That the Science of Cartography Is Limited
by Eavan Boland
That the Science of Cartography Is Limited Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
That the Science of Cartography is Limited
-and not simply by the fact that this shading of
forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,
the gloom of cypresses,
is what I wish to prove. (1-4)
The poem begins with a hypothesis about a certain way of knowing, or representing, the world; it states that cartography has its limitations. By the end of the poem, we're totally convinced by this point. Not only do maps not capture sensory experiences of the land, they also fail to represent the national tragedies that are quite literally inscribed on the Irish landscape.
Look down you said: this was once a famine road.
I looked down at ivy and the scutch grass
rough-cast stone had
disappeared into (8-11)
The speaker's first encounter with the famine road is sensory. She describes her physical experience of the road—how the grass covers the stones. This is one of two types of knowing in the poem: experiential (firsthand) and recorded (or secondhand).
as you told me
in the second winter of their ordeal, in
1847, when the crop had failed twice,
Relief Committees gave
the starving Irish such roads to build.
Where they died, there the road ended (11-16)
The speaker's beloved experiences the famine road differently than she does. He spouts off his knowledge of the political details of the potato famine. He takes in history through an understanding of facts and figures, rather than directly experiencing what's going on around him in the moment of the poem. We think going on a date with this loverboy might be a bit boring, but the speaker seems to like him, so we guess he's alright.