Sunday, 17 February 2008

The Definition of Love

I had stopped bothering to watch Lark Rise to Candleford these past few weeks - it had begun to annoy me too much. Anachronism-spotting was proving far too unchallenging and joyless, and the last time I sat in front of it, I merely fell asleep with boredom.

However, tonight it happened to coincide with my feeling the urgent need to put my feet up with a restorative cuppa and I ended up seeing it. Two good things emerged from the general soup of toshiness: (1) Julia Sawalha - who really is quite wonderful to watch, and (2) The Definition of Love, by Andrew Marvell (1621-78), which I regret to say that I don't remember having read with intent since I was at school.

How silly it is, I often think, that we study at 13 or 14 poems (and plays and novels) which we cannot hope to understand until life and love have bashed us around a bit.

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'r have flown
But vainly flapt its Tinsel Wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended Soul is fixt,
But Fate does Iron wedges drive,
And alwaies crouds it self betwixt.

For Fate with jealous Eye does see.
Two perfect Loves; nor lets them close:
Their union would her ruine be,
And her Tyrannick pow'r depose.

And therefore her Decrees of Steel
Us as the distant Poles have plac'd,
(Though Loves 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 joyn, 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 Paralel,
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.


monix said...

I can't quite believe in young Laura reading the metaphysical poets in her spare time at the Post Office, Juliet. Was that more or less absurd than the 'Silver threads among the gold' duet, I wonder? I'm afraid I can't face any more. The greatest actors can't make this tosh credible.

Juliet said...

It's truly risible, M. Did you see that 'display of interesting old bottles' on a nice stripped pine shelf-unit in the warbling elders' house? I think the programme's 'stylists' have been referring exclusively to back-issues of Country Living magazine rather than to anything which might guide them towards a modicum of historical veracity. And as for the scriptwriters . . . . don't get me started!

But let's not get all cross on a Sunday night. I *was* genuinely pleased to have been reminded of this poem!

Stephen said...

How right you are to point up the way that young teenagers are expected to study work that presumes an adult experience of life in the reader.

I retook English Lit 'A' level a few years ago purely for pleasure. No improvement in my original grade I fear, but a real appreciation of Thomas Hardy's poetry, The Canterbury Tales, and James Joyce's Dubliners gained as a result. I'd had two of those three in my schooldays, and had been almost impossibly put off them first time around.

Juliet said...

Hi Stephen - welcome to Musings and congratulations on your second Eng Lit A-level. I came across an undergraduate essay of mine on Chaucer recently and was bowled over by my own youthful brilliance!!! I fear my brain must have been in steep decline ever since. On the other hand . . . I do wonder how I could possibly have had enough insight at that tender age to tackle some of the subject matter I waffled on about at length for three years.

I see you like Satie - I'd love to hear what you think of the clips on this post:

Stephen said...

I fear Satie will have to wait; my internet connection is far too tenuous for YouTube at the moment unfortunately. You might be surprised to know how many guitarists choose to play with unconventional numbers of strings, some luthiers specialise in them.

In the meantime, it's back to my 3 LPs with Frank Glazer doing the honours (very good performances, I don't know if they ever made it to CD).