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In which we look over a few obvious facts

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The importance of the third stanza of Song: Go catch a falling star
 
In chapter eleven (In which Howl goes to a strange country in search of a spell) Howl, Sophie and Michael first meet Miss Angorian and retrive the spell as well as the next verse of the poem. Howl tells them that the poem is a curse - and there are three verses to Song. When Miss Angorian is reading the poem (p157-8) she is about to read the third verse when Howl stops her: "Thank you... Stop there."
 
Why was Howl so determined to avoid the third verse and why did he not bother with it throughout the book? It can't be meaningless. Is it possible that the third verse of the spell had not yet been activated? If this is the case, what does the third verse mean to Howl and why was he so quick to cut Miss Angorian off?
 
First, let's take a look at the third stanza of Song:

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
            Yet she
            Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Song:_Go_and_catch_a_falling_star"

Now, what is all this about?
 
It carries on from the previous verse of the poem, where the writers tells the person to promise that he hasn't met "...a woman true and fair."
 
The third verse speaks of how even if the woman appears lovely when you find her, she will betray you. It mocks the person (In this case Howl) by saying "If thou find'st one, let me know" as "Such a pilgrimage were sweet" saying that if he did find a woman true and fair then he is to let her as such a thing is near impossible. This is about Howl's fickleness - the fact that Howl falls in love is remarkable, and all the more remarkable is him finding a woman who is in love with him too.
 
So what does this mean to Howl?
 
This probably relates to Howl's inability to stay in love with a woman long enough for her to accept his faults. But Howl has fallen in love truly with Sophie, who returns his feelings having known about his faults beforehand.
 
It then says that she will leave him as soon as he turns his back: "False, ere I come, to two, or three." This could be read two ways; either it refers to the fact that the Witch kidnaps Sophie and takes her away from him, or it could be another part of the curse that doesn't activate (hence it isn't referred to in the book hereafter.)
That would explain why Howl is quick to cut Miss Angorian off when she is reading the poem: if this part of the curse it might make it so Sophie is unable herself to be loyal to the one she loves.
 
Sophie goes against the third verse by staying true to Howl. She does this by going to the Waste to protect him rather than leaving and forgetting about the curse. Therefore she is "A woman true and fair."

‘Howl's Moving Castle’ 1986-2008, Diana Wynne Jones. 'Hauru no ugoku shiro' AKA 'Howl's Moving Castle' 2004-2008 Hayao Miyazaki, Ghibli Studios. Text/Website Sophie Withall, 2004-2008. Based upon Diana Wynne Jones' novel ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli animated film 'Hauru no ugoku shiro'. Layout Tripod. All characters are entirely fictional. 

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