Love is the Water of Life: I take the poem to mean, loving anything other than God is only a transient, fleeting, pleasure, like eating sugar.
The second part of the poem stands by itself for me – I imagine the spirit working its advance to death and being constantly tempted by the Water of Life. Notably, the poem doesn’t express the title it’s given – it says nothing about love being the water of life. Barks after all didn’t translate; he merely re-interpreted. One could use the title to then assume that he’s interpreting this to say that the Water of Life begin love, the struggle of the spirit is to notice that it’s being offered this water as it advances towards death. Love will relieve the agony, as water helps the traveler on his weary way.
Everything other than love for the most beautiful God
though it be sugar- eating.
What is agony of the spirit?
To advance toward death without seizing
hold of the Water of Life.