Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Country of Marriage” is a subtle, delicate celebration of married love. Through the intimacy of the confessional form, the poet reaffirms the ardency of his courtship and his fidelity to his marriage vows. Each stanza offers a subtle variation on the theme of the bonds of love and fidelity, mutual trust and affection, giving and receiving. The pastoral setting and organic form provide an appropriate context for the celebration of marital love.

Stanza 2 echoes the opening stanzas of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Like Dante the pilgrim, Berry’s speaker envisions himself lost in a dark wood in which the vision of the beloved appears to him as a spiritual guide as Beatrice did for Dante. Berry, like Dante, imagines himself a wanderer in his native land, spiritually lost, seeking the level ground to avoid the abyss. The metaphoric implications of Berry’s persona as a pilgrim who has lost his way and seeks a guide suggests the belief in the transforming power of love shared by both poets. A crucial difference is that while Beatrice served as both muse and idealization of love, Berry’s persona celebrates the fully realized marital relationship. He finds his way to a kind of “salvation” in the present life through the pleasures of marriage.

A central theme in the poem is the rejection of mere economic or utilitarian calculations of love. The poet asserts that “our bond is no little economy based on the exchange/...

(The entire section is 504 words.)