Andrew Marvell Poems
Metaphysical Poets and the Idea of Nothingness
‘Annihilating all that’s made/To a green thought in green shade.’ – Marvell
‘I am re-begot/of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.’ – Donne
‘Nothing,’ as a concept has plasticity; it can be used in a number of different ways and refer to any number of different things. Nothing can be an adjective denoting something of little value, a noun referring to nonexistence, or literally meaning ‘not anything.’ Whilst W. Bradford Smith asserts that metaphysical poetry is ‘concerned with the analysis of experience,’ surely nothingness cannot be an experience, as every experience must surely consist of something. Therefore in metaphysical poetry we must interpret ‘nothing’ in a broad, and perhaps not entirely literal, sense. Using John Donne and Andrew Marvell’s metaphysical poetry as exemplars, this essay will outline the different kinds of nothing and nothingness that permeate their work, and the fear and frustration associated with it.
Death is a recurrent ‘nothingness’ throughout the works of metaphysical poets, and is the most obvious way in which this concept of ‘nothing’ is approached. it is John Donne who in particular has a fascination with death in his work, or as Ramie Targoff suggests, was ‘gripped by a tremendous dear of death, his writings return again and again to strategies for conquering this fear.’ In a modern context, this fear of death may be taken to be a fear of being rendered non-existent or nothing by it. however, living in a devoutly Christian climate, (Donne being first catholic then later protestant) death meant passing on into some kind of afterlife, and it is clear when reading Donne’s sermon death’s duell that his fear of death is not of spiritual nothingness:
‘The ways of our departing out of this life, are in his hands he will have a care of us in the our of death[.]’
Donne’s linguistic choices here are in fact comforting, ‘in his hands’ evoking the image of god caring for the dead, assuring the listener that death is neither solitary nor arbitrary but is in capable ‘hands.’ Donne’s fear of death seems to lie instead in his fear of physical decay, or ‘an overwhelming concern for the material decay of the corpse,’ and in this way becoming physically nothing. This is perhaps a reflection of the sensuous nature of Donne’s poetry, which is concerned with physical touch and sight; the decay of the body would remove these senses entirely. This fear of decay into nothingness is exemplified in the funeral which effectively gives instructions from Donne to whoever buries him after he is dead:
‘Do not harm […] the subtle wreath of hair, which crowns my arm; the mystery, the sign, you must not touch’
Donne describes how he wants his lover’s hair entwined around his arm in order to keep his limbs ‘from dissolution,’ preserving his physical body. In this line his imperatives, ‘do not harm,’ ‘must not touch’ are commanding and clear, as though firmly in the belief that this preservation will work. In addition to this, Donne uses the words ‘tie’ and ‘manacled’ in reference to the entwined hair, expressing a desperation to be physically held together and remain intact, but also suggesting his desire to remain ‘tied’ with the living world. The final line of the poem, ‘I bury some of you,’ implies a kind of anchoring in the living world, or as Targoff puts it, a ‘strategy’ for conquering his fear of death. By entwining his dead, decaying body with a living woman, Donne cannot become physically ‘nothing’ because a part of him will still be associated with a living person.
This ‘strategy’ employed by Donne raises questions about identity in relation to death and nothingness. Targoff asserts that one of the reasons Donne’s fear of death was so great was the thought of ‘the violation of bodily integrity whereby one person’s remains become confused with another,’ thus becoming anonymous and thereby ‘nothing’ in terms of identity. To conquer this, Donne wrote a number of poems in which he bade farewell to various things; Farewell to Love for instance. Judith Schoerer Herz sees these farewell poems as ‘another way of saying ‘I am here.’ Don’t forget me, he insists to his mistresses and, more urgently, to God[.]’ This kind of grounding is evident in A Valediction: Of my Name, in the Window:
‘My name engrav’d herein, Doth contribute my firmnesse to this glasse[.]’
The act of engraving is one of great permanence as it involves force, and in this case a name; the most important identity marker one has. The choice of a window here is also important in Donne’s desire for permanence; in the second stanza Donne writes ‘here you see mee, and I am you,’ describing the reflection that the addressed woman will see of herself in the window. By engraving his name into the window, Donne makes himself a part of the woman’s reflection, so that when she looks in the window, she sees his name and her reflection as one. By doing so, Donne has made himself permanent on three different levels in the poem, the first being the engraving of the name into the window, the second being his subsequent reflection onto the living woman, and the act of writing the poem itself, which one could argue immortalizes the poet. Donne’s fear of nothingness (in terms of lost identity) is clear in this way, for it is clearly not enough for him to simply leave poetry behind, but even within the poetry he anchors himself with various concrete objects and actions.
Death in metaphysical poetry is not limited solely to the poet’s musings on their own deaths but also those deaths of others; their absence being a kind of nothingness. If we return to Smith’s conception of metaphysical poetry as concerned with ‘experience,’ one might suggest that fear of one’s own death is something approached with fear by metaphysical poets as it is an experience they cannot comprehend. However, in the case of Donne’s holy sonnets, written after his wife’s death, whilst he naturally laments her death, he seems to take comfort in the notion of her being in heaven: ‘And her soule early into heaven ravished[.]’ For Donne here, the subject of the poem (most likely his wife) has not been reduced to nothingness as he fears for himself, but her soul, her essential being, continues to live in heaven. Marvell similarly writes on the death of others, one example of this being An Epitaph Upon- which describes a woman who remained chaste to her death, a source of disappointment or dissatisfaction to Marvell:
‘She summ’d her life up ev’ry day; modest as morn; as mid-day bright; gentle as ev’ning, cool as night; ’tis true: but all so weakly said; ’twere more significant, she’s dead.’
These final few lines of the poem build up to the anti-climax of nothingness; Marvell presents us with the goodness of the woman’s ‘modesty’ and ‘gentleness,’ but in the final, blunt clause, stresses that these virtues are worth nothing now that she is dead. She is not only ‘nothing’ in the sense that she no longer exists, but her virtues and value have come to nothing as she has not given herself to a man, or more specifically, Marvell.
Marvell’s epitaph, however, seems less to lament the absence of the woman than express regret and even anger at the unreciprocated feelings Marvell had towards her, introducing a different kind of ‘nothing,’ in frustrated and unreturned affections and love. As Herz suggests, writing on Donne’s poetry, ‘erotic love, or sexual desire, require or presupposes a certain lack […] obstacles, absence, or frustration seem built into desire.’ Indeed, Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress, an urgent plea to the woman of his affections, highlights these frustrations:
‘Then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity: and your quaint honour turn to dust; and into ashes all my lust.’
In a similar vein to ”twere more significant, she’s dead,’ the line ‘then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity’ expresses a frustration at the idea of a woman’s chasteness being wasted; a woman dying without a man enjoying her body. The idea of nothingness is also bound up with the line ‘into ashes all my lust,’ again presenting an image of lust turning into nothing (ashes) because it is unfulfilled. Nothing as a value judgement also emerges in this examination, where women become effectively useless, i.e. nothing, when they die without giving themselves to a man sexually.
It is generally true that early modern metaphysical poetry was concerned largely with religion, death and love. Nothingness, in various senses of the word, pervades all of these things, being in itself a metaphysical concept; something one cannot really touch, and so inevitably is involved in much of Donne and Marvell’s work. Nothingness in most senses, whether this be nonexistence, decay or unreciprocated affections, remains a negative force in their poetry, in opposition to their desires and representing something difficult to comprehend and overcome.
A Stylistic Analysis of Andrew Marvell’s Mower Against the Garden
Andrew Marvell’s Mower Against the Garden is the first in a series of four ‘Garden’ poems. The poem can be read literally, as a pastoral, ecological poem concerned with the destruction of the natural landscape as a result of human consumerism; in particular the fashion for highly ornate, architectural gardens. This is an easy assumption to make when taking Marvell’s personal background into account. Marvell grew up in rural Yorkshire, the son of a clergyman and later resided at Nun Appleton House as a tutor to Lord Fairfax’s daughter. It is therefore a fair assumption to make that he would be familiar with high lifestyle and possibly be concerned enough to have an opinion on ecological consequences. However, if we regard Marvell as a metaphysical poet, as he is credited to be, we realise there areEdenic references. Mira Sengupta’s interpretation of the poemarguesthat we have to read the poem as a metaphorical allegory for the fall of humankind, and that the assumption that the garden represents nature is “overly simplistic” and that it represents human nature before the fall .
Marvell’s structuring of the poem supports Sengupta’s argument. While the poem is seemingly non-stanzaic there is a clearly defined structure. The poem is made of three sections. The structure of the first two sections is identical, four quatrains which are each made up of a complete sentence, followed by a couplet. The third section is made of one quatrain. The quatrain structure, combined with the fact that the poem is of a series of four could support the pastoral argument, representing the four seasons however the three part structure is comparable to an academic argument – introduction, body and conclusion – which supports Sengupta’s argument. The poem is structured to argue whereas simple pastoral poems are for the most part descriptive poems.
The rhyme and rhythm of the poem strengthen the argument. The poem is constructed of rhyming couplets that follow an AA, BB, CC, DD, through to TT pattern. The first line of each couplet is written in iambic pentameter and the second in iambic tetrameter. The effect this has is that the first line of each couplet makes a statement and the second line supports it. The meter used makes speech natural and is a similar rhythm to the human heartbeat, which makes the poem flow when read aloud, and that is the point – the poem was written to be heard, not read.
The poem’s syntax is particularly interesting. Sengupta puts significance on the shift from ‘he’ to ‘them’ in the first seven lines as evidence of the Adam and Eve allegory. While she makes a strong case with which I agree, I believe she overlooks more obvious signs, which are Marvell’s use of sexual metaphors. As Sengupta rightly points out, the inclusion of the words ‘vice’ and ‘seduce’ in the first two lines sets up the narrative trajectory of the poem. The sexual and sinful connotations are obvious, however it is Marvell’s use of ambiguous sexual metaphors that reinforce the argument. It is his references to, what on the surface are, normal flowers that I find particularly interesting.
The first flower he mentions is the carnation, the “pink” which “grew as double as his mind” l9. Is he referring here to a simple double-bloomed flower or something else? My interpretation is that because he [Adam] is no longer pure in mind due to the introduction of a “nutriment” l10 [Eve] his penis [pink] grew to twice its normal size – in short he was aroused. The next incidence of innocence having sexual connotations is the tulip, a peculiar flower that seems to represent the female lower form aesthetically yet is “overtly and precisely phallic’ according to the gardener Monty Don . Next he mentions the ‘Marvel of Peru’. This exotic flower was only a recent discovery at the time the poem was written and its properties again allude to sexuality. It has uses as an aphrodisiac and has the peculiar quality of being able to produce two different coloured blooms on the same plant.
The property that all these flowers have in common is duality or doubling in some form. The double pink head of the carnation, the aesthetic peculiarity of the tulip and the double-bloom potential of the Marvel of Peru. This dualistic reoccurrence ties them together neatly with the “cherry that does Nature vex” l29 – they are all potentially hermaphrodites. The carnation visually resembles the female sex organs yet in the poem it represents the phallus. The tulip, described by Jeanette Winterson as a “queer little flower” and, more significantly, she uses to represent sexual transformation, is aesthetically both sexes . The Marvel of Peru is a confirmed hermaphrodite, just like the cherry that can “procreate without a sex” l30. The cherry itself has sexual connotations, stones being a slang term for testicles when the poem was produced.
All this is relevant to the poems subject and Sengupta’s argument in that before the introduction of sex and desire in the ‘Garden [of Eden]’ Adam was also a hermaphrodite or at least sexless. Sengupta explains it thus;
‘with the influence of the Mower [mankind after the fall] the plants vex their own nature, because they no longer procreate as they were intended to (asexually)[…] instead of having sex the natural way, the fruits and plants[…] have learned to procreate by means of grafting […] the way humans do, with a partner.”
By using seemingly natural allegories Marvell succeeds in creating a poem that conveys itself initially as a straightforward pastoral poem with ecological undertones, however the underlying sexual allusions mean that the poem succeeds in doing exactly what he accuses the ‘Mower’ of doing; the introduction of the idea of sex and lust taints what was once pure and innocent.
Don, M (2005) My Roots, Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton. Extract available at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=koEnG1c3pVsC&pg=PT185&lpg=PT185&dq=phallic+tulip+meaning&source=bl&ots=3FYxb0QuHX&sig=7Yiiy3boNbBsvAr0C64lTQqnHdc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FuAyU7SwD8KRhQe_2YC4BA#v=onepage&q=phallic%20tulip%20meaning&f=false
Douglas, E (2014) ‘That was a terrible thing to do to a flower: Floral Pleasures and Changeable Bodies Virginia Woolfs Orlando and Jeanette Wintersons The Powerbook’, , (), p14. [Online]. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/4854766/That_was_a_terrible_thing_to_do_to_a_flower_Floral_Pleasures_and_Changeable_Bodies_in_Virginia_Woolfs_Orlando_and_Jeanette_Wintersons_The_PowerBook (Accessed: 26/3/14).
Greenblatt (2012) ‘Andrew Marvell’, in Greenblatt (ed.) Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume B. New York: W.W Norton & Company, pp. 1789-1790.
Sengupta, M () Grafting The Texts: An Intertextual Reading of Marvell’s Mower and Garden Poems, Available at: https://marvell.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/ (Accessed: 26/03/2014).
Artificial Nature and Natural Art: Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” and Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House”
Many poets draw on the theme of nature to symbolize the message they are trying to convey. In many cases, nature is juxtaposed with artistic design to emphasize the conflict or the relationship between the natural and the human worlds. Millar Maclure clarifies the distinction between nature and art as follows: “nature as what is given, the universal order of creation, including human nature, and art as what is made, what man makes.” He futher explains, “it is also proper to speak of nature as the art or ‘signature’ of God, and of art as the distinguishing quality or evidence of man’s nature.” This conflict between nature and art is often designed as an allegory by authors of poetry to communicate their opinion on society. Both Edmund Spenser (1522-1599) and Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) explore the idea of nature (and art) in their poetry, in order to present a moral as well as a historical lesson.
The works compared in this essay are Book 1 and part of Book 2 (“The Bower of Bliss” episode) of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House: To My Lord Fairfax.” The Faerie Queene, Spenser’s longest and greatest work, was published in two parts, the first in 1590 and the second in 1596. He himself describes his work as “a continued Allegory, or darke conceit,” thus alerting the reader to look beyond the literal meaning of the text. Susanne Wofford explains that Spenser uses external events and places to convey the characters’ internal consciousness; “the landscape of Spenser’s poem is a psychological one: many of its places and commonplaces represent spiritual or emotional aspects of the characters themselves. To learn how to read Spenser’s poem,” she writes, “is to learn that everything – a person in a story, a house, a tree or a giant – can represent an aspect of the hero or heroine’s own psyche.” Even though Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House” (1651) is not a “continued allegory” it is filled with allegories referring to England and with a deep relation to the scriptures. “In the poem’s rich symbolism, biblical events – Eden, the first temptation, the Fall, the wilderness experience of the Israelites – find echoes in the experience of the Fairfax family, the speaker, the history of the English Reformation, and the wanton destruction of the recent Civil Wars.” In this essay, I will primarily be examining three aspects of both poems: the relationship between nature and art, the effect of female beauty on nature, and the reference to the Garden of Eden.
In these poems, Spenser and Marvell take their reader on a journey through various landscapes and sceneries, each of which bears a different meaning and contributes to the implication of the plot. These works are not only adventurous, but are also instructional, both for the characters and for the reader. Spenser uses the imagery of gardens and buildings with the intention of reflecting “Renaissance pictorial and architectural display. His architecture and his horticulture are presented precisely and symbolically while his untamed forests, his thickets, plains, and pastures remain vague (if no less symbolic).” Both nature and art are prominent in Spenser’s work, and they both serve the same symbolical purpose. “The generall end therefore of all the booke,” writes Spenser in his letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, which accompanied the first edition of The Faerie Queene, “is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline.” Hence, it is intended to educate in a honorable and creditable fashion worthy of a good Christian. The same religious character and intention can be found in Marvell’s poetry. Joseph Summers states that in Marvell’s “poems nature apart from man is usually ‘green,’ vital, fecund, and triumphant. Since it affirms life it is, as part of the divine plan, ‘good,’ but its goodness is neither available nor quite comprehensible to man…Since his alienation with the departure from Eden, man can only live in nature either as its observer or its destroyer.” That might be one of the reasons why man starts imitating nature. In “Upon Appleton House,” however, there is one person who is not only observing nature, but is also capable of adding to its beauty. Still, Marvell, like Spenser, uses natural imagery to express his view of history and religion.
The first point of comparison in these two poems is the relationship between nature and art, and its implications for society. Nature and art are often personified to emphasize the tension that exists between them. In Book II of The Faerie Queene, the Bower of Bliss is an artful place that has imitated nature to the extent that it might seem real, but the author gives clear hints as to its artifice:
Thus being entred, they behold around
A large and spacious plaine, on every side
Strowed with pleasauns, whose faire grassy ground
Mantled with green, and goodly beautifide
With all the ornaments of Floraes pride,
Wherewith her mother Art, as halfe in scorne
Of niggard Nature, like a pompous bride
Did decke her, and too lavishly adorne,
When forth from virgin bowre she comes in th’early morne. (II, vii, 50)
This stanza starts off with a picturesque description of the plain, but as the lines progress it becomes clear that it is not the work of “Nature,” but that it is “mother Art” who has beautified it all “too lavishly.” Nature is cast off as a “niggard” by Art, and she has made the plain look like a “pompous bride,” which, eventually, is too much of a good thing. Another scene of conflict between nature and art can be found in stanza 59:
One would have thought (so cunningly, the rude,
And scornèd parts were mingled with the fine)
That nature had for wantonesse ensued
Art, and that Art at nature did repine;
So striving each th’other to undermine,
Each did the others worke more beautifie;
So diff’ring both in willes, agreed in fine:
So all agreed through sweete diversitie,
This Garden to adorne with all varietie. (II, vii)
Nature and Art seem to be competing to see who the best creator is, but as a result of this battle, no one notices the “rude and scornèd part” that are “mingled with the fine.” Although they are not of the same mind, they end up agreeing in “sweete diversitie.” In the place where, fundamentally, nature should rule, there is a mixture of nature and art, and it is not clear where one starts and the other ends. All creatures and objects in this garden “like” something from nature, “as if” they belong there and “seem” authentic, but they merely “resemble” the natural world. Words like these dominate this passage of the Bower of Bliss, and with these Spenser hints at the corruption of art, the unnatural, the ungodly.
In the opening lines of “Upon Appleton House,” Marvell contrasts the natural character of the Fairfax house with the works of “foreign Architect[s]” (l. 2). Nature rules this house which is not ostentatious, but a place where “all things are composed…Like Nature, orderly and near” (ll. 25-6). In stanza 2, Marvell compares human architecture to natural design:
Why should of all things man unruled
Such unproportioned dwellings build?
The beasts are by their dens exprest,
And birds contrive an equal nest;
The low-roofed tortoises do dwell
In cases fit of tortoise-shell:
No creature loves an empty space;
Their bodies measure out their place.
Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, man is trying to surpass the work of God, and “thinks by breadth the world t’unite” (l. 24). The first group, of course, failed miserably in their mission, and God punished them for thinking they could measure up to Him. Consequently, nature, God’s creation, is superior to human art. Marvell too, personifies nature and art in his poem:
But Nature here hath been so free
As if she said, Leave this to me.
Art would more neatly have defaced
What she had laid so sweetly waste;
In fragrant gardens, shady woods,
Deep meadows, and transparent floods. (st. 10)
If she gets the chance, Art will defile Natures work in “gardens,” “woods,” “meadows” and “floods,” but not none of this happens at the Fairfax estate. Like Spenser, Marvell depicts nature as “good” and art as generally “bad,” but whereas Marvell’s nature is able to stand against the forces of art, Spenser’s nature has to compromise with the dominating character of art.
The second point of comparison is the effect of female beauty on her natural surroundings. In the first book of The Faerie Queene, Una’s beauty is revealed every time she removes the veil from her face:
Her angels face
As the great eye of heaven shynèd bright,
And made a sunshine in the shadie place;
Did never mortall eye behold such heavenly grace. (I, iii, 4)
It seems that even the sun is affected by Una’s “angels face” as it lights up the “shadie place” where Una is resting. When a “ramping Lyon” (l. 38) rushes “out of the thickest wood” (l. 37) obviously intending to devour her, he too is amazed at her sight and instead of attacking her, the beast kisses “her wearie feet” (l. 46). The lion, the king of the animal kingdom, surrenders to Una, and decides to protect her on her journey. This wild creature from the forest rejects his innate nature when he comes face to face with this “heavenly grace.” Later, in canto 6, Una is rescued from Sans Lou by a group of “wyld woodgods” (l. 73) who “stand astonied at her beautie bright, | In their rude eyes unworthie of so wofull plight” (ll. 80-1). They too “kisse her feete” (l. 108) and “worship her, as Queene,” but when she tries to put a stop to their idolatry of her, “they her Asse would worship fayn” (l. 171). Even though these mystical creatures do not represent nature in this poem, they do show the same natural reaction as nature to her beauty and grace. In a similar way, Mary Fairfax affects her natural surroundings in Marvell’s poem. At the end of the poem, writes Andrew Sanders, “[t]here is a firm return to the idea embodied by the house and its a occupants as Fairfax’s daughter is presented as the auspicious restorer of a limited earthly paradise, much as her father may still be to the country at large”:
‘Tis she that to these gardens gave
That wondrous beauty which they have;
She straightness on the woods bestows;
To her the meadow sweetness owes;
Nothing could make the river be
So crystal-pure but only she;
She yet more pure, sweet, straight, and fair,
Than gardens, woods, meads, rivers are.
Therefore what first she on them spent,
They gratefully again present:
The meadow, carpets where to tread;
The garden, flow’rs to crown her head;
And for her glass, the limpid brook,
Where she may all her beauties look;
But, since she would not have them seen,
The wood about her draws a screen. (st. 87-88)
Nature is exalted throughout the poem, but Mary’s beauty even exceeds the natural beauty of Nunappleton. In fact, she is the cause of “that wondrous beauty,” and like the kingfisher, she “Admiring Nature does benumb” (l. 672); that is, she controls the elements around her. Both Mary and Una try to hide their appearances from the outside world, probably because they know the power that lies in it. It is not only the outward beauty of these women that the poets are concerned with; their inward beauty reveals that they are indeed moderate and excellent creatures.
Both Spenser and Marvell make use of historical and biblical allegories to put a deeper meaning in their poetry, and each of them draws on the image of Paradise, the third point of comparison, to expose the sinfulness of man. Sanders explains the role of nature (and art) in Spenser’s allegories: “Where Spenser’s landscapes tend to be generalized, his buildings are solid and spatially imagined and his formal gardens are ordered and ornamentally planted. Each is the occasion of a knightly sojourn, temptation, distraction, or recuperation, but each also helps to stabilize the foundations from which the poem’s allegory rises.” The description of the Bower of Bliss seems to recall that of the Garden of Eden before the fall of man:
The joyous birds shrouded in chearefull shade,
Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet;
Th’Angelicall soft trembling voyces made
To th’instruments divine respondence meet;
With the base murmere of the waters fall:
The waters fall with difference discreet,
Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call:
The gentle warbling wind low answerèd to all. (II, xii, 71)
Looks, however, can be deceiving, and they certainly are in this case. The following stanza depicts Acrasia in the middle of the bower, enjoying an immoral life:
There, whence that Musick seemèd heard to bee,
Was the faire Witch here selfe now solacing,
With a New Lover, whom through sorceree
And witchcraft, she from farre did thither bring:
There she had him now layd a slombering,
In secret shade, after long wanton joyes:
Whilst round about them pleasauntly did sing
Many faire Ladies, and lascivious boyes,
That ever mixt their song with light licentious toyes. (II, xii, 72)
Paradise is corrupted by sin, but its deceiving appearances might be appealing to onlookers. However, Sir Guyon, the knight of Temperance, is able to see through this deception, and destroys the Bower of Bliss:
But all those pleasant bowres and Pallace brave,
Guyon broke downe, with rigour pittilesse;
Ne ought their goodly workmanship might save
Them from the tempest of his wrathfulnesse,
But that their blisse he turn’d to balefulnesse:
Their groves he feld, their gardins did deface,
Their arbers spoyle, their Cabinets suppresse,
Their banket houses burne, their buildings race,
And of the fairest late, now made the fowlest place. (II, xii, 83)
The artificial nature in the garden is destroyed by Guyon, and there can be no mistake about the allegory here: when practising temperance and self-control, man can overcome lust and desire. Marvell’s garden is not artificial, but it has been tainted by sin as much as Spenser’s:
O thou, that dear and happy isle
The garden of the world ere while,
Thou Paradise of four seas,
Which Heaven planted us to please,
But, to exclude the world, did guard
With wat’ry if not flaming sword;
What luckless apple did we taste,
To make us mortal, and thee waste? (st. 41)
This stanza actually contains two allegories; a biblical one referring to the lost Paradise, the Garden of Eden (which is now guarded with a “flaming sword,” as a consequence of human sin), and a historical one referring to that “dear and happy isle” of fallen England, devastated by the Civil War as a result of Thomas Fairfax’s retirement as gardener of this paradise. Like The Faerie Queene, this poem points to the devastating results of a sinful life, but where the Bower of Bliss is destroyed, Nunappleton remains “Heaven’s Center, Nature’s Lap, | And Paradise’s only Map” (ll. 767-8).
In summary, Edmund Spenser describes a competitive relationship between nature and art in The Faerie Queene in which art seems to have the upper hand, but where nature is depicted as “good.” Andrew Marvell, on the other hand, draws a picture of a very “natural” art at Nunappleton, where nature is victorious over art. Further, external and internal female beauty, embodied in Una and Mary Fairfax, affect the natural surroundings. Both women represent grace, and nature can only react in one way: with worship and submission. Finally, Spenser’s Garden of Eden is an illusion of artificial nature trying to imitate Paradise while it is in fact its antipode, while Marvell’s fallen Paradise is resurrected on that small piece of Thomas Fairfax’s land. Ultimately, these poems reveal that the line between “nature as what is given, the universal order of creation” and “art as what is made, what man makes” is a very thin one.
Marvell’s Gardens: A Reading of The Mower Against Gardens and The Garden
For both “The Mower Against Gardens” and “The Garden”, the primary terms in opposition are the same: the world of nature, the world of men. The former is a realm of leisure, the latter of ceaseless, pointless toil. And yet the status granted to the garden in one poem is directly contrary to that granted in the other: for “The Mower Against Gardens”, the garden is the locus of human labor (and perversion), it is at the heart of the world of men. The scene of “The Garden,” by contrast, is one of leisure, solitude, and nature’s fecundity. The relationship between the two poems is more complicated than the mere opposition suggested by their titles: while the terms of the argument are constant between them, the value granted them shifts; the status of labor, leisure, and nature is different in each. Also different, I will argue, is the tone of the poems: one seems earnest in its argument, while the other is self-mocking.
The argument of “The Mower Against Gardens” falls into three parts. The first (ll. 1-22) is by far the longest, and presents in its first sentence the opposed terms of its argument. In the very first word, we find the poem’s moral verdict:
Luxurious man, to bring his vice in use,
Did after him the world seduce,
And from the fields the flowers and plants allure,
Where nature was most plain and pure.
On one hand is “Luxurious man”; on the other, “world”, “Fields…flowers and plants”, and “nature.” The terms of condemnation are bald (“Luxurious,” “vice”), but the statement of the offense is more subtle: it is not the practice of man’s vice that corrupts the world, but rather his determination to “seduce” the world to follow his vice, his need to make nature into a mirror for himself. This is a familiar moralizing argument: the real danger of vice is not individual practice, but rather the transmission of that practice to others. In this passage, such transmission occurs through careful perversion of the environment (“And a more luscious earth for them did knead, / Which stupefied them”), and its effects are precisely as desired: “The pink grew then as double as his mind” – the tainted man can see his image in the world he has made around him. “Double” is a curious adjective, implying self-division, inner conflict, a straining against nature: aspects of man’s state after the Fall (the earliest Christian word for the post-lapsarian state makes clear this aspect: dipsychia, double-souledness).
The examples of perversion presented in lines 9-18 concern accidental rather than essential properties: scent, color, and value in terms of both money and labor. The examples found in lines 11-14 aim their condemnation at specifically female (and perhaps largely courtly) acts of self-adornment: “perfume”, “paint”, “interline its cheek”. (I take the last in the sense of the OED’s fifth definition, “To mark with lines, esp. of various colours”; the texts cited are comfortably 17th-century.) This is the first instance of an argumentative thread common to both poems, and which is especially strong in “The Garden”: a reviling of sexual pursuit and the (non-auto) erotic life. Lines 15-19 turn from personal vanity to economic waste: a meadow sold for a tulip, the toil and risk of exploration for “the Marvel of Peru” (the discovery of “another world” is merely a happy coincidence).
A shift occurs in line 19 (“And yet”), beginning the second section of the poem (to line 31). Lines 19-22 make a conciliatory gesture, and then dramatically intensify the poem’s condemnation:
And yet these rarities might be allowed
To man, that sovereign thing and proud,
Had he not dealt between the bark and tree,
Forbidden mixtures there to see.
If in the first movement of the poem there is a sense of perversion, a willful straying from nature, with line 22 a new sense of transgression is introduced. “Forbidden” implies not only moral laxity or lapse; it implies law, a concrete statute, the breaking of which invokes punishment from an authority higher than man, however “sovereign”. Unlike the adornments of lines 9-18, which concern only the addition or alteration of accidental properties, in lines 21-30 it is the essence of things that is altered, with ensuing chaos: “No plant now knew the stock from which it came; / He grafts upon the wild the tame.” This transgression, the result of which is a loss of origins, is made more grievous because it is frivolous, intended not even to delight “the palate”, but merely to “put [it] in dispute”. Not even pleasure governs man’s appetite; novelty is all. With the entrance of “his green seraglio” there is a suggestion not only of the exotic but of the heathen; man’s perversion has become a religious transgression.
With the new terms of the argument, however, the poem has backed itself into a corner. With the transgression of law must come punishment, and none seems forthcoming. Indeed, man seems able to fulfill his wishes (however empty) in their entirety: he’s perfectly capable of vexing nature (l.29), and the word “forbidden”, so effective at heightening the force of the poem’s invective, begins to ring hollow. The poem responds to this dilemma by shifting its strategy entirely; in its third and final section, from line 31, the poem turns from damning the world of men to praising the world of nature, and the implied terms of disparagement switch from condemnation to pity. Man needn’t work so hard for satisfaction; in “the sweet fields”, “willing Nature does to all dispense / A wild and fragrant innocence.” If he gave over his perverse love of the exotic, man would find his needs met almost entirely without toil: “And fauns and fairies do the meadows till / More by their presence than their skill.” Finally, man’s punishment is one of self-imposed deprivation; however beautiful his creations, they lack real substance: “howsoe’er the figures do excel, / The Gods themselves with us do dwell.”
The beginning of “The Garden” seems to take up this argument seamlessly: “How vainly men themselves amaze / To win the palm, the oak, or bays.” Again, the inutility of labor is denigrated in favor of the leisured enjoyment of nature: the little crowns won by man’s great effort can’t even provide adequate shade, while “all flowers and all trees do close / To weave the garlands of repose.” Like the mower poem, “The Garden” follows a three-part structure. In the first four stanzas, the virtues of the garden are proved through comparison with the trials (and supposed pleasures) of the world of men. As he compares the two worlds, the speaker seems to fully inhabit neither, and his praise of the garden is mitigated, in the second stanza, by doubt: “Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, / And Innocence, thy sister dear?” In the very stanza that should establish the garden’s virtues, the speaker can’t even be certain that those virtues exist: “Your sacred plants, if here below, / Only among the plants will grow.”
As in “The Mower Against Gardens”, the polemic has a sexual edge; in the third and fourth stanzas the pleasures of (human) erotic pursuit are found decidedly wanting when compared to the pleasures of the garden. Importantly, though, the pleasures compared are of a kind: “No white nor red was ever seen / So amorous as this lovely green.” The erotic is not rejected in “The Garden”, but merely takes a different (and decidedly odd) object: “Fair trees, wheresoe’er your barks I wound, / No name shall but your own be found.” This conceit provides the poem with its finest display of wit: far from foiled by the metamorphoses of their quarry, Apollo and Pan were after the plants all along. It also, however, leads the poem into the second section (the three stanzas from l. 33), which disrupts the speaker’s former credibility by introducing elements that make “The Garden” a poem impossible to read straight.
The three stanzas of the second section address the pleasures of the body, the mind, and the soul as they are gratified in the garden. “What wondrous life is this I lead!” the speaker exults: there’s no longer any trace of the uncertainty found in the poem’s second stanza, nor is there any presence – even rhetorically – of the world outside the garden. As with the “sweet fields” of the earlier poem, gratification requires little or no action on the part of the speaker:
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach…
Already this seems suspect: “luscious” was a word of denigration in the mower poem, and what’s described here isn’t easeful subsistence, but rather gluttony. The final lines of the stanza clarify the detrimental effects: “Stumbling on melons, as I pass, / Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.” The negative cast of the following stanzas becomes even starker: in stanza six, the mind “Withdraws into its happiness”, rejecting the possibility of interaction with the real world (“The mind, that ocean where each kind / Does straight its own resemblance find”) for an entirely imagined creation. Lest we think this a salutary use of the imagination, the poem underscores it as destructive: “Annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade.” Even as the soul is transformed into a singing bird in stanza seven, the pointlessness of the speaker’s leisure is as pronounced as the inutility of labor in the mower poem: “And, till prepared for longer flight, / Waves in its plumes the various light.” One is correct, I think, in doubting the advent of this “longer flight”; the movement from body to soul has been less an ascension than a stupor.
Having arrived at the soul, the only intensification possible in the poem’s third section (from stanza 9) is a gesture to Paradise. The retreat to the garden is a rejection of the entire world and society, and what is presented as a validating gesture defeats itself – the state of satisfaction (or stupor) of the speaker is doomed to be short-lived, as it presumes a greater privilege than is granted to “a mortal’s share”. (By so entirely rejecting society, this stanza extends the poem’s striking anti-erotic posture: were man truly perfect, even in a prelapsarian state, he would be allowed full autonomy, free from the cloying necessities of sex and procreation; nor would he desire any Miltonic “apt and cheerful conversation”.) The poem’s closing stanza, with its image of the flower dial, underscores this fleetingness: “How could such sweet and wholesome hours / Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?” Herbs and flowers are transient, quickly wilting things, unsustainable through seasons; the sojourn in the garden must be similarly transient.
It is tempting to see these two poems as an easy pair, with “The Garden” merely embodying those vices railed against by the mower. However, the relationship is not quite so neat. The poems’ speakers are not clear opposites: both feel an antipathy for the world of men, both denigrate a seemingly vain labor, and both praise the natural world (though it is important that the word “nature” does not appear in “The Garden”, while in the mower poem it is a capitalized entity). The gardens described in the poems (though both, as noted above, are “luscious”) are not precisely the same, and there’s no suggestion of innovation or labor in the fruits of “The Garden”: none is the product of grafting, none is imported from “another world”. Most importantly, “The Mower Against Gardens” seems to me a fundamentally earnest poem, lamenting a tendency to be dissatisfied with the common and known, and to prefer a profligate search for novelty. In its depiction of drunken stupor, and its acknowledgment of the unsustainability of its vision, on the other hand, “The Garden” takes on a tone of self-mockery.
The source of these differences may lie in the poems’ diverging conceptions of “labor” and “leisure”. The mower disparages needless scientific innovation, a vexing of nature with no real end; the speaker of “The Garden” dismisses poetry, sport, and civic duty (at least two of which we know to have been among Marvell’s endeavors). The leisure of the mower is not sloth: his very title indicates labor, and the ease granted by “willing nature” is not gluttony but an effort harmonious with nature, toward necessary ends. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the pitch of the poems’ rejection of the world of men is decidedly different. The mower rejects the social world not in the abstract, but in its particular incarnation; there’s nothing in “a wild and fragrant innocence” that requires solitude, and the mower seems to long for the repopulation of “the sweet fields [that] lie forgot.” The speaker in “The Garden”, by contrast, desires an utter break with society, a rejection of all labor and all duty. The tone of the poem and the ridiculousness of its drunkenly stumbling speaker, I think, deflate the desirability of so perfect a severance from the human world.
An Analysis of the Essence of Love as Revealed by Andrew Marvell and Percy Shelley In, to His Coy Mistress and Love’s Philosophy
The Many Ways We Love
Love is an idea that many are familiar with – a term used to characterize one’s deep affection for someone. Love is unique in the ways that it is manifested and presented. Sometimes love is portrayed as genuine devotion to another, while other times it is portrayed as simply lustful. In some cases, love can be so intense that it develops into pure madness to possess one’s lover. Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and Percy Shelley’s “Love’s Philosophy” are direct contrasts in the ways that they portray love. “Love’s Philosophy” presents love as honest and divine as “To His Coy Mistress” presents love as a lustful sentiment. In addition to these two poems, Robert Browning dwells upon the subject of madness in his dramatic monologue, “Porphyria’s Lover,” presenting madness as the result of love as well as the result for a man’s need to control and possess. These poems all portray the radically different views of the nature of love.
“To His Coy Mistress” portrays the lustful aspects of “love”. Although this poem is a love poem, the poem culminates into one huge ultimatum, which is: sleep with me because we’re running out of time. The first stanza of the poem is when the speaker makes his first point. He opens the poem by saying “Had [they] but world enough, and time…[they] would sit down, and think which way to walk, and pass [their] long love’s day” (Marvell 1-4); meaning that if there were enough time, he would be patient in loving her. He continues on by using flattery to tell his lover how he would “love at [no] lower rate” because she deserves nothing but first class love . Then he introduces the “but” statement. Although he would like to love her at a slow and patient rate, he claims that he can “hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” and so must rush her. He then brings into account the next reason why they must hurry the pace of their love—this being because her beauty will eventually fade. He claims that her “beauty shall no more be found” and that the “worms shall try / That long-preserved virginity”. As grotesque as that sounds, he is basically attempting to provoke a sense of urgency within his lover as well as scare her by saying she will die a virgin. In the end, he states that they are basically trapped in the prison of life and that the only way to escape is by “tear[ing] [their] pleasures with rough strife / Through the iron gates of life”. This whole poem, as symbolic and insightful as it may sound, culminates to the simple fact that his love for his lover manifests in the utmost lustful—and almost vain—manner that a love poem could ever get.
In direct contrast to “To His Coy Mistress,” “Love’s Philosophy” presents love as genuine and heartfelt as the poet, Shelley, utilizes personification throughout most of the poem. This use of personification allows the many descriptions of the grandiosity of his love to seem even grander. Shelley splits the poem into two stanzas; each ending with a question. In the first stanza, he states that the “fountains mingle with the river… [and that] the winds of Heaven mix for ever” (Shelley 1-3). Along with this description, Shelley argues that nothing in the world is single and he ends the short stanza by asking that if everything in this world has a match, “Why not I with thine?” (Shelley 8). The second stanza follows the same pattern, presenting love, again, as grandiose and divine as the “mountains kiss high Heaven / And the waves clasp one another” (Shelley 9-10). But as he concludes describing the marvelous essence of nature, he asks “What is all this sweet work worth / If thou kiss not me?” (Shelley 15-16). The manner in which Shelley expresses the nature of love is one of true honesty and love as is seen in his simple but beautiful descriptions of the Earth.
Unlike the lovey-dovey personality that “To His Coy Mistress” and “Love’s Philosophy” possess, “Porphyria’s Lover” focuses on the strained relationship between Porphyria and her lover that quickly digresses to her death, as a result of social barriers and the lover’s obsession with Porphyria. The poem begins with Porphyria entering a cottage where her lover patiently waits as she starts a fire and “[makes] the cheerless grate / Blaze up, and all the cottage warm,” revealing her authority in establishing the environment in which they reside (Browning 8-9). It can be seen that Porphyria possesses the control in the relationship which her lover makes obvious when he states that “She put [his] arm about [her] waist” and “made [his] cheek lie there, / and spread, o’er all, her yellow hair” (Browning 16-18) Although Porphyria is seemingly the one in control, her lover reveals her “Murmuring how she love[s] [him]” and how “She [is] too weak […] / [To] give herself over to [him] for ever” (Browning 21-25). Not only is it made clear that Porphyria is reluctant to be with him, but it also presents the idea that her lover is upset that she does not make him her primary and only love. In fact, C.R. Tracy observes that Porphyria’s lover knows that “Porphyria loves him passionately but has not the strength of character necessary to make her true to him” and, therefore, finds it more logical to kill her rather than let her live (579). Porphyria’s lover also suggests her social standing as an upper class woman when he claims that she is incapable of setting her “passion free from pride, and vainer ties,” establishing the social barrier that perturbs him from fully possessing Porphyria. In the moment that Porphyria’s lover recognizes that she reciprocates his love for her, he revels in the moment because at last he knows that “Porphyria worship[s] [him]” (Browning 33). His love for her is so obsessive and desperate that he is led to madness and finds another reason to keep her in this perfect instance by killing her. He goes on to state that in “That moment she was mine, mine, mine,” highlighting the idea that he now possesses her and can keep her forever (Browning 36). Not only does the night continue with the now-deceased Porphyria lying beside her lover, but her lover also goes on to describe Porphyria as significantly more alive after death, with cheeks that “Blushed bright” (Browning, 48). Her lover’s madness and desperation is so severe that he feels as if he has allowed “Her darling one wish […] be heard” (Browning 57). This manner of expressing love is much more extreme than many love poems in the way that love is seen to drive someone to madness.
Although Porphyria’s lover did end up murdering Porphyria as a way of possessing her, he holds a completely different view of his partner. It can be seen that he does wish for her to love him, and only him, but he does not share the trait with the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress” where he expresses his lustful nature to the extreme. Actually, his madness spouts from the opposite idea – he feels as if he does not have the social standing to keep her with him forever and, therefore, kills her out of desperation.
Love, as we all know, is quite complicated. Not only is it complicated, but it is different for everyone. Some choose to express their love through a sincere and warm expression as is seen in “Love’s Philosophy”, while others make it obvious that love is simply possessing the other through sexual relations as is seen in “To His Coy Mistress”. In the utmost level, love can also be presented as destructive. As is evident in “Porphyria’s Lover”, love kicked up a few notches creates a sense of madness and desperation, which culminates in the death of Porphyria. It is interesting, indeed, to dissect how these poems accurately portray the many ways in which we love.
Andrew Marvell’s Description of Life in Carpe Diem as Illustrated in His Poem To His Coy Mistress
In Andrew Marvell’s poem, To His Coy Mistress, he writes to show that is hurrying after him and will bring death, so because of this his beloved must live by carpe diem. Marvell uses “coy” to describe his lover as she is shy, but due to his fear of time running out they must act on their emotions now. To achieve his purpose, Marvell uses his diction, imagery, and metaphors.
Marvell uses his diction to portray time as a villain chasing after him and love, causing the necessity for them to seize the moment. By using the words “worms”, “ashes”, and “dust”, Marvell shows the severity of the situation as these things are what time will bring to the lovers in death. The connotation behind these words is that death is completely empty and they will rot in the ground. Due to this, the lovers must make the most of their time together as it is already running out. In using the words “youthful hue” and “morning dew”, Marvell shows that they should take advantage of their love before their youth is stolen by their foe, time. Like dew, the life that they have is temporary. The connotation behind these words implies that the pair will only be young for so long before time has its’ grip upon them. Marvell’s diction urges his love to carpe diem with him as time is chasing after them both.
Another way Marvell achieves his purpose of showing time is the enemy of love is through imagery. If they had all the time in the world, Marvell says that he “would love you ten years before the Flood” and “till the conversion of the Jews”. This imagery shows the true nature of love as if Marvell had eternity, he would this girl for all of that time. But behind these promises of loving her forever, lies him urging her to accept his love now as they do not have all this time. He shows how futile it is to not love, as her “quaint honor [will] turn to dust, and into ashes all my [Marvell’s] lust”. This imagery is a contrast of images as it proposes his love, which represents life, versus death, which represents time. This points out that as time ticks by, they are coming closer and closer to death. Death has finality and if him and his do not get together soon, time will overcome them both; therefore they need to live in the moment.
Marvell also uses metaphors to show that time is coming for him and his love with the inescapability of death. If Marvell had eternity to love, he would have his “vegetable love grow, vaster than empires, and more slow”. In comparing his love to vegetable growth, Marvell shows that his love would grow slowly and surely, if they had eternity. But, they do not have this time as “at my [Marvell’s] back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near”. With comparing time to a winged chariot, Marvell is proving that time is fast and right behind him. Marvell can hear this “chariot” as it is coming towards him and his love, once it catches them they will no longer have time left to love each other. Marvell uses metaphors to show that time is coming after him and his love quickly, preventing them from having forever together. Due to this, Marvell wants to take advantage of the time they do have left and use it.
To His Coy Mistress uses Marvell’s diction, imagery, and metaphors to press the urgency of the situation in that time is running out. He views time to be the enemy of love and it will bring death. Marvell and his lover must carpe diem and love each other while they can.
Andrew Marvell’s Representation of Tone and Symbolism as Explained in His Poem, to His Coy Mistress
Andrew Marvell wrote “To His Coy Mistress” to persuade the speaker’s mistress to quicken their relationship, while Annie Finch wrote “Coy Mistress” as a rebuttal to his persuasions. These poems contained contrasting ideas due mostly to the tone and imagery Marvell and Finch used. The ideas included satire, lust, bitterness, aggravation, passion, and affection.
Marvell creates a distinct stone for each stanza, satirically insincere, melancholically sincere, and passionate. These diverse tones are used to con the Coy Mistress into obeying the speaker. The insincere, satiric tone is shown in the first stanza when Marvell stated “Two hundred (years) to adore each breast” (15) which is twice as long as the hundred years he remarked he would spend adoring her forehead and eyes. The point of his insincere, satiric tone is to flatter his Coy Mistress. The second stanza portrayed his melancholically sincere tone to address his death and decay that are approaching. He remarked “My echoing songs; then worms shall try” (27) providing an image of worms eating away his unfinished work. This emphasizes that death is coming soon, proving to his mistress that they should speed up their relationship to live a full life. He also justifies that they only have this life to love each other by saying “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace.” (31-32) showing human mortality, and how unrealistic it is to love after death. The last stanza exhibits a passionate tone that contains his true lust for the Coy Mistress. He stated “And while that willing soul transpires / At every pore with instant fires” (35-36) which shows that everytime they touch a fire arises proving his passion for the Mistress. This is intended to awaken his lover’s hot-blooded desire. All three of the tones used in the three stanzas of “To His Coy Mistress” create a seemingly justified argument towards the speaker’s relationship with the Coy Mistress although there may be flaws in his arguments displayed in the poem “Coy Mistress” by Annie Finch.
Finch also used three different tones to prove her point even though her point strongly differed from Marvell’s. She used tones such as bitterness, anger, and distant affection to portray that the speaker does not want to quicken her relationship with the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress”. The first eight lines of “Coy Mistress” show Finch’s bitter tone by ending various lines with a period in to emphasize a point “a Lady does not seize the day.” (2). The period ends the line bitterly in an attempt to forbid the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress” from responding. A minimal amount of punctuation is used to create an aggravated tone along with short vowel sounds “were we not fond of numbered Time / and grateful to the vast and sweet / trials his days will make us meet:” (6-8) this gives off the idea that the speaker is spitting out words in one breath. The aggravated tone is followed by an affectionate tone, which is achieved while still remaining distant. She says “and Time, in turn, may sweeten Love” (13) addressing the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress” and informing him that if he gives her time, the lust may come so he need not be so impatient with her. The tones used provide ideas that contrast those of “To His Coy Mistress” such as time is fast and there’s just enough time, and we can push love to move faster and love will come with time.
Marvell and Finch also use imagery to depict their contrasting ideas. Marvell begins with exotic imagery to tantalize the Mistress “Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide” (6). The speaker is attempting to entice the Mistress with rubies near the ocean. He also uses dreary imagery to scare the Mistress “And your quaint honor turned to dust, / And into ashes all my lust” (29-30) which shows lifelessness and decomposition of their love if she does not quicken their relationship. The speaker draws the mistress in and scares her to keep her from leaving by using dark imagery.
Finch begins with imagery that displays a friendly interpretation of time “I trust that brief Time will unfold / our youth, before he makes us old.” (3-4). This gives the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress” an image of Time displaying their youth so they may see there is time for their love to grow. She also includes imagery that is ironic “no skeleton can pen a verse” (10) so that the speaker of Marvell’s poem realizes he is being condescending by writing about his desires instead of acting upon them. Even though it is obvious that a skeleton cannot write a poem, the speaker is taking a shot at the fact that the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress” spent his supposedly short amount of time writing verses. The imagery used by Finch shows the speaker of Marvell’s poem that he needs to be patient and everything will work out while Marvell’s imagery is used to draw in the Mistress.
Both authors used tone such as satirically insincere, melancholically sincere, passionate, bitter, aggravated, and distant affection. The tones create opposing ideas which may change the point of view of the addressees. They also used imagery to tantalize, scare, display Time as a friend, and show condescendence. Opposing ideas were created by the imagery as well as the tone. The call and response of these poems helped the similar literary elements create different ideas as though Marvell was asking and Finch was refusing.
“The Picture of Little Tc in a Prospect of Flowers” in the Context of Marvell’s Methods and Motifs
The Journal of English Literary History indicates that ‘‘The picture of little T.C. in a prospect of Flowers’ is characteristic of Marvell’s poetry both in its complexity and in its subtle use of superficially ‘romantic’ or decorative detail’. The degree in which Marvell uses detail and figurative poetic symbols to portray common concerns throughout his poetry is what has elevated him to legendary status. These concerns that are discussed, and particularly highlighted within ‘The picture of little T.C. in a prospect of Flowers’ are; the loss of innocence, and the fall of man from prelapsarian world. Moreover, to portray these ideas, Marvell uses the poetic method of floral imagery in order for readers to gain a sense of natural wonder and hopelessness.
To begin ‘The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers’, Marvell uses the metaphor of the a ‘nymph’ to describe a little girl, believed to be Theophilia Cornewell. This introduces the theme of innocence from the outset as within the phrase ‘This nymph begins’, the imagery of an ancient tree creature is created, and T.C. is given a certain godliness. Moreover, the use of the word ‘nymph’ implies virginity and purity as the beautiful nature that these creatures inhabit has been left untouched by the evil Gods. The use of ‘nymph’ imagery is particularly fitting in the ‘green grass she loves to lie’, as not only does Marvell create the sense of a pure being, roaming a garden with little to care about. He also uses alliteration of the euphonious ‘g’ to lull the reader into a sense of calm. This theme harks back to one of Marvell’s original beliefs, that of the Platonic view of an untouched soul. Little T.C. in stanza one represents the soul that exists in the world of the forms, in the Christian case, heaven. We will soon realise, that as Barbara Everett suggests, the length of the title is perhaps ‘grander than the little girl to whom the poem devotes itself’
We learn, the evils of the world force the soul to lose it’s purity, much like the Platonic soul that becomes deformed when entering the world of the ‘Nouminas’ (humanity). Ian Ousby suggest that we are dealing with ‘a complicated contemplation of innocence’ and this is exemplified in the line ‘green grass she loves to lie’, as the inverted syntax of the sentence places ‘green’ as the subject. This could well refer to the snake that deceived Adam in the Garden of Eden, much like sexual desires are to deceive little T.C. into a world of dominance and impurity. Moreover, the sibilance throughout the line, further suggests the imminent loss of innocence to external desires. Finally, the ambiguity of the word ‘lie’ leads the reader to believe that this early innocence that is portrayed could well be a front, exemplified by ‘Let me be laid’ in Stanza 3.
This idea, loss of innocence is seen portrayed in ‘The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun’ through similar depictions. In this poem, the speaker is a nymph lamenting the death of her fawn. It begins similarly, with the nymph crying out that a band of ‘wanton troopers’ have shot her fawn ‘and it will die.’ She notes that the fawn never did these men any harm. Much like in ‘…little T.C…’ the fawn is described as a ‘pretty skipping grace’ in the garden, an image that creates the sense of a little child, galloping through a forrest clearing. Moreover, Marvell associates the nymph and her fawn with white, supposedly the colour of purity. This further depiction of innocence causes us to further regret this loss of innocence when it is harshly trampled by the intrusion of men. This overall concern of innocence that is discussed so frequently in Marvell’s poetry, and exemplified by the nymph’s description of the fawn’s calmness and innocence in her garden could well resonate with his views on Charles I as he faced his executioner, a man, facing the ultimate loss of innocence.
Marvell’s concern with innocence is heavily tied to his concern of the fall of man from prelapsarian world. Joseph H Summers indicated that ‘The picture of little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers is not a graceful trifle which somehow got wrong. It is a fine poem and it elucidates Marvell’s central vision of man and nature’. This can be vividly seen in two distinct pieces of imagery. Firstly, the idea that ‘her golden days’ were before the outward interruptions of hedonistic pleasures such as the quest for ‘triumph over hearts’. This picture seems to allude heavily to life before the fall of man. The Garden of Eden was indeed free from desire and devilish pleasures that are consistently depicted throughout Marvell’s poetry, particularly in ‘A dialogue between the resolved soul and created pleasures’. This prelapsarian world view is further depicted through ‘gives them names’, where T.C. is going through the garden naming the ‘wilder flowers’. This is much like the taxonomy that Adam gifted through the naming of all the flowers in the Garden of Eden, a symbol of the immense knowledge that God gifted to him before the fall, as opposed to the weak epistemology that we are afforded now. The overall effect of the imagery of prelapsarian life is to suggest the immense struggles of hedonism, and lack of purpose that we must deal with today in a world where in reality, deontology, and the following of the ‘word of God’ should reign supreme.
Further references to the fall of man are found throughout Marvell’s poetry, particularly in ‘The Garden’ and ‘Bermudas’. As Frank Kermode suggests, the title of ‘The Garden’ – alludes to ‘the earthly paradise’, more commonly, the Garden of Eden. From this, Marvell continues by painting the image of abundance and opulence that can be found through the pastoral poetry in stanza 5. Namely, through descriptions of ‘Ripe apples’ that ‘drop about my head’. This not only exemplifies the beauty and perfection of ‘ripe’ apples, but the ‘drop’ that follows when we try to take advantage of the lords perfection. Moreover, in ‘Bermudas’, the small island exemplifies paradise on earth, that could only be reached during the prelapsarian era. The notion that the island ‘throws the melons at our feet’ further suggests the opulence perfection of the Garden of Eden before the apple of knowledge was stolen. The overall effect being the anguish of humans at our inability to achieve the ‘heaven on earth’ that was once felt in the time of Adam.
Finally, a common poetic theme used throughout Marvell’s work is metaphors, portrayed through various flowers. In “The Picture of Little TC in a Prospect of Flowers”, we are told that it is ‘only with the roses’ that T.C. ‘plays’. The significance of the rose is that it i symbolises love, affection and beauty. For example, in Emily Bronte’s “A Little Budding Rose,” the poet compares the rose to love. It is a common poetic technique that has the effect in this poem of suggesting that soon T.C. will be playing with the hearts of men, much like she plays with the roses. Moreover, the metaphors drawn from flowers is seen in ‘The Mower Against The Gardens’ where ‘The tulip white did for complexion seek. Here the tulip is an unnecessary accessory, this is because tulips are pretty but without a scent. Whereas Corinthians 2:15 suggests that we need a scent, ‘an aroma of life’, thus, it is an analogy for life’s needless desires. Therefore, the effect of the reference is to add significant metaphorical depth to Marvell’s poetry.
“The Picture of Little TC in a Prospect of Flowers” provides an excellent reference to many of Marvell’s key concerns throughout his poetic career. Most notably is his concern for the loss of innocence, particularly in children such as Theophilia Cornewell. Moreover, the idea of a prelapsarian world is discussed throughout Marvell’s work, and ‘… Little TC …’ is no exception as it contributes through imagery of a ‘golden age’. Finally, Marvell’s poetic method of the depiction of flowers is exemplified thought the ‘roses’ in which T.C. is personified.
Carpe Diem: Wooing Lovers During the Renaissance (a Close Reading of Poetry)
Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress” offer powerful examples of sensual, carpe diem Renaissance poetry. In both poems, the poet-speakers attempt to spur their beloveds into action through various compliments and rhythmic patterns that create a hurried tone. However, the speakers’ tactics diverge at this point. Marlowe’s poet-speaker focuses on an abstract pastoralist hypothetical peppered with innuendo in an attempt to gain his love’s affections. In contrast, Marvell’s speaker takes a much more explicit and logical approach as he bemoans the consequences of their delayed union and urges his lover to waste no time in consummating their relationship. Ultimately, both poet-speakers focus on carpe diem as a tool to persuade their perspective lovers.
Marlowe’s poet-speaker, the shepherd, sets the poem’s sensuous and rushed tone in the first two lines, saying “Come live with me and by my love / and we will all the pleasures prove” (1-2). Within these lines, the shepherd uses the imperative tense to show the direness of his affections as well as vague innuendo in the word “pleasures” to create an element of sensuality. Likewise, by speaking in iambic tetrameter, the lines flow into a fast-paced rhyme, creating a tension in the poem, as if time is of the essence. This technique helps cement the presence of carpe diem within the poem. The poet-speaker finishes this quatrain by describingthe physical setting, speaking in pastoral terms as he introduces the “valleys, groves, hills, and fields” (3). As pastoral settings, in the Romantic tradition, are often meant toevoke the sublime (or the beautiful, which is not the same thing), the poet-speaker uses the physical features of the landscape hereto create a scene of peaceful serenity in which his love might be won over.
In conjunction with the rhythmic elements of the poem, Marlowe’s poet-speaker emphasizes the joy of living in the moment. In contrast to the first quatrain, the shepherd steps back in the second by speaking about simple pleasures. Promising his love that they “will sit upon the rocks, / Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks, / By shallow rivers to whose falls / Melodious birds sing madrigals,” the poet-speaker paints an idyllic picture for his mistress (5-8). This tactic also ties the mistress to the serene landscape that has already been described. Thepoet-speaker’s slow speaking pattern, emphasized in theenjambment oflines 7 and, elongates thephrases of this section and hides the iambic tetrameter’s underlying tension. As the poem progresses, the poet-speaker’shypotheticals become hyperbolic. The shepherd tells his mistress that “ …I will make thee beds of roses / And a thousand fragrant posies, / A cap of flowers, and a kirtle / Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle” (9-12). As the poet-speaker’s gifts become more outlandish, his speaking becomes markedly faster. The comma in line 11 quickens the poem’s pace, creating the appearance that the shepherd is quickly reciting a list of various gifts. While hyperbolic, the fast pace creates an illusion that the gifts are real. Moreover, feminine rhyme marks the quatrain, creating a lullaby effect for the reader. The speaker continues this list for two more quatrains, elongating some of the gifts, such as “A gown made of the finest wool / Which from our pretty lambs we pull” in lines 12 and 13, before returning to fast-paced recall, as seen with “A belt of straw and ivy buds” (17). The use of “we” and “our” in line 13 exemplifies the poet-speaker’s future desire that, one day, he and his love will be together.
However, in the nature of carpe diem, the shepherd hopes that he and his loverwill be united in the present. The poet-speaker’s lavish hyperbolic musingsend with a plea for a concrete idea: “come with me, and be my love” (20). It is with this line that the poet-speaker comes full circle, with the final quatrain resorting to more pastoral fantasies and finishing with a repeated “Then live with me and be my love” (24). This repetition of his desire entwined with wholesome pastoral images allows the poet-speaker to slow the pace of his speech and place extra emphasis on his desires, as he hopes his love will help him seize the day.
In stark contrast, Marvell’s poet-speaker steps away from Marlowe’s future hypotheticals and hyperbole to take a strictercarpe diem approach. Instead of offering his love multitudes of gifts in the future, the speaker gives context to the present situation, saying “Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime” (1-2). Spokenin iambic tetrameter, the poet-speaker gets to the heart of the carpe diem mentality by bemoaning that, while he would love to give his mistress time to consider his advances, inevitable death is fast approaching. The speaker continues by creating a hypothetical grounded in the present. Marvell’s speaker talks of how they “would sit down, and think which way / to walk” (3-4), using this conditional phrase as a metaphor for his love deciding if she should reciprocate his feelings. This word choice shows a consolidation on the part of the speaker, giving an impression of hurry. The poet-speaker continues by saying he would wait “till the conversion of the Jews,” (10) a reference to the apocalypse, for her to decide, and allow his “vegetable love” (11) to grow stronger. However, his hyperbole shows that this is impossible, as time is quickly running out. This hyperbolic hypothetical gives way to the poet-speaker’s true intentions.
While Marlowe’s poet-speaker is subtle with his more erotic intentions, Marvell’s openly lusts. During the eternity his mistress ponders his advances, the poet-speaker talks of the two hundred years he would spend “to adore each breast, / But thirty thousand to the rest” (15-16). While the poet insists on loving every part of his love, the inclusion of her breasts in conjunction with “thine eyes” and “thy forehead” (14) shows his predilection forher erogenous parts. The poet digresses from his preoccupation with the physical when he personifies time, saying, “But at my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” bringing his speech back to the present (21-22). In place of the flowery fantasies with which the poet-speaker beginsthe poem, he heretells his love about the reality of death. In doing so, the speaker goes into a grotesque sexualized account of what will become of his loveafter her death. He states that “Thy beauty shall no more be found, / Nor, in thy marble vault shall sound / My echoing song; then worms shall try / That long preserved virginity, / And your quaint honor turn to dust” (25-29). The speaker puts forth a carpe diem-esqe false dichotomy: if I cannot take your virginity, it will be left for the worms. This harsh move from images of winged chariots and eternal adoration to death’s realities is the poet-speaker’s way of showing his mistress why they must always live in the present.
While Marlowe’s shepherd lobbied his love with allusions to futurerewards, Marvell’s poet-speaker speaks to her physicality in a much more erotic and immediate manner. Stepping away from any romantic appeal, the poet-speaker says,“Let us roll all our strength and all / our sweetness up into one ball, / and tear our pleasures with rough strife” (41-44). In contrast to the subjective concepts of“time” and “romance,” the poet-speaker tries to coax hismistress into physical action. While the speaker knows that he cannot defeat time, he enlists his mistress to help him experience something tangible that may distract themfrom their impending deaths. Though both Marlowe and Marvell’s poet-speakers make grand speeches to coax their respective lovers into action, they take different approaches to the notion of carpe diem. Both achieve a formal and thematic tension through the use of hyperbole and the structures of iambic tetrameter, but Marlowe’s speaker attempts to woohis lover with fantasies and gifts, while Marvell’s focuses on the immediately physical and erotic. This comparisonfacilitates a debate betweentwo separate claims on the nature oflove, on whether it is most passionate when dreamed of as a theoretical, serene union in the future or when eroticallyrealized in the physical present.
The Topic Of Carpe Diem In The Flea By John Donne And To His Coy Mistress By Andrew Marvell
The two love poems, “The Flea” by John Donne and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell were written from the 1600s with the mutual objective to court their respective women. In Donne’s “The Flea,” the poet demonstrates his attempt to charm his woman by persuading her that they have previously engaged in sexual intercourse through an insect (the flea). The insect had bitten them both, consequently blending both of their blood and invigorating the demonstration of sex inside his body (perhaps, this was science’s comprehension of ‘sex’ during this time). In Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress,’ he utilizes time as an apparatus in his quest for sentimental commitment. Time is his weapon in persuading his woman that they should share their adoration now, while they are both youthful and alluring. While Donne’s approach to persuading the lady varies essentially from Marvell’s, both poems have a similar point and endeavor to accomplish their mutual objective using exemplification, diction and structure in the body of the poems. The common subject, carpe diem (Latin for: seize the day), is the central contention for the two poems, just as their most imperative resemblance.
Firstly, the two poems use exemplification fundamentally as an approach to make distinctive symbolism and convince the reader to grasp the subject carpe diem to accomplish their objective. In Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” he exemplifies a time trying to court his woman. He composes lines loaded up with generous symbolism to express what is on his mind to the reader. For example, he expresses, “But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”. This statement is a sharp case of the utilization of personification in Marvell’s poem and serves to draw in the reader’s feeling of sound to make a distinctive and luring picture. Donne’s sonnet ‘The Flea” utilizes the equivalent abstract apparatus in his piece, in any case, he exemplifies an insect, which has bitten both the speaker and his would-be-sweetheart, as opposed to time. For instance, he states, “This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is”. By saying that the flea is not only an ‘insect,’ yet, in addition, their marriage bed, Donne has viably utilized embodiment in his poem as a device to win his contention. While Donne exemplifies an insect and Marvell represents time, both are effective in utilizing this artistic instrument in their carpe diem poems.
Secondly, the diction or style, of a poem uncovers what is imperative to the author and establishes the pace and state of mind of the said poem. In Donne’s poem, “The Flea,” the author communicated his affection with a concise poem, featuring precisely what he felt was important to push ahead with his objective. Marvell’s poem is somewhat more, yet at the same time brief enough that word decision is a significant apparatus to remember. In the two poems, the word decision serves to establish the pace as well as to convince the reader. A case of this is found in the initial two lines of Donne’s poem: “Mark but this flea, and mark in this/How little that which thou deniest me is;”. This is a genuine case of expression because, in the first lines of the poem, the poet is as of now attempting to persuade the reader that the demonstration of sex is about as immaterial in size as an insect. The author quickly catches the reader’s consideration and has set out his contention with a handful of words. Marvell also seems to be an expert at word decision; by talking about time in a romanticized way, the speaker plants his seed in the reader’s psyche: “An hundred years should go to praise/Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;/Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest”. This statement is a case of Marvell’s aptitudes as an author. Picking his words cautiously, the speaker charms the reader by adulating them and saying that their excellence is deserving of love for not one lifetime, however for a great many years. He at that point continues to stun his reader by saying that time is brief, and they do not have an unfathomable length of time for him to revere her, as just a lady as wonderful as she merits. By deciding to initially say charming words regarding overstated love and worship, Marvell tempts his reader enough to then flip his tone, seen through the accompanying word decision: “ then worms shall try That long-preserved virginity”. In this line the poet is telling the reader that if they wait any longer to participate in sexual relations then they will eventually die a virgin only to have the worms eat away at her and her maidenhead. This is a dull and, in any event, upsetting picture; nonetheless it serves its purpose to stun the reader into concurring with the poet and his lewd wishes. Marvell and Donne both did a marvelous job of selecting the perfect words at the perfect moment to persuade their respective women to seize the day and make love.
Lastly, the form (the most underestimated scholarly apparatus) establishes the tone of the poem and aids in the reader’s response and translation. Utilizing rhyming couplets, Donne and Marvell both set speedy-paced poems, shielding the reader from having a minute to think about a counter-contention. It additionally serves the speakers’ contentions to utilize rhyming couplets, as they are related with fancy love sonnets or poems; like Shakespeare’s work, for instance. The two poems are fundamentally comparative with regards to their structure, each comprising of three stanzas. One conspicuous distinction in the structure, be that as it may, is the rhyme conspires in either poem. Donne’s rhyme plan is for every stanza, while Marvell’s is , etc. for every stanza. Both are set up in three-section contentions: first, enamor the reader, then alarm the reader into holding onto your thought as their own, and closing with a Carpe diem subject gives the reader a sentiment of strengthening an opportunity. Thus, the lines ‘Tis true; then learn how false fears be” from Donne’s poem and “Thus, though, we can’t make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run” from Marvell’s poem both express subjects of holding onto the day and not agonizing over tomorrow. Donne’s line is telling the reader that both of their feelings of trepidation are nonexistent. In contrast to Marvell’s, he is urging the poet to beat the sun (or time) with him. This effectively influences the reader for the speakers, just as in their separate armies.
In conclusion, both poems “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” share comparative characteristics; predominantly. The convincing and charming topic of carpe diem, otherwise known as ‘seizing the day.’ The two love poems deliberately, yet impractically, express their contentions through basic artistic apparatuses, for example, those examined prior. We can see this through the exemplification of an insect just as time, just as deliberately picked expression or language inside the body of the poems. At last, the form and structure of the poem, which manages things like the pace of the poem. While these strategies may appear to be overstated to the modern reader, the poems are as yet regarded as effective. The two poets demonstrate to be gifted in the specialty of deliberately romancing their accomplices. In truth, these poems show how the correct utilization of fundamental abstract instruments matched with an enabling subject, as Carpe diem, can rouse any author to romanticize an honestly determined contention.