This poem's philosophical quality has been the principal attraction for most critics, both to be praised and denigrated. Richard Poirier represents critics who disdain close reading of the poem because its philosophy is too explicit-"It is poetry written for an audience of literary clubs." But most critics find the philosophy difficult enough to warrant explication and paraphrase: unfortunately they confine their treatment mostly to the philosophic core of the poem and make little attempt to follow the poem's movement from point to point. But if the poem is followed through the shifting tensions and relaxations of a circuitous human relationship between a man and his wife, one finds the philosophy subordinated to the drama of this relationship. No one seems to have noticed that most of the philosophy is spoken by the man, as an important element of his characterization, and that the major thrust of the poem is to temper his philosophizing by balancing it with an opposing method of viewing things.



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