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Earthly Power

Symbol Analysis

This poem expresses powerful feelings: overwhelming love for a beloved man, confidence in the kick-butt qualities of poetry. But in describing those powerful feelings, the speaker also has a lot to say about power itself, from the power of wealth that leaves behind lavish monuments to honor its memory, to the political power of violence that crushes entire cities. We get some disturbing images for sure, but, compared to the speaker's love and confidence, these images of power come across as desperate and weak, ultimately pointless.

  • Lines1-2: Marble and gold? The mucho expensivo stuff inside these monuments makes it clear that these dead princes were rolling in the good stuff. But turns out they could have spared their checkbooks because these monuments aren't going to last. They may be expensive symbols of how cool and powerful these princes were when they still rocked their thrones, but after enough time they will crumble to dust, too.
  • Line 5: We're never told who's waging these future wars against whom, but in order to command enough violence to smash and burn on this scale, it's clear that whoever's commanding has a lot of power. Thumbs up for a war well fought, but just like with the monuments in line 1, the laugh's on these nameless powerful commanders. Sure, they ruined a lot, but could they destroy this poem or the beloved memorialized in it? Don't make us laugh.
  • Line 9: Whatever the source of this hatred and violence, it's powerful enough to be totally unconcerned about the devastation it's causing. Doesn't matter to the beloved though. He brushes aside death and war like cobwebs, living in the love and praise of the speaker's poem.

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