Saturday, May 24, 2014

Analysis of "Amour Honestus" by Edward Hirsch

Original poem reprinted online here: "Amour Honestus" by Edward Hirsch
Originally read: October 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Edward Hirsch


So the title and the feel of the poem seems French -- with talk of love and what not.  And if I didn't look up the title, I would've translated it as "honest love" which does go along with the poem as well.

But I'm wrong.

"Amour" does mean love in latin and this word translates throughout multiple languages.  However, "Honestus" doesn't mean honest rather honor.  Honest being more defined by truth, and honor more of defined by a virtuous character.  Yes, this does change my interpretation the poem, but I don't know how much.

Why, the refrain of "hell of it" in the end of the second line of each couplet shifts the emotions in the poem quickly like the first couplet, "The nights were long and cold and bittersweet, / And he made a song for the hell of it."  This couplet is more based in perseverance, and with the title, the male figure is doing something out of romantic whimsy.

"She stood by the window, a heavenly light / Who created havoc for the hell of it."  And the female figure "created havoc."  How?  Just by standing there.  So far the descriptions are very surface and one sided -- but the focus here is "Amor"  the setting is "love" but there's undertones of something more.

"He used to fondle every skirt in sight / Then he fell in love--that's the hell of it."  I noticed now that the end of every first line ends with a hard "t." as though to be an endstopped line as far as sound.  In this case, this couplet shows more of the exposition of the male figure as a cad who is in love.

"Now there's a courtyard with an abject knight / Yodeling his head off for the hell of it."  Here is where I feel this authorial intrusion of where the "hell of it" mocks the male figure.  Also the idea of "abject knight" and the verb "yodeling" doesn't flow with the language of the previous lines.  But I feel this aspect of the poem foreshadows the end.

"O poor me, my Lady, my hopeless plight! / She married a prince for the hell of it."  The female figure is looking less and less flattering with her marrying someone for the hell of it, but what is the relationship between the male and female figure at this point?  One sided.  It seems he loves her, and she is meh about the whole thing.

"Honorable, unsatisfied, illicit-- /  Why bring it up? Just for the hell of it."  Here is the second mention of "honor" in the poem and it's brought up as a negative or at least something to be a bit angry with.  There's a sense of dialogue with the second line.

"The fever spread from poet to poet / Who burned in the high-minded hell of it."  Love spread?  Or the idea of this kind of love -- the cad who loves and sings for the married woman.

"But the Untouchable had him by the throat, / And he stopped singing for the hell of it."  So past me saw this as "Death."  But with the tone of this poem, this seems more of a lack of actualization.  He wasn't getting what he wanted, so he left.  So much for love, right?

"Love is a tower, a trance, a medieval pit. / When I lost you, I knew the hell of it."  When I first read this line I thought this was from the perspective of the female speaker since there's a shift between both the male and the female.

However, this could also be from the male perspective -- brokenhearted not being able to get his "love."

But the speaker's point of view is interesting -- inserting his voice when it comes to the characters, the poets, and what love is.   I think that's where the honor comes in.  The point of view doesn't allow the poem to be completely sincere and the "hell of it" but not so much of joke where the commentary becomes convoluted.

1 comment:

  1. This poem reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel 'The Black Arrow' which I remember as extremely boring i.e. hardly remember and had to look up to be sure. I found that Stevenson disliked this novel and dismissed it as "tushery".. something he came up with during a bout of influenza, "for the hell of it?" 'Untouchable' may also make sense here as the protagonist is a "sun-browned" orphan (untouchables are ostracized members of a caste society.. often for having contagious disease, being a criminal, or having dark skin).. in the story, (spoiler alert..) the orphan ends up marrying an heiress (who was used as a pawn by the antagonist, a shady knight).. also, the one of the outlaws becomes a friar and changes his name to "Brother Honestus"

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