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July 12, 2011


Andrew Marvell, The Definition of Love, beginning. The poem ends with astrological metaphor:

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 debarrs,
Is the Conjunction of the Mind,
And Opposition of the Stars.

Blue Zenith

I might also add, that the word "star" which appears in Dr. Yenser's paraphrase of the first three verses, does not appear in the poem except as the very last word. It must however be brought into the paraphrase to relate the beginning to the five remaining verses, which are an extended astronomical conceit. Like so much poetry, especially of this period, the subtext is the reconciliation of the scientific and the imaginative, and here pre and post copernican worldviews. I wonder of Marvell's awareness of Dante -- the three books of the Comedy all ending with that word, stelle.

Incidentally, Marvell was an Aries, the sign of beginning, and so was charmed to begin his poem with a birth:

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

This nuance, missed in the paraphrase, is a light reference to the horoscope -- as the work nativity for Marvell would mean both horoscope and birth. The "object strange and high" would be some sort of planet or constellation, "begotten by despair / Upon Impossibility" that is, like most of the constellations, the offspring of a mythological parentage. So the poem is perhaps less complex and, has a unity that is more apparent if the pervasiveness of astrology in the 17th century is taken into account.

Blue Z.

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I left it
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