Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Petrarch

When I first read this poem I assumed it was talking about the love between a man and a woman and how a man viewed his lover before he lost her, but as I read and reread it I realized I had interpreted it wrong. After also researching Petrarch, a poet who was quite taken with a woman by the name of Laura, I came to an even better understanding. This poem seems to be more about forbidden love. More specifically desire and want for a young girl by someone who is much older than she. The beginning half of the poem is told as if someone is watching a young girl from afar and reflecting on her beauty, but they aren’t able to physically touch her. For example the first two lines “Loose to the wind her golden tresses streamed, Forming bright waves with amorous Zephyr’s sighs” sounds almost like a longing to be near her and to touch her flowing hair. More importantly the reference to a nymph in line 5, which refers to a young beautiful girl who is carefree and seemingly na├»ve, tells us what lines 3 and 4 mean: “And though averted now, her charming eyes, Then with warm love, and melting pity beamed”. It’s as if she’s teasing him without knowing it. To her these movements probably seem harmless and natural, but by calling her a nymph we know that he sees them as her coyly teasing him. The term nymph also leads to the idea of sexual desire. For example nymphs are often thought to be attractive creatures that drive someone into obsession such as in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. To prove my point, the next two lines sound as if he’s trying to convince himself that this isn’t just an infatuation on his part, but she loves him as well. He talks of how her cheeks became red and he took this as a signal of her love (“That fine suffusion on thy cheek was love”), which warmed his heart (“Should fire this heart, this tender heart of mine!”). The lines “Thy soft melodious voice, thy air, thy shape, Were of a goddess—not a mortal maid” references Greek mythology, and also shows how he immortalizes her in his mind. However, by the end of the poem I think he realizes she will not remain the person he’s infatuated with forever because she is indeed human, but this doesn’t mean he will stop loving her. “My heart, my tender heart could not escape” declares his love for her. It’s as if he is now letting her go or the idea of her go. “Nor cure for me in time or change be found” is like a personal promise to himself that even though time keeps moving and the world is constantly changing, his love for her will not. And although he is without the person he loves “the shaft extracted” he is not without his love for her “does not cure the wound.”

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