I am supposed to write on a poem by Robert Hass entitled "Spring," in which he says "the limits of my language are the limits of my world." I am just looking for an idea on where to begin and a...

I am supposed to write on a poem by Robert Hass entitled "Spring," in which he says "the limits of my language are the limits of my world." I am just looking for an idea on where to begin and a springboard on the intepretation of the quote. 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The phrase "the limits of my language are the limits of my world" is a quotation from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. It essentially takes the Kantian project of delimiting the bounds of knowledge and does a linguistic turn with it, arguing that we can only know what we can articulate. 

In Robert Hass' poem, it is used ironically. The setting juxtaposes a series of concrete sensual images with the rather arcane authors Ugo Betti and Ludwig Wittegenstein. The "you" of the poem appears to be a lover of the narrator, who makes fun of intellectual pretension, laughing at Wittgenstein and the bearded stranger. The implied sexual act at the end of the poem is framed as a refutation of Wittgenstein:

We spoke all night in tongues,

in fingertips, in teeth.

In other words, Hass is arguing for the value of nonliguistic experience as a sensual way of knowing. In a sense, what this does is give the narrator both credit for boasting of his knowledge of arcane writers while simultaneously framing the knowledge ironically.

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