The Definition of Love Poem Summary & Analysis

The Definition of Love
The Definition of Love

Contents

The Definition of Love Summary:

The Definition of Love
The Definition of Love

The poem’s speaker is an anonymous lover who contemplates the character and definition of affection. He begins by saying that his love is both “rare” and “strange” because it had been “begotten by Despair / Upon Impossibility.” He goes on to say that only despair could divulge to him “so divine a thing” as this love, because “Hope” could never come near it. He imagines that he “quickly might arrive” where this love is leading him, but finds that his soul’s inclinations are thwarted by Fate, who “drives iron wedges” between the speaker and therefore the object of his affection.

According to the speaker, the matter is that Fate cannot allow “Two perfect loves” to return together. Doing so would overthrow Fate’s power, so Fate has placed the 2 lovers into physically separate spaces, like “distant poles” which will never closethey need to remain separate, the speaker laments, unless “giddy Heaven” falls or the whole world is suddenly “cramped into a planisphere.” The speaker then compares the lovers’ connection to 2 infinite lines, each of which forms an ideal circle. Because these lines are parallel, though, they shall never intersect. Therefore, the speaker concludes, Fate has enviously thwarted the love that binds him to his beloved, and therefore the only way they will be together is during a union of their minds. The Definition of Love read more …

The Definition of Love
Analysis:

Scholars often connect Marvell’s “The Definition of Love” to John Donne’s metaphysical lyrics, thanks to the flowery imagery and therefore the neo-platonic implications of affection between souls or minds that are distinct from the human body. The poem constitutes a search of affection by depicting two perfect yet irreconcilable loves – the love of the speaker, and therefore the love of his lover. These two loves are perfect in themselves and that they face one another in opposition to perfection, but, consistent with the speaker’s formulation, that very same condition prevents them from meeting within the physical sphere. The poem consists of eight stanzas, each of which features four lines of iambic tetrameter that rhyme alternately, during a pattern of ABAB, CDCD, then forth.

In the first stanza, the speaker makes an odd and striking claim – that his love is so unique and “rare” it must are born of “Despair” and “Impossibility,” which may be a surprisingly dark and tragic formulation of affection. The speaker goes on to elucidate that only despair could have revealed this like to him because it shows both the utter perfection of the love he feels and at an equivalent time, the impossibility of its physical fulfillment. Hence, the speaker constructs an oxymoron – “Magnanimous Despair” – as an effort to bring his reader closer to understanding the character of his love.

Marvell further develops the speaker’s frustration at being separated from his beloved in stanza three, where the speaker elaborates upon the role of Fate. The speaker claims that his perfect love would lead him to the place where his “extended soul is fixed,” or in other words, would lead his body to the situation where his soul is already connected to his beloved’s. However, Fate actively prevents this by erecting an “iron wedge” between the 2 lovers. The speaker then explains that Fate keeps the lovers from one another because it perceives their union as usurping its power. The speaker represents Fate as a tyrant with a “jealous eye” who desires to take care of control over the 2 perfect loves. The Definition of Love read more ...

He goes on to mention that Fate has given “decrees of steel” that place the 2 lovers distantly apart, which effectively prevents an ideal union of both their physical and spiritual love. The symbols of an iron wedge and a steel decree suggest Fate’s dominion over the hard, physical realities of the body, which contrasts sharply with the speaker’s claim that the lovers enjoy metaphysical perfection in their transcendent love.

Next, the speaker attempts to imagine the sole conditions during which he and his lover could be physically united. These include the Heavens falling, an earthquake collapsing the world, or the whole planet being compressed into a flat plane. The speaker uses the paradoxical term “Planisphere” for this imagined event. Each of those conditions is impossible, and because the speaker acknowledges this fact, he goes on to construct a replacement, geometrical conceit that contrasts the love of the speaker and his lady with a more typical love. Their love is sort of a pair of parallel lines – infinitely perfect as they extend – yet they shall never meet. Meanwhile, common love is a smaller amount perfect, sort of a pair of oblique lines, which naturally will eventually intersect.

In the final stanza, Marvell delivers two definitions of the speaker’s love: it’s both “the conjunction of the mind” and therefore the “opposition of the celebs .” This two-part definition encapsulates the divided nature of their love. On one hand, the image of conjunction suggests proximity and harmony, while the image of opposition implies that their love can never be fully realized. this concept implicitly refers to the facility of Fate within the physical universe, which during this case, prevents the lovers from meeting on the plane of fabric embodiment.

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