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Please explain these lines: "For, love is Narcissus at the water's edge, hauntedBy its...

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rani16 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 7, 2013 at 1:39 PM via web

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Please explain these lines:

"For, love is Narcissus at the water's edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 8, 2013 at 1:29 AM (Answer #1)

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Das' "The Old Playhouse" features a construction of women battling between the hopeful illusion of love and the reality of what is.  The speaker describes her mind as "an old playhouse with all its lights put out."  This helps to illuminate the condition of art, acting, hope, and the brutal reality that undercuts all reality.

Das' poem does not render the speaker helpless under the heel of socially sanctioned domesticity.  Rather, there is an affirmation as to what true love can be.  This is expressed at the ending of the poem. Narcissus is the figure of vanity, but he is also the symbol of pure beauty.  Narcissus was beautiful.  This beauty might enable it to be "haunted by its own lonely face," but it also an end worth pursuing. The speaker pivots away from the inferno of imprisonment.  In seeking to embrace a construction of beauty and love that might not be found in the traditional setting, the speaker suggests there is a worthwhile pursuit of what can be in the face of what is.  This is the embodiment of "a pure, total freedom." This representation is powerful for it can possess the capacity to transform reality:  "Will the mirrors to shatter and the kind night to erase the water."  The reflections of what is and the memory of what is socially sanctioned can be transformed through the pursuit of true love and happiness.  To this end, the ending of the poem replaces the image of decay of "the old playhouse" and strives to establish something more powerful in its place.  It might be a lonely pursuit, but something worthy of endeavor.


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