Summary and Analysis of The Definition of Love

Summary and Analysis of The Definition of Love


The speaker of the poem is an unknown lover who considers the nature and definition of love. He begins by describing his love as “unique” and “abnormal” since it was “begotten by Despair / Upon Impossibility.” He goes on to say that only sorrow could disclose to him “such a wonderful thing” as love, and that “hope” could never come close to it. He imagines himself “quickly arriving” where this love is taking him, but Fate, who “drives iron wedges” between the speaker and the object of his devotion, thwarts his soul’s impulses.

The issue, according to the speaker, is that Fate will not allow “two perfect lovers” to unite. Because doing so would undermine Fate’s authority, Fate has separated the two lovers into physically different locations, like “far poles” that can never be joined. Unless “giddy Heaven” crashes or the entire universe is suddenly “cramped into a planisphere,” the speaker laments, they must remain apart. After that, the speaker compares the lovers’ bond to two endless lines, each of which makes a complete circle. However, because these lines are parallel, they will never cross. As a result, the speaker believes that Fate has enviously blocked his love for his lover, and the only way they can be together is through a mental union.


Due to the rich imagery and neo-platonic connotations of love between souls or minds that is separate from the physical body, scholars frequently link Marvell’s “The Definition of Love” to John Donne’s metaphysical poems. The poem depicts two beautiful yet incompatible loves – the speaker’s love and his lover’s love – and so serves as an examination of love. These two loves are perfect in their own right, and they confront each other in perfect opposition, but that same condition, according to the speaker’s description, precludes them from meeting in the physical realm. The poem is divided into eight stanzas, each with four lines of iambic tetrameter that rhyme alternately in an ABAB, CDCD, and so on pattern.


The speaker makes an unusual and startling assertion in the opening line, claiming that his love is so unique and “special” that it must have been born of “Despair” and “Impossibility,” a very gloomy and sad interpretation of love. The speaker goes on to say that only sadness could have shown this love to him because it demonstrates both the absolute purity of the love he feels and the impossibility of its physical fulfillment at the same moment. As a result, the speaker creates an oxymoron – “Magnanimous Despair” – in order to help his reader comprehend the nature of his love.

In stanza three, when the speaker elaborates on the role of Fate, Marvell further emphasizes the speaker’s anguish at being separated from his lover. The speaker says that his perfect love would take him to the area where his “stretched soul is fixed,” or, in other words, where his soul is already joined to that of his lover. Fate, on the other hand, actively intervenes by creating a “iron wedge” between the two loves. The speaker goes on to explain that Fate separates the lovers because it sees their union as usurping its sovereignty. Fate is represented by the speaker as a dictator with a “jealous eye” who wants to keep control of the two ideal loves. Summary and Analysis of The Definition of Love


He goes on to claim that Fate has issued “steel decrees” between the two lovers, effectively preventing a full union of their physical and spiritual love. Fate’s rule over the harsh, physical reality of the body is suggested by the images of an iron wedge and a steel edict, which contrasts strongly with the speaker’s claim that the lovers experience metaphysical perfection in their own transcending love.


The speaker then tries to conjure up the only circumstances under which he and his beloved might be physically joined. The Heavens might fall, the Earth could collapse due to an earthquake, or the entire globe could be squeezed into a flat plain. For this envisioned event, the speaker uses the contradictory word “Planisphere.” Each of these requirements is implausible, and when the speaker recognizes this, he proceeds to create a new, geometrical conceit that compares the speaker’s and his lady’s love with a more conventional love. Their love is like a pair of parallel lines that continue indefinitely flawless, but they will never meet. In the meanwhile, shared love is less flawless, like a pair of oblique lines that will ultimately cross due to nature.


Marvell gives two explanations of the speaker’s love in the last stanza: it is both “the union of the intellect” and “the opposition of the stars.” The split character of their love is encapsulated in this two-part description. On the one hand, the picture of conjunction connotes closeness and harmony, but the image of the opposition says that their love will never be fully fulfilled. This concept alludes to Fate’s authority in the physical cosmos, which prohibits the lovers from meeting in the plane of material embodiment in this situation.

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Summary and Analysis of The Definition of Love

The summary of Batter My Heart by John Donne


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