“I could suffice for Him, I knew…” (643)
I could suffice for Him, I knew –
He – could suffice for Me –
Yet Hesitating Fractions – Both
Surveyed Infinity –
“Would I be Whole” He sudden broached –
My syllable rebelled –
‘Twas face to face with Nature – forced –
‘Twas face to face with God –
Withdrew the Sun – to Other Wests –
Withdrew the furthest Star
Before Decision – stooped to speech –
And then – be audibler
The Answer of the Sea unto
The Motion of the Moon –
Herself adjust Her Tides – unto –
Could I – do else – with Mine?
Is love possible? Here’s a whole, a couple (“hesitating fractions”) that’s probably outside at night (“surveyed infinity”), with one part – her – absolutely in love. “Could suffice for Me” is only a cautious formulation of how she feels; we know it to be too cautious when her “syllable rebels” at the notion that with her, he wouldn’t be whole.
At that point, this couple becomes symbolic. She implies that he has been “forced” face-to-face with “Nature.” Nature (Gk. “physis”) is what she thinks she represents to him; it is a pagan attempt to understand the world. Human nature is connected to our being a rational animal (species/genus). As rational animals, we work within the sphere of reason, which is complete for a divine nature, but not for us – we can never possibly know everything.
She, on the other hand, is face to face with his desire to be whole. Only a holy endowment could fulfill that longing, it seems. It can be argued that virtue can be achieved and human nature perfected without divine aid, but that line of thought is full of ironies and traps (cf. Aristotle, Ethics). Furthermore, anyone holding that human nature can be perfected through virtue works to be virtuous themselves – they would worry a lot less about a significant other who loves them as blocking their path. The divine is fickle, and contrasts with the love of wisdom which is eros when all is said and done.
So now the night becomes darker; the sun removes itself to other worlds, the stars fade away completely. The sun reminds of where the philosophers dwell in Plato’s Republic; the stars remind of Dante’s vision of Paradise. Now one might say this scene was never night, that the poem thrives on an ambiguity where Infinity can be surveyed night or day. It could also be said that the poem actually moves from day to night, given the explicit mention of the moon in the last stanza. My thought is that this poem is set entirely at night and only night: that we’re fractions is clearest when there are other worlds visible. The darkness of the sky mirrors the darkness in “could;” “broached” speaks to me of a world where all is quiet, not where all is active and noisy.
The key argument is in the word “audibler” – it has always been night, because the response to him was always there. In the deepest sense his objection was anticipated and addressed; she made her decision to bring this moment about.
The Sea’s tides move in accordance with the Moon’s motion. “Unto” links the “answer” and the “motion;” “unto” reminds us of moral principles from the Bible – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The most precious love, that of Love itself, is explained to us there by God being a person and telling us how we should relate “unto” Him. “Sufficing for Him” was always about something more than a human lover.
The displacement of “unto” in the last two lines is the whole story. The Sea may adjust on principle, but this shouldn’t be a matter of divine and human love. It should be a matter of purely human love. Her decision to love means she will bear it out; her syllable rebels because she does not. There is only one person loving at the end of this poem, and therefore she does indeed suffice.