Eyes and Tears

May 17, 2006 at 7:37 pm 1 comment

Andrew Marvell

Listen

How wisely Nature did decree,
With the same Eyes to weep and see!
That, having view’d the object vain,
They might be ready to complain.

And since the Self-deluding Sight,
In a false Angle takes each hight;
These Tears which better measure all,
Like wat’ry Lines and Plummets fall.

Two Tears, which Sorrow long did weigh
Within the Scales of either Eye,
And then paid out in equal Poise,
Are the true price of all my Joyes.

What in the World most fair appears,
Yea even Laughter, turns to Tears:
And all the Jewels which we prize,
Melt in these Pendants of the Eyes.

I have through every Garden been,
Amongst the Red,the White, the Green;
And yet, from all the flow’rs I saw,
No Hony, but these Tears could draw.

So the all-seeing Sun each day
Distills the World with Chymick Ray;
But finds the Essence only Showers,
Which straight in pity back he powers.

Yet happy they whom Grief doth bless,
That weep the more, and see the less:
And, to preserve their Sight more true,
Bath still their Eyes in their own Dew.

So Magdalen, in Tears more wise
Dissolv’d those captivating Eyes,
Whose liquid Chains could flowing meet
To fetter her Redeemers feet.

Not full sailes hasting loaden home,
Nor the chast Ladies pregnant Womb,
Nor Cynthia Teeming show’s so fair,
As two Eyes swoln with weeping are.

The sparkling Glance that shoots Desire,
Drench’d in these Waves, does lose it fire.
Yea oft the Thund’rer pitty takes
And here the hissing Lightning slakes.

The Incense was to Heaven dear,
Not as a Perfume, but a Tear.
And Stars shew lovely in the Night,
But as they seem the Tears of Light.

Ope then mine Eyes your double Sluice,
And practise so your noblest Use.
For others too can see, or sleep;
But only humane Eyes can weep.

Now like two Clouds dissolving, drop,
And at each Tear in distance stop:
Now like two Fountains trickle down:
Now like two floods o’return and drown.

Thus let your Streams o’reflow your Springs,
Till Eyes and Tears be the same things:
And each the other’s difference bears;
These weeping Eyes, those seeing Tears.

After that stinging rejoinder to his last poem, I figured Marvell would want a good cry.

This is Marvell at his baroque best, each quatrain an intricate and polished gem – a new image or metaphor introduced, expanded and then beautifully closed out, and through it all the constant counterpoint of eyes and tears, ending with that glorious final line. This isn’t, to me, a particularly moving poem in an emotional sense – I’m more apt to laugh out loud at the cleverness of the verses than to feel any real empathy for Marvell – but it’s a sparklingly brilliant one.

Entry filed under: Andrew Marvell, English, Falstaff. Tags: .

His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell Too Alone

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