Ache Of Marriage In “The Ache of Marriage,” Denise Levertov attempts to explain the pain this marriage experiences. It is a pain that affects both emotional and physical states of being. Levertov describes the pain as if someone were reading her thoughts. Through Levertov’s use of non-conventional form, the theme of the pain of marriage and overcoming that pain jumps from the page. The author divides the poem into two parts. On one hand, Levertov shows the difficulty in making a marriage last. She depicts how a marriage can ache and hurt.
On the other hand, Levertov says that a blissful marriage as the ultimate goal. All the trial and tribulations a marriage endures prove to be worth it the sacrifices. Through her words, the dichotomy of marriage is personified as an actual human entity. It is a being, which aches in the “thigh and tongue” (2). Levertov’s clever use of the literary technique of personification shows how marriage is hard but it can be a beautiful institution if sufficient time and energy are spent to correct what has been damaged. The beginning of the poem relates the downsides of marriage. She says, “thigh and tongue, beloved, / are heavy with it, / it throbs in the teeth” (2-4).
This pain affects every part of the body. The use of the verb throb raises the intensity if the pain. The tongue aches because of the endless arguments a marriage experiences. The thighs ache because of the heavy burden pain places upon their shoulders. The turmoil brought upon by this pain makes the marriage suffer. Because this marriage physically causes pain, it may be hard to realize what a blessed thing it is. The pain of this marriage results in the ultimate achievement of the objective of marriage.
The poem states that all the aches and pains of marriage are worth going through because the love of another is monumental. The husband and wife search in order to heal the pain within each other but cannot find it. The search for communion is an instance of sharing. Sharing both the pain as well as the joy of marriage. If both parties in a marriage share the aches of marriage, then they will not hurt nearly as bad.
In order for the pain to cease, they must first face the pain with each other. By suffering through the hurdles of this institution, the pain will either bring them closer together or tear them apart. The “look for communion” (5) and sharing in the marriage is what these hurting people are searching for. After first personifying pain in a marriage as an evil state where the pain endures, Levertov shows that regardless of the hurt they can still walk “two by two in the ark of/ the ache of it” (12-13). Imagery is another literary device Levertov uses to illustrate the difficulty in maintaining a sacred institution. Levertov makes an allusion to Noah’s ark by saying, “two by two in the ark of” (12).
Noah’s ark symbolizes to some survival and faith in one’s creator. This image creates thoughts of survival of the marriage and faith in one another. This biblical image illustrates how strong the bond of marriage is for Levertov compares it to Noah’s ark, which is the biblical explanation for the continuation of man. Another image Levertov conjures up is evident in lines 10-11. She says, “It is leviathan and we/ in its belly/ looking for joy, some joy/ not to be known outside it” (10-11).
The comparison of marriage to a leviathan serves as a vivid image. Because the pain is comparable to a leviathan, which is an enormous, monstrous creature, at times it may seem like there is no way to conquer this hurdle. Levertov says that pain is a monster, within which the search for joy continues. There is no understanding of happiness because the marriage centers on pain. Levertov writes “The Ache of Marriage” as if someone were speaking. Her angst filled words flow similar to natural human speech just like a conversation.
This poem does not use periods or any specific rhyming pattern making the ideas short and precise. The form is important because the temptation to be sing-songy is eliminated. Because the poem is written in free verse, the mood glooms with despair.