Margaret Holley: On "Marriage"

Our most fully developed and finely tuned portrait of this feminine temperament appears in Eve in the poem "Marriage." What makes this poem's portrayal of both Adam and Eve so tantalizing is surely their tragicomic blend of the ideal and the real, Woman as she would like to be—"so handsome / she gave me a start, / able to write simultaneously / in three languages" (MM 62)—mingles in one breath with woman in her patriarchal original sin—"the central flaw / in that first crystal-fine experiment" (63). She is temperamental—"equally positive in demanding a commotion / and in stipulating quiet" (62); "'the ladies in their imperious humility / are ready to receive you'" (67); and she is ornamental—"a statuette of ivory on ivory" (68). This Eve is balanced by an Adam who is equally implicated in the fall—he is "'something colubrine'" or snake-like (63)—and equally temperamental and ornamented. This blend of ideal and real, the balance of male and female figures, the mixture of comic, heroic, and sentimental values is the theme of the poem, for its electric charge comes from the meeting of opposites "opposed each to the other, not to unity . . . ‘Liberty and union, now and forever'" (69-70). The portrait of Eve is conditioned throughout by this balance, this progressively rebalancing accumulation that is the poem's procedure and imitation of its subject.

From "Portraits of Ladies in Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop." SAGETRIEB 6.3.


Title Margaret Holley: On "Marriage" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Margaret Holley Criticism Target Marianne Moore
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 26 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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