Many people live their lives solely for their dream—a goal or purpose to which they aspire. Yet, on a simpler more base level, dreams are simply desires, or the want for something. Desire, unlike what dreams are commonly thought as, have their own negative qualities such as distinction and a disintegration of concentration. In the poem “Thou Blind Man’s Mark”, by Sir Philip Sidney, the idea of desire is attached as detrimental to one’s life, yet at the same time is conveyed as unavoidable and impossible to remove.
Sidney first describes the evil, malicious nature of desires, utilizing poetic devices to accentuate this description. In the beginning lines of the poem, Sidney compares desire to “Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self-chosen snare/Fond fancy’s scum, and dregs of scattered thought” (Sidney 1-2). In these lines, desire is associated with the qualities of not very desirable men—blind men, fools, and fond fancies. To further accentuate these men to the idea of desire, alliteration is frequently used, as in the case of “blind man’s mark” (1) or “fond fancy”. Such alliteration aids in tying together desires to undesirable men, implying that desire itself is not an admirable trait. Desire is not desirable precisely because of its ability to distract and divert—Sidney mentions that desire has cost him “the price of mangled mind” (6) when he “should my mind to higher things prepare” (8). Ironically, desire, or the want for something, according to Sidney, is a negative quality precisely because it distracts him from another desire—the want to achieve “higher things” (8) in life. Hence, it can be concluded that desire, when alone, may not be malevolent to one’s nature but that when more than one desire exists the conflict of desires is what causes the distracting nature of this trait.
Yet Sidney also seems to imply that despite this negative nature, it is futile to try to remove desire from one’s life. The repetition of “in vain”, in lines 7 to 11, all accentuate the impossible nature of removing desire. This is precisely because desire is inexplicably linked with itself—trying to remove desire, in a way, is desiring itself. The rhyme scheme—which has only three rhymes— -are, -ought, and -ire, clearly show this contradiction in lines that rhyme with –ire, which coincidentally rhyme also with desire: “in vain thou madest me to vain things aspire” (10), or “Desiring naught but how to kill desire” (14). As the last line illustrates, to desire and to not desire is a basic element of human nature itself; one cannot remove desire, or want, without wanting to remove want itself. This contradiction of wants is what instills desire firmly in human nature—and makes it preventible and impossible to cure desire.
Sidney, through use of certain poetic devices, has hence demonstrated that desire’s negative characteristics stem from conflict of desires, and that desire in itself, however, cannot be removed from human conscience because of its essential and integral role. If desire, as Sidney demonstrates, is truly inevitable, however, then perhaps Sidney’s true message is not that desire is just negative, but maybe how humankind can cope with that inevitable feeling of want and resolve the conflict of needs that arises from multiple desires.