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Need help Interpreting this poem by: Andrew Marvell

 
 
Reply Sat 3 Sep, 2005 02:32 am
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.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Sep, 2005 09:11 am
ying ying, welcome to A2K. The way to explicate any poetry that seems esoteric, is to ask yourself questions:

What is being compared?
Why is Marvel concerned?
What words (diction) does he use to make the idea come to life?
Have you ever experienced this in your life?

When you have answered these questions, your interpretation will be what you sense it to be.
0 Replies
 
AngeliqueEast
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Sep, 2005 11:34 am
Here is more help.

http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/DummiesArticle/id-1746.html

http://www.soyouwanna.com/site/syws/poem/img/POEM_graphic.gif
0 Replies
 
AngeliqueEast
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Sep, 2005 11:43 am
One more thing: If you ever like a poet very much, and want to better understand his poetry; then study his life, and his time.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Sep, 2005 03:55 pm
Re: Need help Interpreting this poem by: Andrew Marvell
ying-ying wrote:
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.
ying-ying
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Sep, 2005 10:05 pm
ขอบคุณมากนะคะ
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Sep, 2005 10:59 pm
dlowan, i have a question for you, but i have to preface it with some remarks. your interpretation makes perfect sense. i understood most of the poem when i first saw it, except these 2 lines:

In whom both beauties to my death agree,

She having gained both the wind and sun.

that little death allusion never ocurred to me; perhaps that's a result of not having great familiarity with English literature of the period. but i didn't make the link from wind/sun to eyes/voice, either. i believe i'm a good reader in some respects, but afflicted with a deaf year to metaphor & symbolism. so, here's the question. in the case of classic poetry or literature that has a more-or-less standard interpretation, what harm would come of bundling the interpretation with the work itself? by all means, the reader ought to apply his or her own critical faculties to the work, but if the faculties aren't equal to the task, then isn't it preferable to gain insight from a third party than to remain mystified? i can always get Cliff Notes, of course, but that's a bit overkill, not to mention inconvenient.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 03:25 am
Do you mean: What would be the harm of publishing the poetry with notes indicating interpretations, and giving you the knowledge you need to interpret the poem?


If so - none at all. Many texts meant for use by students have annotations to assist in interpretation.

Norton critical editions are quite good, I think.
0 Replies
 
AngeliqueEast
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 03:26 am
Re: Need help Interpreting this poem by: Andrew Marvell
dlowan wrote:
ying-ying wrote:
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.



I loved your interpretation.

"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."

It's been a while since I read about "the little death".
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 05:39 am
Dlowan, you go, girl!
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 06:28 am
Lol - but do you agree, MA? What can you add?

You have often corrected me...
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 08:14 am
dlowan wrote:
Lol - but do you agree, MA? What can you add?

You have often corrected me...


Not this time. I think you're spot-on. As for the sun/wind imagery, surely it's not too far-fetched to think of the beloved's eyes as the sun and of her voice as the wind.
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 08:41 am
dl, i'm adding Norton Critical Editions to my ever-growing list of books to read. thanks. ;-)
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 08:44 am
yitwail, I strongly recommend The Norton Anthology of English Literature. It is comprehensive and well annotated.
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Sep, 2005 02:21 pm
MA, i may have an old, two volume harcover of the very item somewhere within a pile of unopened boxes in the garage. Embarrassed
0 Replies
 
heatherpants
 
  2  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 11:08 am
@dlowan,
I find this analysis so very helpful. I am currently writing a comparison essay in which I contrast this poem to Emily Dickinson [Because I Could Not Stop For Death], and your view Marvell's poem was so enlightening.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Mar, 2010 02:33 pm
@heatherpants ,
Glad it was useful, heatherpants.
0 Replies
 
 

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