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Do not seat your love upon a precipice
because it is high.

What is the meaning of the word high in this sentence?

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If this is a poem, shouldn't the meaning be entirely up to the reader? –  Bacon Bits May 24 '11 at 20:52
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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Matt Ellen gives a nice answer to the question of what high means.

I would just like to comment on the interpretation of the whole sentence - in poetry, and especially free verse, the following is possible

Do not seat your love high upon a precipice - it is dangerous.

Do not seat your love upon a precipice just because it is high - and beautiful to look from above.

(other meanings of high can also apply - high in a sense of above, more worthy of others; putting something high and thinking highly of someone)

So, in the poem and especially a seemingly simple like the one quoted, you are often given the opportunity to contemplate not on a single possible interpretation, but on all of them and it can deliberately be written "ambiguously". Actually this kind of "ambiguity", in my eye, carries certain aesthetics, if all meanings convey different facets of the same idea or different, but consistent ideas.

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Poetry, by its very nature, is open to different interpretations. I'm sorry to say that I tend to disagree with your analysis. –  user8568 May 24 '11 at 16:25
    
Don't be sorry if you are adding to the richness of it. I will quote Borges here, because I am tired: "If the pages of this book contain some successful verse, the reader must excuse me the discourtesy of having usurped it first. Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author." –  Unreason May 24 '11 at 22:08
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The precipice is high, as in the same way a mountain is high.

So you should not put you love on the high precipice because that is dangerous.

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I'm not very familiar with the poem, but this line could have a variety of meanings.

Because it is high

can be meant to make us visualize a risky, high precipice, or it can be meant to make us think of how something can be important, or both. For example:

  • Do not put your love (the person you love, or your goal or dream) "on a pedestal". To place something or someone on a pedestal is to see no wrong in it, or to elevate it above all else. Perhaps Tagore means "don't put your love above you just because you can" - just because the precipice is high doesn't mean you have to constantly look up to it.
  • Do not put your love (your goal or dream) too high, out of reach.
  • Do not put your love (a person) in a dangerous place - perhaps meaning to look out for those you love.
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I like this better than my answer. –  Matt Эллен May 24 '11 at 15:22
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+1 similar to mine, but you were faster. let me add, i think your analysis is good, but it should be looked in whole: 1) do not put on high pedestal if dangerous, 2) do not put too high if dangerous, 3) do not put in danger even to be in a beautiful place with nice view –  Unreason May 24 '11 at 15:25
    
@unreason I agree those are all possible meanings! One more that you made me think of is jealousy or pride - it doesn't seem to be part of Tagore's poem from what I gather, but if it were, imagine placing your love on the precipice like a trophy... while you're showing off, she or he has a new view; you may lose your love. Ahh, poetry is so complicated ;-) –  aedia λ May 24 '11 at 15:37
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Don't put your heart in an impossible dream.

High means something too difficult or impossible. This sentence is suggesting to not dream too high and put all your thinking and mind on this dream.

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No. To me the collocation of "high" with "precipice" refers to the risk, not the effort. –  Colin Fine May 24 '11 at 15:00
    
Hm, no - high does not mean impossible nor too difficult, especially after precipice. –  Unreason May 24 '11 at 15:02
    
Yeah! I'm wrong on this! –  Ed. Brazil May 24 '11 at 20:52
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While it is true (as the other answers point out) that high may refer to the height or location of the precipice, and also to its status (high can mean royal or special, not common), high can also refer to intoxication due to a drug or other substance. It is common to associate love with intoxication.

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