‘Inexorable Deities’ by Edgar Lee Masters is a twenty-eight line poem which is written in free verse. This means that it does not follow a specific metrical pattern or rhyme scheme. Instead, the lines vary greatly in length, syllable number, rhythm and rhyme. For example, the shortest line of the poem contains one word and three syllables, while the longest has eight words and eleven syllables.
A reader should also note the varied use of enjambment in the lines. There are a number of instances in which the line ends before the natural stopping point, or where one might pause in their speech.
A final note of interest is the title of the poem, ‘Inexorable Deities.’ The word “inexorable” can be defined as something which is impossible to stop or prevent. In this case it refers to a god or deity. One is able to assume, just from reading the title, that the poem will revolve around the unchanging nature and immutable powers of a god or gods and what they might give the speaker.
Summary of Inexorable Deities
‘Inexorable Deities’ by Edgar Lee Masters is made up of one speaker’s plea that he be given the power to look on the beauty of the world without being overwhelmed.
The speaker begins this poem by asking the gods that he be given the power to “endure” the gifts he has been given by the “Muses.” This gift, although not explicitly stated, is most likely a literary one.
He continues on to describe a number of instances he wants to be able to witness and depict without shying away from or weakening. These include the sight of a bird falling through the sky, as well as moments where the sky is as blue as “Minerva’s eyes.”
In the last section he reiterated his previous requests and elaborates on why this is so important to him. He wishes to be able to live a life taking full advantage of the gifts he was given as well as one which is filled with love.
Analysis of Inexorable Deities
Give me strength to endure
The gifts of the Muses,
Daughters of Memory.
In the first set of lines the speaker begins by addressing the “Deities” to whom the title refers. He calls out to them, and names them as “Inexorable revealers.” They are celebratory, over the top, and unstoppable forces. He asks that they give him the strength to “endure” a certain aspect of his life he finds troubling. This is a gift he possesses, that which comes from “the Muses.” They are, he states, the “Daughters of Memory.”
By the end of this stanza it becomes clear that the speaker is frightened by a talent he has. This gift is something which has been bestowed by the muses, the personifications of, among other things, art, music, and science. While it is not explicitly stated which one of these gifts he possesses, one can assume that since this narrative is in the form of a poem, that gift is literary in nature.
When the sky is blue as Minerva’s eyes
Let me stand unshaken;
When the sea sings to the rising sun
Let me be unafraid;
In the next stanza goes into his first set of elaborate descriptions of nature at its most glorious. He speaks of the days in which the “sky is blue as Minerva’s eyes.” This is a reference to the goddess of wisdom and war, also known as Athena.
The speaker asks that when the sky is that blue and the sea seems to “sing to the rising sun” that he is able to “stand unshaken.” He has a fear that when faced with overwhelming beauty he is not going to be strong enough to stand up to it, and utilize it for his art. The speaker does not want to be afraid when those times come.
When the meadow lark falls like a meteor
Through the light of afternoon,
An unloosened fountain of rapture,
Keep my heart from spilling
Its vital power;
In the next set of lines he lists out another moment he hopes to see and describe accurately and without fear. He imagines a time when he sees “the meadow lark” falling through the afternoon light. This is an image of complete freedom and inhibition. He knows there’s a chance his heart will “spill” its “vital power” upon such a sight and hopes for an alternate outcome.
When at the dawn
The dim souls of crocuses hear the calls
Of waking birds,
Give me to live but master the loveliness.
Another moment is when “at dawn” the “crocuses,” which are a type of blooming flower are awakened. They do not have much life of their own, but are roused by the “calls / Of waking birds.” These sounds carry over the landscape endowing all plants with life.
The speaker asks the “deities,” whomever they are, to give him the strength to live through, and master, the loveliness. He wants to be able to accurately portray it through his art of writing.
Keep my eyes unharmed from splendors
Unveiled by you,
And my ears at peace
Filled no less with the music
Of Passion and Pain, growth and change.
In these lines the poem begins to come to a conclusion. He asks that his eyes are left “unharmed” and his “ears at peace” when the “splendors” crafted by the gods are “Unveiled.” They have a power which is truly overwhelming.
Although the speaker wants to maintain control over his faculties in these moments, he does not want to be filled any “less with the music.” He still wants to know “Passion and Pain, growth and change.”
But O ye sacred and terrible powers,
Reckless of my mortality,
Strengthen me to behold a face,
To know the spirit of a beloved one
Yet to endure, yet to dare
In the last five lines of ‘Inexorable Deities,’ the speaker reiterates his plea from the first lines of the poem. He first flatters the gods, calling them “sacred” and in possession of “terrible powers.” They are “Reckless” with his life, but hopes they might have more care in the future. He hopes they “Strengthen” him so that he might know the “face” of a “beloved one” and maintain his ability to “endure” and “dare.”
Masters’ speaker wants the best of both worlds. He wants a relatively mundane love, as well as a god-like ability to look at the wonders of the world.