its tinsel wing.

      And yet I quickly might arrive
      Where my extended soul is fixt,
      But Fate does iron wedges drive,
      And always crowds itself betwixt.

      For Fate with jealous eye does see
      Two perfect loves, nor lets them close;
      Their union would her ruin be,
      And her tyrannic pow'r depose.

      And therefore her decrees of steel
      Us as the distant poles have plac'd,
      (Though love's whole world on us doth wheel)
      Not by themselves to be embrac'd;

      Unless the giddy heaven fall,
      And earth some new convulsion tear;
      And, us to join, the world should all
      Be cramp'd into a planisphere.

      As lines, so loves oblique may well
      Themselves in every angle greet;
      But ours so truly parallel,
      Though infinite, can never meet.

      Therefore the love which us doth bind,
      But Fate so enviously debars,
      Is the conjunction of the mind,
      And opposition of the stars.

The Definition of Love: Andrew Marvell, from Miscellaneous Poems (1681)

Multi-faceted mirror, Kibble palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Scotland: photo by Roger Griffith, 2008


Joe Safdie said...

A belated happy birthday, old pal.

I teach this along with Donne's "Valediction Forbidding Mourning" these days . . . the old guys are still with us. Looking forward to see Duncan read at Beyond Baroque on Friday . . .

TC said...

Thanks Joe, though I've been trying to forget those crooked numbers (iron wedges with their steely decrees). Then again that's one saving grace of anciency, misremembering one's age is just as easy as misremembering everything else.

However I should hope Marvell and Donne will ne'er be forgotten. Not of course that they need readers of this millennium to make them great. But without exposure to their wit and passion, readers of this millennium will be that much the more impoverished.

TC said...

BTW Joe, re. Donne, I take it you will have seen this?

Joe Safdie said...

Well, just now I did! Hanging out with Tom R. for awhile is always an education -- his eye, and the things he catches with his camera, are like the things he registers in his poems . . .