Monday, November 24, 2014

Poem-02 - Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds - English Elective Class XI Notes - Woven Words

Poem-02 - Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

PARAPHRASE OF THE POEM

Let me not declare any reasons why two true-minded people should not be married. Love is not love which changes when it finds a change in circumstances, or bends from its firm stand even when a lover is unfaithful: Oh no! it is a lighthouse that sees storms but it is never shaken; Love is the guiding north star to every lost ship, whose value cannot be calculated, although its altitude can be measured. Love is not at the mercy of Time, though physical beauty comes within the compass of his sickle. Love does not alter with hours and weeks, but, rather, it endures until the last day of life. If I am proved wrong about these thoughts on love, then I recant all that I have written, and no man has ever [truly] loved.

NOTES 

marriage...impediments (1-2): T.G. Tucker explains that the first two lines are a "manifest allusion to the words of the Marriage Service: 'If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in holy matrimony'; cf. Much Ado 4.1.12. 'If either of you know any inward impediment why you should not be conjoined.' Where minds are true - in possessing love in the real sense dwelt upon in the following lines - there can be no 'impediments' through change of circumstances, outward appearance, or temporary lapses in conduct." (Tucker, p. 192). 

bends with the remover to remove (4): i.e., deviates ("bends") to alter its course ("remove") with the departure of the lover. 

ever-fixed mark (5): i.e., a lighthouse (mark = sea-mark).
Compare Othello (5.2.305-7): 

Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon'd;
Here is my journey's end, here is my butt,
And very sea-mark of my utmost sail. 

the star to every wandering bark (7): i.e., the star that guides every lost ship (guiding star = Polaris). Shakespeare again mentions Polaris (also known as "the north star") in Much Ado About Nothing (2.1.222) and Julius Caesar (3.1.65). 

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken (8): The subject here is still the north star. The star's true value can never truly be calculated, although its height can be measured. 

Love's not Time's fool (9): i.e., love is not at the mercy of Time. 

Within his bending sickle's compass come (10): i.e., physical beauty falls within the range ("compass") of Time's curved blade. Note the comparison of Time to the Grim Reaper, the scythe-wielding personification of death. 

edge of doom (12): i.e., Doomsday. Compare 1 Henry IV (4.1.141): 

Come, let us take a muster speedily:
Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily. 
_____ 

Sonnet 116 is about love in its most ideal form. The poet praises the glories of lovers who have come to each other freely, and enter into a relationship based on trust and understanding. The first four lines reveal the poet's pleasure in love that is constant and strong, and will not "alter when it alteration finds." The following lines proclaim that true love is indeed an "ever-fix'd mark" which will survive any crisis. In lines 7-8, the poet claims that we may be able to measure love to some degree, but this does not mean we fully understand it. Love's actual worth cannot be known – it remains a mystery. The remaining lines of the third quatrain (9-12), reaffirm the perfect nature of love that is unshakeable throughout time and remains so "ev'n to the edge of doom", or death. 

In the final couplet, the poet declares that, if he is mistaken about the constant, unmovable nature of perfect love, then he must take back all his writings on love, truth, and faith. Moreover, he adds that, if he has in fact judged love inappropriately, no man has ever really loved, in the ideal sense that the poet professes. The details of Sonnet 116 are best described by Tucker Brooke in his acclaimed edition of Shakespeare's poems: 

[In Sonnet 116] the chief pause in sense is after the twelfth line. Seventy-five per cent of the words are monosyllables; only three contain more syllables than two; none belong in any degree to the vocabulary of 'poetic' diction. There is nothing recondite, exotic, or metaphysical in the thought. There are three run-on lines, one pair of double-endings. There is nothing to remark about the rhyming except the happy blending of open and closed vowels, and of liquids, nasals, and stops; nothing to say about the harmony except to point out how the fluttering accents in the quatrains give place in the couplet to the emphatic march of the almost unrelieved iambic feet. In short, the poet has employed one hundred and ten of the simplest words in the language and the two simplest rhyme-schemes to produce a poem which has about it no strangeness whatever except the strangeness of perfection. (Brooke, p. 234)

UNDERSTANDING THE POEM

  1. ‘Constancy’ is the theme of the poem. Indicate the words, phrases and images that suggest the theme.

    "an ever-fixed mark", "never shaken"; "Love’s not Time’s fool", "Love alters not", "bears it out even to the edge of doom" are some of the expressions that suggest the theme that love is permanent.
  2. Why do you think the poet has used so many ‘negatives’ to make his statement?

    ‘negatives’ are an effective tool to prove one’s point. It highlights the other side of the coin to bring home the positive points of the statement very effectively. In this case the poet puts forward all the negative aspects that love is taken for, and then argues that love is something permanent and beyond physical beauty.
  3. What does the line ‘I never writ, nor no man ever loved’ imply?It implies that if the poet is proved wrong about these thoughts on love, then he will recant all that he has written, and no man has ever [truly] loved.

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