Marvell's Eyes and Tears

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Monash University Library]On: 05 October 2014, At: 01:01Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

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    Marvell's Eyes and TearsEdgar F. Daniels aa Bowling Green State University , USAPublished online: 09 Jul 2010.

    To cite this article: Edgar F. Daniels (1977) Marvell's Eyes and Tears, The Explicator,35:3, 8-8, DOI: 10.1080/00144940.1977.9939252

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00144940.1977.9939252

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  • tall objects as the cloud (stanzas 4 and 5 ) , building up in the west, begins to obscure the sun; apparently a cumulonimbus cloud, it builds vertically (rises upward always higher), its sides expanding and contracting (laboring), its top flattening to the typical anvil shape of cumulonimbus storm clouds so that it seems to topple round the dreary west like a looming bastion fringed with fireas the obscured sun sheds its light only on the outlines of the cloud. At any rate, we can understand the poem and appreciate its effectiveness without tenuous suppositions about the state of the dead or about a heavenly city.

    -RAYMOND G. MALBONE, State University of New York, Cortland

    EYES AND TEARS

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

    -ANDREW MARVELL

    Marvells EYES AND TEARS

    Line 50 of Marvells Eyes and Tears is puzzling. In the preceding line the eyes have been called upon to drop like clouds and (in line 50) to stop in distance at each tear. OED (Distance, 9) identifies in distance as an obsolete idiom meaning at- a distance. Therefore we are to imagine the eyeclouds stopping at a distance at each tear. But what does that mean?

    commanded, as indicated by the use of now at the beginning of each command. Actions two (trickle) and three (0 return and drown) establish the pattern of ever- increasing flow, from a trickle to a flood. Therefore we may look to the first command (in lines 49-50) to call for something less than a trickle, and this is conveyed by drop, in the meaning of drip (OED, 2). The tears are first to drip, then to trickle, then to flow profusely.

    The meaning imposed by the context on line 50 has to be to the effect that the eyes are to stop between tears. But why at a distance? If the interval of space expressed by in distance might be read as an interval in time (as indeed it once was in musical terminology-OED, 4d), then line 50 would clearly be calling upon the eye- clouds to pause for a time after each tear.

    Let us turn to the context. In the stanza, three successive and varying actions are

    Can other readers fortify this reading-or find a better one?

    -EDGAR F. DANIELS, Bowling Green State University

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