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Angela Manalang Gloria's "To the Man I Married"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Angela Manalang Gloria

Introduction and Text of Poem

In the first part of Angela Manalang Gloria’s “To the Man I Married,” the poet has followed the traditional form of an English (also called, Elizabethan or Shakespearean) sonnet, as she has her speaker express her deep feelings for her husband.

The second part of Gloria’s “To the Man I Married” features only two quatrains, dispensing with the couplet as it narrows each line, seeming to concentrate the message as the poem grows shorter.

To the Man I Married

I

You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.

You are the earth whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.

If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the earth uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,

You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!

II

I cannot love you with a love
That outcompares the boundless sea,
For that were false, as no such love
And no such ocean can ever be.
But I can love you with a love
As finite as the wave that dies
And dying holds from crest to crest
The blue of everlasting skies.

Reading of "To the Man I Married"

Angela Manalang Gloria & Husband

Commentary

This poem metaphorically portrays the love of the speaker for her husband by comparing her need for him to her need for the earth.

Part I

Part I of Angela Manalang Gloria’s “To the Man I Married” follows the traditional form of an English (also called, Elizabethan or Shakespearean) sonnet.

First Quatrain: He Means Everything to Her

You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.

The speaker begins with a daring statement, as she addresses her husband lovingly, telling him he is everything to her. With this claim, the speaker also begins her metaphorical comparison of her need for both her husband and the planet on which she lives. In the opening line, she has declared that her need for the earth has implications.

As an inhabitant of the earth, she requires certain necessities to sustain life. The earth’s gravity keeps the speaker's body from hurtling off into space. Its atmosphere provides her lungs with air to breathe. The fertile soils place before her the space to grow her food, while they also offers up building materials to erect a dwelling that will shelter her from the elements. Just as the earth provides these sustaining items, her husband also supports her by sharing his wealth, love, and affection for her.

Second Quatrain: He Gives Her Direction

You are the earth whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.

In the second quatrain, the speaker avers that her husband gives her life direction. As the earth alerts her to the four directions of north, south, east, and west, he husband’s place in sharing her life serves to mark milestones as they reach them in the marriage. The speaker then reveals a somewhat startling comparison: just as the earth will offer her body a place to rest after the soul has left it, her husband offers that soul rest while she is still in the body.

Third Quatrain: He Is Her Gravity

If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the earth uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,

Even as the speaker needs her husband and the earth, there is also one other entity that she must lovingly include in her basket of needs. Her husband holds her close in a loving embrace as the earth’s gravity embraces and keeps her on the planet. Still she admits that at times she may "lift [her] keening thoughts to Helicon," the river that disappeared underground after the women with blood-stained hands from killing Orpheus attempted to wash that blood away in its innocent waters.

Acknowledging the nurturing, close relationship she has with her husband and the earth, she knows that she also must pay tribute to other specific natural elements. Thus she metaphorically asserts her relationship with the waters of earth as flowers and leaves of trees upturn to the sky.

The Couplet: Necessity of the Sky

You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!

The speaker avers that she needs the earth, but her needs also extend to the sky. In that need, she becomes a child of the sky, just as the earth itself is, along with the trees that require sunlight for existence. The necessity for the sky does not diminish her love and appreciation for her husband and the earth. She avers that she "need[s] [them] no less than [she] need[s] the sky."

Part II

The second part of Gloria’s “To the Man I Married” features two quatrains.

First Quatrain: No Desire to Exaggerate

I cannot love you with a love
That outcompares the boundless sea,
For that were false, as no such love
And no such ocean can ever be.

The speaker reveals her desire not to exaggerate the status of her feelings for her husband as she has metaphorically compared her love for him to be similar to the affection she harbors for the earth.

In what might sound somewhat contradictory, the speaker asserts that she cannot really compare her love for her husband to the ocean, because the ocean is too expansive and such a comparison would be false.

Second Quatrain: The Earth and Beyond

But I can love you with a love
As finite as the wave that dies
And dying holds from crest to crest
The blue of everlasting skies.

Because the speaker has already compared him metaphorical to the earth, it might seem somewhat confusing to find her claiming that the ocean is too large to make a target of comparison work. Nevertheless, she does decide that she can compare that love to the waves, which are part of the ocean. And those waves reflect the blue of the skies.

Gloria's Complete Poems

Questions & Answers

Question: What does "air" symbolize in Gloria's "To the Man I Married"?

Answer: The term, "air," is employed literally in Gloria's "To the Man I Married'; thus, it does not symbolize anything other than its denotative meaning. Although words sometimes take on connotative meanings in poems and may be used metaphorically or symbolically, they often remain quite literal wherein their meaning remains denotative.

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes