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10 March 2012

Least Rivers – docile to some sea


Least Rivers – docile to some sea.
My Caspian – thee.
                                                F206 (1861)  212 

This poem follows “Come slowly – Eden!” which makes it even easier to see the metaphor for love and sexual desire.

As the largest inland body of water in the world, the Caspian is rightfully considered a sea. At least 130 rivers feed into it, the largest being the mighty Volga. You can see the Volga River delta on the map – it's on the left (western) bank. But this poem is talking about  "Least Rivers," ones that are "docile" to the sea. Unlike the assertive Volga, they only serve to nourish and replenish the Caspian.
Caspian Sea
            This is the role the poet assigns to herself, submissive to the great sea. The role of Caspian Sea she assigns to “thee.” Scholars have claimed that Samuel Bowles is the Caspian here, but there is certainly room for differences of opinion. In the modern era, most notably by Freud and Jung, seas have been cast as feminine images because of their flowing and changeable moods and waters, their monthly tides, their engulfing properties, and their association with the moon and with dream and death.
            This is not to say that this poem was written with a woman in mind, although that may be true as well. Rather, the poem implies being lost in love as rivers lose themselves as they merge with the sea. This aspect of the poem is very like the previous one where the Bee, fainting with postponed hunger and desire, finally arrives at his flower and is lost in her balms.

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