Monday

Mar. 31, 2008

The Definition of Love

by Andrew Marvell

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'er have flown
But vainly flapped its Tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect Loves; nor lets them close:
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant Poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole World on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embraced.

Unless the giddy Heaven fall,
And Earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the World should all
Be cramped into a planisphere.

As lines so Loves oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet:
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite can never meet.

Therefore the Love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the Mind,
And opposition of the Stars.

"The Definition of Love" by Andrew Marvell. Public domain.

It's the birthday of the English poet Andrew Marvell, (books by this author) born at Winestead-in-Holderness, Yorkshire, England (1621), who wrote the poem "To His Coy Mistress":

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime ...
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

On this day in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in Paris. It was built for the Paris Exposition as part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and also as a demonstration of the structural capabilities of iron.

The tower elicited strong reactions after its opening. A petition of 300 names, including writers Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, and Alexandre Dumas the younger, was sent to the city government protesting its construction. The petition read, "We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects, and lovers of the beauty of Paris, do protest with all our vigor and all our indignation, in the name of French taste and endangered French art and history, against the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower."

De Maupassant described it as, "A high and skinny pyramid of iron ladders, [a] giant ungainly skeleton upon a base that looks built to carry a colossal monument of Cyclops, but which just peters out into a ridiculous thin shape like a factory chimney." He hated the tower so much that he started eating in its restaurant every day, because, he said, "It is the only place in Paris where I don't have to see it."

In 1836, on this date, Charles Dickens began publishing his first novel, (books by this author) The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

It's the birthday of British novelist John Fowles, (books by this author) born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England (1926). In 1963, after throwing away more than a dozen manuscripts, he published his first novel, The Collector, about a man who collects butterflies and then one day kidnaps a young woman and keeps her in his basement, hoping to win her love. He went on to publish many more novels, including The Magus (1965) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969).

It's the birthday of the man who wrote, "I think, therefore I am," mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, (books by this author) born in Touraine, France (1596).

It's the birthday of poet and essayist Octavio Paz, (books by this author) born in Mexico City (1914), the son of a lawyer and the grandson of a novelist. In 1950, he published a monumental essay on Mexican national character and culture, The Labyrinth of Solitude, which has become standard reading in Latin American studies programs and has been so influential that a critic recently said, "No one can talk about the Mexican character without referring to Paz."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »