Re: Need help Interpreting this poem by: Andrew Marvell
i really need help analysing this poem by Andrew Marvell
I can't find any analysis of the poem anywhere on the net so any help would be greatly appreciated. Any interpretations about the imagery used, language used, etc would really be fantastic. from Thailand
THE FAIR SINGER
by: Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
O make a final conquest of all me,
Love did compose so sweet an enemy,
In whom both beauties to my death agree,
Joining themselves in fatal harmony;
That while she with her eyes my heart does bind,
She with her voice might captivate my mind.
I could have fled from one but singly fair,
My disentangled soul itself might save,
Breaking the curled trammels of her hair.
But how should I avoid to be her slave,
Whose subtle art invisibly can wreath
My fetters of the very air I breathe?
It had been easy fighting in some plain,
Where victory might hang in equal choice,
But all resistance against her is vain,
Who has th'advantage both of eyes and voice,
And all my forces needs must be undone,
She having gained both the wind and sun.
Th e poem uses the common theme of love as "conquest" - that is, by causing the poet to fall in love with him, she has defeated him. He goes so far as to compare this conquest with killing him - which is interesting, as people in this period referred to orgasm as "the little death" and dying was a euphemism for making love.
The "weapons" that achieve this conquest - working together, or harmonising - are the woman's eyes, which appeal to his feelings, and her voice and words which appeal to his mind.
He goes on to say that he might have been able to resist a woman with only one attraction - but these two he cannot defeat. If a woman had only beautiful hair, he might have escaped. The image here is of being ensnared in hair - but because of the woman's lovely voice (and I keep assuming the matter of her speech - he is, I think saying she has both beauty and intelligence) she is able to make far a more effective snare with the more subtle air - the air through which her voice moves and the breath which her voice is made of.
He goes on to say that a physical battle would be easier and he would have had an equal chance - but in battling both her beauty (which gives her "the sun" - that is the powers of vision) and her voice (the wind) he is helpless. I have a half thought that the Jacobeans believed that beams of light came from our eyes, too, enabling us too see - you might want to look that up - if so, he is also comparing her eyes to the sun.
The poem amusingly and gallantly uses hyperbole to praise the object of the poet's love, and to stress his helplessness - he is up against the elements themselves, and is utterly helpless. This extends the amusing metaphor of love as a battle and conquest, in which this woman's beauty and intelligence capture body and soul - or heart and mind.