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The Definition of Love by Andrew Marvell


The poet tries to give logic to the concept of love, as typical of a metaphysical poet like Marvell. Throughout the poem, he does not mention what his love is for, but instead, the author leaves it up to his reader to decide. He gives personification to both hope (portrayed as beautiful) and faith (portrayed as jealous and tyrannic).

The poem is arranged in a ABAB rhyme scheme, escept for the first stanza that is ABAC. The rhyme scheme serves as a way to give the writing stability while also giving the reader a sense of rhythm.

Love is something we all know and all appreciate. However, Marvell goes on to define it for us and tell us why we have it and why we need it.


The Definition of Love

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.

Published in "The Poems of Andrew Marvell" .

Next: The Garden

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Literary Movement
Metaphysical, 17th Century

Love, Personification, Hope, Beauty, Faith, Religion