What are the qualities of the heart in "The Lives of the Heart"?
In the first five lines the speaker announces eleven different qualities of the lives of the heart. The title of the poem itself is the grammatical subject of the five verbs in these five lines. Indeed, the title serves as the subject of the major verbs in the first 28 lines. Each of the qualities and attributes is, to say the least, both unusual and challenging when considered with what is usually said about the heart. It would be difficult to imagine, for example, that these qualities might appear in a popular song. Thus the very opening words are startling, for who has ever imagined the lives of the heart to be ligneous? But when the word is analyzed, the idea emerges that the heart is a seat of passion and also of anger. In lines 2 and 3 one might note that the heart—the affections, the whims, the inclinations—leads people into unusual or perhaps even strange paths. So is it also with the Fibonnaci spheres, which suggest that the heart may lead individuals into intricate pathways of science and inquiry. These opening five lines are as lively as the many lives of the heart that Hirshfield is describing.