Thursday, March 20, 2014

"March Days Return With Their Covert Light"

‘March days return with their covert light’

March days return with their covert light,
and huge fish swim through the sky,
vague earthly vapours progress in secret,
things slip to silence one by one.
Through fortuity, at this crisis of errant skies,
you reunite the lives of the sea to that of fire,
grey lurchings of the ship of winter
to the form that love carved in the guitar.
O love, O rose soaked by mermaids and spume,
dancing flame that climbs the invisible stairway,
to waken the blood in insomnia’s labyrinth,
so that the waves can complete themselves in the sky,
the sea forget its cargoes and rages,
and the world fall into darkness’s nets.
Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda is in fact the penname of a famous Chilean diplomat by the name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. Winning a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, he is often known for his love poems, political manifestos, and prose autobiographies. In “March days return with their covert light”, Pablo Neruda contrasts light and dark to reveal that love is often reckless and does not succumb to control; it is passionate and unstable. This poem seems to take the form of a sonnet due to its 14 lines, but the meter, syllable count, and rhyme scheme does not fit the sonnet’s traditional form. The first line, “March days return with their covert light,” is only 9 syllables rather than the usually 10 syllables. The month of March is indicative of the start of spring, and spring is often used to represent the blooming of love. However, this love affair is not one that is yet public. Still in its early stages, the relationship is a quiet one. Such a conclusion can be reached from the word, “covert” which Neruda purposefully chooses to describe the light of spring. The light of spring which melts the coldness of winter, representative of a brief hiatus from love by the speaker, acts as a spotlight to illuminate the lovers and draw attention. But the word, “covert” indicates that this light is hidden. Perhaps this is because the speaker is not quite ready to go public with the love affair since he had recently suffered through a break up.
            The second line, “and huge fish swim through the sky,” continues the focus on the coming of spring. The huge fish are the white clouds against the blue sky. The white clouds that shift form and travel across the sky look strikingly similar to fish when put against a blue sky, which also mimics the color and nature of water. The clear sky and clouds provide contrast against the monochromatic, grey color scheme that winter often adopts. However, the nature of this poem is not as innocent as one may think. These images of spring point to a start of a love affair that is passionate and sexual. Spring is a season for mating. Signs of sexual arousal and pheromones appear in the third line, “vague earthly vapours progressive in secret”. Pheromones cannot be actively detected by most humans so that would explain the line of “progressing in secret”. The silence in line 4 is a hint to the sexual tension that builds. When sexual tension is in the air, both partners naturally feel the need to stop talking. Chattiness is a sign of a relaxed and comfortable environment; silence is a sign of tension.
            Lines 5 and 6, “Through fortuity, at this crisis of errant skies, / you reunite the lives of the sea to that of fire,” describes how this new lover has brought passion back into the broken hearted speaker’s life. The speaker sees the lover’s entrance into his life as an accidental, yet lucky occurrence. He expresses this through the word, “fortuity”, which carries the meaning of an instance of good fortune. We know that he is thankful for meeting her and that she has had a large impact in his life because he describes life before her appearance as “this crisis of errant skies”. “Errant” means to deviate off the normal course, so we can assume that after breaking up with his last lover, he lost his way. The imagery of fire and the sea provides a contrast. The sea represents a cool calm, even indifference, the life the speaker used to have. Fire is representative of passion. So by saying that she reunites “the lives of the sea to that of fire”, he is expressing that she has brought passion back into his life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Depressing Male Characters Are the New Prince Charming

From Prince Hamlet to Mr. Darcy to popular culture’s Edward Cullen, depressing male characters have been charming heterosexual women and homosexual males for ages. There’s something about their sullen faces, pale skin, and “the world is hopeless” attitude that just draws us in. Readers have always loved their damsels in distresses; it’s time that we acknowledge that it’s just as easy to fall in love with a tragic prince. Quiet, misunderstood, and with a metaphorical rain cloud over their head, these male characters tend to do a lot of thinking. They contemplate societal responsibility, life and death, and aren’t buying the whole rosy-colored-glasses thing. Their deep thinking and quiet nature make them come across as philosophical; they observe the world as by-standers and point out the wrong being done. However, very few of them ever rise up to be “the macho hero”; they often take the place of the outcast or underdog. They don’t care for fame or money; instead, these characters thirst for a different passion whether it is romance or knowledge or societal acceptance. They don’t mind being invisible, and I think, as readers, we identify with their need for love and acceptance. At the same time, we feel a wave of pity and sympathy for these characters that have constant internal conflict. Depressing male characters with a deep, dark secret are the most alluring. Though not my favorite, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series is a prime example. His “secret” is that he’s really not a normal seventeen year old; other than the fact that he’s filled with angst, he’s actually a vampire. This dark secret gives the character a more sinister, animalistic side. It makes him “beast-like”. The internal struggle of loving his damsel in distress counterpart, Bella Swan, and wanting to eat her, makes him seem “tragic”, “deep”, and quite frankly, “dreamy”. But this feature of deep inner turmoil is not unique to Edward Cullen; it’s actually a spin-off of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. Prince Hamlet also “fights his inner beast”. Though this Shakespearean character is not cursed by physical disfigurement or supernatural abilities that set him apart from the rest of the human race, his passion and “madness” (whether the madness is real or staged is up for debate) is the “beast within”. He is torn inside, wanting to kill King Claudius to avenge his father (this is the beast-like quality) but at the same time wanting to keep his morality and rational (the human quality). His sorrowful soliloquies and philosophical questions regarding the universe make him seem untouchable, and therefore desirable.  In turn, his conflict with his own inner beast makes the reader want to “save” him. After all, every manic pixie dream girl needs a depressing male counterpart (you’d understand if you’ve read my previous blogs). Finally while these depressing characters lack vivaciousness and seem mostly lethargic, their choice to sit back quietly and think rather than to rally up the crowd to fight reveals something about ourselves. It is not easy to be courageous and heroic, most of us are cowards who see evil in the world but fail to change it, and we identify with their apprehension to take action. It does not mean that we do not care; it does not mean that we are heartless. It simply means that we are human. We fall in love with these sullen male characters simply because they are human. They accept that they are not fearless and that they make mistakes; this makes these characters seem genuine, and therefore, lovable.