the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Andrew Marvell

"The Definition of Love "

When I first saw this title, my thoughts ran cynically to see how someone would dare try to define something like love. Instead, Marvell succinctly described the common element of all love in literature. I thought that his poem would wax and wane about lover's eyes and things of that sort or even have something about the agony of his misery. The poem is titled "Definition of Love" but rather, it defines Fate. Love is only mentioned three times, yet Fate is described with jealous eyes, and with tyrannic power that she uses to drive the lovers apart. The simple and short stanzas make it seem as fact, so that Fate's power is absolute and that the lovers are "so truly parallel...can never meet." In fact line 15 shows that Fate's sole purpose is to drive wedges between love and to create a Despair where "feeble Hope could ne'er have flown." It's a bit pessimistic, but I suppose that there needs to be a test to prove the love, otherwise no one would know the strength of the love. Marvell finds that the perserverance against Fate defines Love, just as there must a battle to determine a winner or like there must be tests to credit intelligence or common sense. So instead of trying to describe the aspects of Love, he describes something entirely different and we find that the conflict actually yields a definition of a sort after all.


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