Thursday, October 25, 2012

You, Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish
You, Andrew Marvell  
And here face down beneath the sun   
And here upon earth’s noonward height   
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east   
The earthy chill of dusk and slow   
Upon those under lands the vast   
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees   
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange   
The flooding dark about their knees   
The mountains over Persia change
And now at Kermanshah the gate   
Dark empty and the withered grass   
And through the twilight now the late   
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge   
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone   
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls   
And loom and slowly disappear   
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore   
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more   
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun   
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on ...   

                  Archibald MacLeish's poem title You, Andrew Marvell refers to Andrew Marvell, seventeenth century poet, one of whose best-known poems is a carpe diem lyric entitled To His Coy Mistress, which contain a memorable line "But at my back I always hear/ Time's winged chariot hurrying near". In his poem, Marvell reminds his audience of life's brevity and the prospect of inevitable, impending death, as he urges his audience to seize the day and make the most of every seconds.

                  On the literal level of the poem You, Andrew Marvell describes, with geographical exactitude, the uninterrupted, unhurried, silent progress of the night fall, or in his own words, " the always rising of the night." And the symbolism plays a major part in this poem. The oncoming of the night associates with the inevitability of  death conventionally, and " Earth's noonward height" refers to the peak of manhood.  His selection of the city and country and even the oceanic names recalls the history of mankind rather than just a progress of the night fall that invites us to contemplate the meaning of time and life. Carpe diem. 

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