Study Guide

A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body Suffering

By Andrew Marvell

Suffering

Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear; (5-6)

O, O, O, woe is the soul! For something so spiritual and refined, it's torture to endure the assault of the world through physical senses. Having eyes is like being blinded and hearing things is like being deaf.

Which, stretch'd upright, impales me so
That mine own precipice I go; (13-14)

The body has a weirder complaint to make. Having a soul forces it upright and if the verb "impales" is any guide, apparently that's no picnic. It turns the body into its own cliff, always worried about toppling over.

Where whatsoever it complain,
I feel, that cannot feel, the pain; (23-24)

For all its emotional sensitivity, the soul is nerveless when it comes to physical pain. But stuck inside the body, it's forced to convert all those nerve signals into conscious emotional experiences, like terror, boredom, and general wretchedness.

Whom first the cramp of hope does tear,
And then the palsy shakes of fear; (33-34)

The body has the opposite complaint. Physical pains it can deal with—it's the emotional pains that strike terror into its bones. The problem is, there's no cure for feelings like futile hope and despairing love. You can't Advil that stuff up and expect to zonk out in blissful non-awareness in thirty minutes. You have to find other solutions, like a new love interest or a new career.

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