Literary criticism

Symbolism in Linda Goodman’s poem, “The Planets”

By: Natana Vasuki

 

LindaLinda Goodman was an ace American astrologer, writer and poet. All her works speak volumes about astrology. She had her own poetic voice and poetic technique of using astrological symbolisms in her poems. She was always deeply involved in the observation of people and the influence of the planets on them. Her insight into the life of people through the study of planets in her books helped millions of people all around the world.

The poem, “The Planets” is one of the prominent works which exhibits her astrological wits. Her usage of planetary symbolisms in deft strokes throughout the poem shows that she was an adept at deciphering the nuances of planetary influences on human life. A highly personal poem, it depicts a man‟s journey from despair and confusion toward reinvention and hope.

A symbol is one of the finest figures of speech in which a concrete object is used to stand for an abstract idea. According to Perrine (1974), “A literary symbol is something that means more than what it is. It is an object, a person, a situation, an action or some other item that has a literal meaning in the story, but suggests or represents other meanings as well.” A symbol strengthens and gives a deeper meaning to a poem and it triggers apposite feelings in the reader. A symbol is charged with great significance beyond its physical qualities.

Linda displays a myriad use of astrological symbolism that gives a fuller range of meanings to the planets. The very poem begins with the description of a „bitter war‟ that „self and I‟ fought.

We fought a bitter war my twin Self and
I Lost and lonely, fallen angels exiled
From misty, long-forgotten oober Galaxy of stars

The war symbolizes life itself. The „fallen angels‟ symbolize the human beings who were forced to leave the heaven for their misdeeds to wander the earth perpetually. The poem gives a array of references to the planets thereby associating their influences to a particular event. Each planet has its accurate function to play in the life of human beings and each represents specific energy. Every human‟s twin-„self and I‟ encounters various psychological and physical traumas with respect to his/her planetary positions. The impact of planets is beyond the realms of human speculations.

Caught in Neptune’s tangled web
Wounded cruelly by the painful thrust of Mars
Tortured by the clever lies of Mercury

Neptune symbolizes mystery. With Neptune, a person experiences psychological uneasiness. Everything is obscure and blurred. He inclines to „artificial paradises‟. Mars, the planet named after the Roman God of War, symbolizes fiery passion and aggression. It gives a sudden push to stand up and get noticed. It gives combative energy, courage and boldness. Mercury symbolizes all intellectual activities. However, it can also turn the owner of the horoscope into a dishonest and insensitive person.

Shocked and nearly torn asunder by Vulcan’s distant thunder
Shattered by lightning of the sudden, awful violence of Uranus

Vulcan is a hypothetical planet once thought to lie within the orbit of Mercury. It also represents the Roman God of fire who had a strong association with fire‟s destructive capacity. Uranus symbolizes brutal energy. It causes unpredictable changes and blockades.

Crushed beneath the weight of stern unyielding Saturn,
who lengthened each hour into a day
Each day into a year
Each year into a millennium of waiting

These lines are perfectly symbolical. Saturn symbolizes time and restriction. It is associated with inexorable principle, limitation, discipline, austerity and toughness. Every human has to throw back on certain lessons, undergo ordeals and overcome tough hurdles. It slows down things and does not seem sympathetic. It allows the person to acquire a good thinking process in the course of time and demands tremendous effort and concentration.

Scorched by Sun’s exploding bursts of pride
As those wandering angels
Stilled and helpless deep within us cried

The poet goes on to describe the influence of the sun on the life of humans. The sun symbolizes pride and ego. It also represents „life force‟. Its nature is hot and dry. It symbolizes one‟s will to live. The „wandering angels‟ represent the human beings. When the sun is prominent in a person‟s natal chart, he transcends his ego in favor of his true self.

Still we fought on, in unrelenting fury of the moon’s enticing madness
To fall at last in trembling fear before the ominous threat of Pluto’s tomb like silence
consumed by inconsolable sadness, the bleakness of despair.

The moon symbolizes nostalgia, laziness, whims, dreams and madness. The moon also infuses the past into one‟s life through one‟s feelings. Pluto symbolizes hidden and mysterious forces. In Roman mythology, Pluto is the God of underworld. It is also associated with extreme power and corruption. The „tomb like silence‟ refers to the Pluto‟s energy which remains vague.

We bear the wounds and scars of our furious battle
My twin Self and I

The „wounds and scars‟ symbolize the trials a person encounters in his „battle‟ called life and the lessons he learnt on how to endure and overcome them.

But now we walk in quiet peace
With all our scattered pieces whole
Together hand in hand
Full serpent circle back into the pyramid shaped
Rainbow of tomorrow’s brighter Eden

These lines are highly symbolical. The „serpent circle‟ is the Oroborus or the serpentine creature with the curved tip of its own tail held between its jaws. It symbolizes eternal life, perfection and totality. It is a mighty symbol of infinity and the union of the chthonic with the celestial. „Eden‟ symbolizes a state of ultimate happiness, delight and contentment. After the subjugation of a person to his series of planetary influences, he terminates the battle of his twin-„Self and I‟ and he prepares his mind to walk in the path of salvation.

Crowned by gentle Venus with the victory of love that did not die
But survived the night of our selfless seeking
To wait for the morning soft forgiveness and the dawn of understanding

Venus is the God of love and beauty in Roman mythology. It softens, beautifies and creates pleasant situations. It is associated with the principles of harmony, beauty, balance, feelings and affections and the urge to sympathize and unite with others. When Venus rules one‟s natal chart, one has a strong inclination to the lighter side of life. It rules one‟s tastes, pleasures and makes one refined. The rebirth of a new world of forgiveness and understanding finds a fitting expression in the symbolization of „dawn‟. The poet expresses that by seeking the true purpose of one‟s soul on the earth brings about a new condition in one‟s life.

Like a melody in music, the use of symbolism in the poem evokes strong emotion in the readers. The poem is interlaced with astrological symbolisms to teach a valuable lesson to humans. Even a lay reader can read and connect the concept of influence of planets on him. The poem ends with a note of hope and optimism. Linda Goodman has a sure message to convey to the world that, there is an invincible relationship between astronomical phenomena and the events in human life.

*******

Works Cited:

PerinneL (1974)Literature1.NewYork: Harcourtbrace.Jovanovich,Inc.
Crane,Joseph.PlanetarySymbolismandMedievalLiterature.
http://www.skyscript.co.uk/crane.html

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