Andrew Marvell Poems
About Andrew Marvell – About Modern Childhood
Andrew Marvell’s “Ametas and Thestylis Making Hay Ropes” is an entertaining critique of the limitations in the 16th century. The oppression applied by the those who occupied power on literature had deeply influenced the characteristic of classic literature that is still being analyzed and as a result, poets needed to express their emotions on such matter by using a satiric and didactic tone. Likewise, Marvell achieved the same results in his symbolic poem addressed for a taboo within that time. Although the poem also has an entertainment purpose, Marvell combines the usage of the title, literary devices and a criticizing tone to produce an allegoric piece of poetry.
One of the ways that Marvell uses while trying to indicate his critique is at the very beginning, the title. The title of the poem seems narrowed down and basic at the first look; however, it gets more conveying as the poem itself is read. The title is “Ametas and Thestylis Making Hay Ropes” and it is based on an action that takes place with two different perspectives. Therefore, it indicates that a series of events is going to be taking place that leads to a conclusion, in other words, a message. On top of this fact, it has a historical significance implying his real aim on writing this poem. Ametas is one of the surnames that was originated in US, which means “a gift of God”. Marvell’s actual purpose of using this name is underlining the importance of sexuality in personal relationships by expressing it as a blessed gift of God, waiting to be used without any timidity. Another name symbolization that Marvell uses is Thestylis, which belongs to a Greek mythology character, a young female slave. This genuinely indicates how woman was seen in 16th century, as sexual objects. The poet criticizes this image of woman to create a condemn for the society for not raising a voice about it. Consequently, the title that Marvell uses is purposeful in terms of comprehending the actual goal of the poem.
Another way that Marvell uses is the literary devices, disguising him being spotted in terms of his criticizing manner against the power. Firstly, the poet uses allegories that helps the audience to interpret the situation that Marvell is referring to, rather than being lost within the poem. He uses the hay ropes binding, to address to connecting feature of physical love. This metaphor is conceived with the inspiration of their similarity on connections, hay ropes coiling to become a strong ropelike matter; whereas sex helping people to become one, feeling the intimacy within their relationship. Although the metaphor is palpable to see, Marvell does not directly correlate those two notions to prevent himself from getting caught. Secondly, the usage of ironies has a vital role in Marvell’s piece. Ironies create the juxtaposition with the contrasting perspectives of the poets, defending the freedom of sexuality; and the monarch, advocating the conservatism in the public, censoring sexuality. Both of the narratives constructing the dialogue possess a self-contradicting language that help to compare these aforementioned ideologies in a biased manner, exposing the reader to an idea of liberality in terms of sex. This aspect is the root of the irony that is being built in the poem. Briefly, several ironies can be seen in the poem, which try to compare two different visions.
Lastly, the most prevalent and apparent quality of the narrative that Marvell uses is the criticizing tone. This way of conveying themes and ideas had been a prevalent way in the 16th century due to the new ideologies being spread and as it is seen, Marvell secretly uses this tone to ensure that public is aware of what is going to on the deeper side, rather than only the surface. One example for the satiric tone would be the last couplet, saying “Then let’s both lay by our rope, – and go kiss within the hay”. This couplet criticizes the idea of “mandatory work” limiting the freedom of people, thus disallowing them from being fully dedicated to their work. He defends the feeling of deepness that a sexual connection provides, allowing a person to go deeper rather than staying just as a usual person; exploring the roots of humanity. Secondly, his tone also has a didactic characteristic, for this view of love in the world of conservatism. He depicts sex as a normal life habit that can be done even in the workplace, as Ametas offers to have a relationship in the hay. This way, Marvell aims to clear the wrong definition of sex from people’s minds, enabling them to express what they really feel. Shortly, the tone that the author has is mainly what makes this poem a critique.
In conclusion, numerous aspects give this poem the characteristics of a critique; such as the title, literary devices and the tone. Marvell mainly aims to inform the public about the suppression applied by the monarch even though he also has a purpose of entertaining the public with an extreme situation. The construction of this extreme situation is what creates the irony, the juxtaposition of the reality and the extreme. Without the criticizing tone, the audience could interpret the situation wrongly and the poem would be useless for the poet, Andrew Marvell. The main notion of this poem is exploring the limits set by those in power of the limitless life.
Analysis Of “The Flea” And “To His Coy Mistress”
In this essay I will discuss two poems, “The Flea” written by John Donne and “To His Coy Mistress,” written by Andrew Marvell. Both poems are written during the Renaissance Period during the early to mid-1600s by highly educated authors. Although not written to relate to or correspond with one another, the poems encompass a commonality in which the speaker in each poem is pursuing intimacy with their lover using different persuasion techniques. The authors use several hypothetical concepts within the language of their texts to provide critical arguments to the women that were denying what both speakers wanted, intimacy. In the poem “The Flea,” Donne uses humor and sort of a metaphysical love-scenario to capture the reader.
The speaker, also the man in the poem, uses the flea as a romantic tool to persuade his lover to make love to him. The flea first hops on the man, then to the woman, and since the flea contains the blood of both after being bitten, he mentions they have been made one by the flea. He proceeds with the idea that since the flea did not commit a sin by taking their blood, then why should they see making love as one?The man tries to prevent her from killing the flea because there is life of both her and him contained within it. If she were to kill the flea, then she would not only be taking a life, but also theirs. The author uses the flea, although an unsuspecting symbol, to relate romantic advances and love.
The woman, not agreeing with the man, kills the flea with her fingernail. In a counter to his loss in persuasion, the man then assures her that the death of the flea does not make them weaker, and that her honor would also not be weakened if such acts of intimacy were to occur between them. In “To His Coy Mistress,” Marvell uses seductive romanticism parallel with apparent sarcasm in the speaker’s advances. The speaker is a man who is trying to entice his virgin love to become intimate with him. He says to the woman that her ‘coyness’ or hesitance would be acceptable if they had infinite time for that. He believes they should take advantage of their sensuality while it lasts, and they are young. The man tells the woman that her virginity and beauty will only last while alive and would only be good to the worms thereafter. This persuasiveness to court her shows his self-sacrificing state when he states, “I would Love you ten years before the flood. ” He also fears the shortness of life, and that he will miss his chance with her as he reminds her that life is brief, and they must hurry before all is over. There are several metaphors that talk about death in this poem such as the worms, ashes, the grave, and the iron gates of life. The use of these metaphors appear to hold a dual meaning in this poem. Perhaps, if his words of romance and the shortness of their time do not work to persuade the woman, the vivid words may imply her fate. There is a morbidity within these metaphors creating an implication that he will not easily settle for rejection. Both speakers use effective language to in attempt to convince their lovers that they want an intimate relationship, but the women they are speaking to are refusing their requests. Donne’s character took a symbolic approach, primarily using the flea as his bargaining tool.
When he came to the realization that his seemingly clever approach was unsuccessful, he escalated his argument to emphasize on a highly valued importance among women during this time period, her honor. Marvell, on the other hand, used religion and romance to woo the woman that his speaker was pursuing. He uses romanticism when he suggests in a very direct manner that they should not waste any time, because time is limited, but to instead, “Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball and tear our pleasures with rough strife. ” Additionally, religion is implied when the speaker references the flood, the conversion of the Jews, and again when referencing the iron gates of life as a method in proving his devotion to her. The authors both present their argument in a very different manner where Donne is representing his woman as having already lost blood from the flea, and Marvell is representing his woman as “coy” and essentially unfair or even cruel for denying him what he wants. The approach taken in “The Flea” does not portray a romantic value at all, instead the flea is a minuscule creature, a pest, and although the idea is a logical scenario, it doesn’t provide much of an emotional response. Marvell’s poem references his desire for her reciprocity in a communal partnership through words that describe his adoration for her. There are subsequently motives the authors use as defensive tactics in response to a knowingly potential negative outcome. For example, Donne’s character states, “mark but this flea, and mark in this, how little that which thou deniest me is. ” He is implicating that this is a minute circumstance in which it is natural, like the bite of the flea, and that yet she denies him her physical love.
Marvell speaks on the instance where if the woman keeps her virginity for an eternity, it will be enjoyed within her grave by the worms, what a waste of life it is to not enjoy what is in front of you, yet instead let nature eagerly benefit. Both authors provided valid statements in their poetry that effectively supported their arguments for the intended purpose. Both of the authors wrote on a scenario where the speaker is placing a lot of effort into achieving their goal. It is apparent that the successes may have not been as substantial as anticipated based on their individual arguments. The emotional, versus the lack of such input was a major difference between the two poems. Marvell’s character expressed his needs in order to continue his devotion to his love, and Donne’s did not provide much more than a flea as a foundation toward a partnership that may be exclusively an isolated instance.
Andrew Marvell’s to His Coy Mistress: Light-Hearted Attitude Towards Life and Love
Strong Lines in Poetry by the Metaphysical Poets
This essay focusses on two Renaissance poems: ‘The Flea’ by John Donne and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell. These two poems are quite similar as they both are written from the point of view of a speaker, and are conversations with a mistress who is reluctant to lose her virginity. Both poems are in three clear stages, however ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a syllogism whilst ‘The Flea’ is not.
A witty argument runs through ‘The Flea’. In the first stage of this poem, the speaker is telling his mistress to notice the flea, which has sucked the blood of them both. He uses a cunning argument, saying that although their blood is mixed together inside the flea “this is more than we would do”. In other words, he is stating that despite the fact they are physically bonded inside the flea, she will not allow them to make love, another physical bond. The tone of this stanza is jealous, as he wants what the flea has – a bond with her. With phrases such as “yet this enjoys before it woo” and “this, alas, is more than we would do”, he is effectively telling her that she can have no justification for having “pamper’d” the flea but not him.
During the second stanza of the poem, the speaker’s lover offers to kill the insect. He prevents her from doing so, claiming that because of the fact that their blood is mingled inside the flea, they “more than married are”, and the flea “their marriage bed and marriage temple is”. He explains to her that destroying the flea would be three sins – sacrilege, destroying their marriage temple (the flea), suicide, killing part of herself as the flea contained her blood, and murder, killing part of the speaker as it also contained his blood. This bold argument shows the wit of the speaker.
The last stage of ‘The Flea’ is the speaker’s reaction after his mistress has killed the flea. She “triumphs”, thinking that she has won the argument; however the speaker changes his argument and now presents the case that in the way his fears about killing the flea were proved to be “false fears” or ungrounded, so will her fears about losing her virginity. He tells her that “Just so much honour…will wast, as this flea’s death took life from thee” if she sleeps with him. He has skilfully turned her argument to his advantage. His tone at the start of this last section is critical of her actions, calling her “cruel and sodaine” and asking why she “purpled [her] nail, in blood of innocence”.
This poem is ingenious in its lines of persuasion. The cunning and dynamic personality of the speaker is displayed in its seemingly spontaneous change of argument. The change has, of course, been carefully planned by Donne, who would have spent a lot of time composing this poem and so cannot be called truly spontaneous. The images of this poem are unconventional and so it is all the more impressive that the poet has produced such a work.
Unlike ‘The Flea’, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ has the form of a syllogism – a three part logical argument. The overall theme of the poem can be summed up in the Latin phrase “carpe diem”, which means seize the day.
The first section of this poem makes a premise, explaining that if they had all the time in the world, the speaker would love his mistress “ten years before the Flood” (of Noah’s Ark) until “the conversion of the Jews” (which will be at Judgement Day, the end of the world). He imagines a world without the constraint of time, when he could adore her for over thirty thousand years. In a world such as this, he would be willing to wait for as long as necessary and so the fact that she feels she is not ready to sleep with him would be “no crime”. The speaker also praises his mistress in this section whilst mocking himself, comparing her to the exotic Ganges which contrasts with the muddy Humber he likens himself to. These praises certainly help the speaker in his argument for love.
The second section of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is also a premise, telling her that time does exist and they are getting older all the time. This makes the tone of the poem more urgent, with phrases such as “deserts of vast eternity” to describe death and “thy beauty shall no more be found” being employed by the speaker to try and shock her. He conjures up horrific images such as that of worms trying “that long preserved virginity” and echoes of her funeral service with the words “dust” and “ashes”. In addition, another shocking tactic he uses is the witty epigram:
“The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace. ”
The final section presents the speaker’s proposal based on the two premises mentioned and uses many persuasive devices. The proposition of the speaker is essentially the “carpe diem” idea – that they use the time that they have to make love “like amorous birds of prey”. He uses sentences beginning with “now” three times to reinforce the idea that time is of the essence. Striking verbs such as “sport”, “devour”, “roll” and “tear” add to the feeling of urgency.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ seems to argue much more logically than ‘The Flea’, and it certainly contains a strong line of argument as is often suggested about the Metaphysical poets.
In conclusion, both poems use a number of persuasive devices to try and convince the mistresses to love and because of this I feel that both poems are ‘strong’ in their arguments. ‘To His Coy Mistress’ seems to have the stronger argument of the two because its argument is more logical, although ‘The Flea’ is impressive because of its unconventional and original images.
John Donne’s The Flea vs Andrew Marvell’s to His Coy Mistress: Strong Metaphysical Lines
Examine the view that Andrew Marvell presents the speaker in this poem as having a light-hearted attitude towards (life and) love?
Within the poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell, the speaker may be interpreted as having a light-hearted attitude towards love. On the other hand, it may emphasise the importance of ‘carpe diem’ theme, where time is important and they must seize the day, while they have the chance. Andrew Marvell was a well-known metaphysical poet, often using images and word play to express complex emotions and ideas. His work may be regarded as humorous due to the use of satire as a way of mocking other poets. The poem is spoken by an anonymous man, addressed to an anonymous woman. The poems fits into the ‘carpe diem’ theme, due to the speaker explaining how due to the lack of time they have, they should ‘seize the day’ and sleep together while they can.
The poem is split into three stanzas, which splits the poem up into three time frames. The first stanza emphasises speed and urgency and explores what would happen if they had all the time they needed in order for the speaker to ‘woo’ her: ‘Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness Lady were no crime’. The use of the noun ‘crime’ is a hyperbole which can be interpreted as being mocking of the importance of virginity within the time period. Marvell uses biblical language when referring to the ‘Flood’ (Noah and the Arc). He explains he would go back in time to ‘Ten years before the Flood’ and forward in time to the ‘Conversion of the Jews’ all while loving her. The use of the Biblical language appears to mock poems that discuss love in romantic and divine terms. Furthermore, the famous line within the poem refers to the speaker’s ‘vegetable Love’. Ostensibly, this may mean natural, organic love that cannot be changed, however it may be considered humorous and light-hearted due to connotations of the polysyllabic word ‘vegetable’, possibly referring to the male genitalia. The speaker explains how he would admire and compliment her, and focus on ‘each part’ of her body until he got to her heart. It can be argued that the use of the noun ‘heart’ could be a metaphor for love, or for sex. A vast amount of hyperboles are used within the first stanza, which can support the idea that Marvell is mocking other poets. He says he would spend ‘An hundred years’ to ‘praise Thine Eyes’, and ‘Two hundred to adore each Breast’. However, this is all undermined from the outset, where he explains that this admiration would only occur IF they had enough time.
The second stanza deals with issues of time and mortality. Marvell uses unpleasant imagery to explain that when she dies, her virginity will be lost by worms: ‘then worms shall try that long preserve’d virginity’. Furthermore, Marvell goes against the conventional Christian views of death, where the bodies are believed to go to heaven. Marvell challenges these views by saying how the bodies will turn to ‘dust’, and will simply rot away into ‘deserts of vast eternity’. This use of imagery is to persuade the lady to give up her virginity now, as there is only one outcome in life and therefore waiting is pointless. Marvell appears to be mocking conventional love poetry through the LACK of flattery within this stanza, and the use of deathly imagery. Marvell appears to use sarcasm and irony when describing how ‘the Grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace’. He mocks images of death and decay by referring to the lack of sexual contact available after death. However, the speaker hides his opinions as facts by embedding the phrase ‘I think’ into the middle of the line ‘but none I think do there embrace’.
Within the third stanza, Marvell talks about what him and this lady must do now due to their lack of time: ‘Now therefore’. There is a switch with imagery, where bright imagery is now being used: ‘instant fires’. The use of this imagery aids to emphasise the need for speed, passion and urgency. Furthermore, Marvell uses animalistic imagery. He suggests that ‘like amorous birds of prey’ they should ‘at once our time devour’. This imagery hints at the speaker’s desires which are hard to contain, where they should not be waiting for death. The use of the pronoun ‘us’, and the determiner ‘our’ used throughout this stanza suggests unity between the two.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ may however be interpreted as a serious exploration of why seizing the day is important due to the lack of time. The speaker has used the scare of time to manipulate the mistress into sleeping with him. He speaks of the ‘instant fires’, ‘willing soul’ and ‘amorous birds of prey’, to emphasise the importance of being quick in their actions due to time running out. The use of death imagery is very vivid and unattractive, with references to ‘worms’. The speaker warns his mistress that mortality is serious and they need to act quickly.
In conclusion, Marvell presents the speaker in the poem as having a mostly light-hearted view of love due to the use of humour and imagery, and by going against the conventional Christian views of death.
Carolyn Arends’s Seize the Day vs Andrew Marvell’s to His Coy Mistress: Themes and Symbols
Today and no trust in the future
The Latin phrase carpe diem—usually expressed in English as “seize the day” although its literal translation is “pluck the day” or “pick the day” as in gathering flowers—originates in the Odes of Horace (Book 1, No. 11), “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.” Translated it means, “Seize the day and put no trust in the future.” “To Coy His Mistress,” by Andrew Marvell, and the well-known song by Carolyn Arends, underscore the themes of mortality, freedom, and opportunity. Also symbolism is used in the poem and song to connect us with the themes.
The theme of each piece shows the fact that people need to be aware of death, but also that we need to accept the opportunities and freedoms that are given to us. The poem and the song state that we need to take life as it happens and respect death as the ending to life. Mortality, otherwise known as “death,” gets a whole stanza in Andrew Marvell’s classic from the 1650s. The speaker presents his vision of the afterlife. While beautiful in terms of the words the speaker uses to describe it, his vision is miles away from hopeful. He thinks that dying is the ultimate lack of control. It’s not as big of a downer as it sounds like. This is shown in line 26, “Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound My echoing song.” Is he trying to say that, if the mistress does have sex with him before she dies, she will be able to hear his love song in the grave? It’s possible. The speaker’s vision of the afterlife for people who do have sex might be very different from the one that he imagines for people who don’t. It’s possible that he truly believes that sex frees not just the body, but also the soul, from eternal nothingness. Also the poem is constantly on the move between images of freedom and images of imprisonment. As we read why the speaker feels trapped, and how he thinks he can get out, we feel the need to examine the freedoms and confinements of our own lives. The poem can feel claustrophobic at some moments, but, at other moments, we feel all our confines crumble.
The song “Seize the day” by Carolyn Arends, talks about using every opportunity we get in life. Our days are numbered and they seem to slip away hour by hour. Life is given to us and can be related to freedom. Not something we have the right to, but are given to as a privilege. In the poem it’s said, “Thorough [through] the iron gates of life” (Marvell line 44) Here, Marvell combines both freedom and confinement in the same line. He reminds us of the “crime” of the first stanza. It also states quite plainly that the speaker thinks life is a prison to escape. The speaker finally describes what he wants to happen – he wants to burst through the “iron gates” of the mistress’s “coyness.” He wants to transform life into a free place.
Symbolism plays a role in both the poem and song. It ties both together and also brings the theme in as well. “To His Coy Mistress” is very concerned with the full range of motion, including stillness. The motion helps the poem pick up speed, and the stillness lets us catch our breath and reflect for moments before we rush on. This back and forth also helps the speaker make his point. His portrayal of stillness isn’t very positive, while his moments of action are full of excitement and challenge, suggesting that our speaker is all about action. We can see this in Lines 8-10: The speaker’s declaration that (if he had time) he would love her “ten years before the flood” and “till the conversion of the Jews” combines hyperbole and allusion to create motion, in this case a sense of rapid movement through time. He also uses the grand, Biblical language ironically to poke fun at the mistress, whom he accuses of wanting something timeless (like eternal love), while saying in the same breath that he would give this to her, too, if he has time. This might create the motion of the mistress running away from the speaker.
In the song “Seize the day”, the song title in itself is showing us to take the opportunity and take the day and make it into something. Don’t just let it slip by like sand in an hourglass. The opportunity that the day gives us is something not to take for granted but used to the best of our ability.
The themes of both the poem and song shows that people need to take life’s opportunities as they come. No one is guaranteed to live forever. This sentiment carries with it an awareness of the passage of time, the fleeting nature of life, and the approach of death and decay, and its exhortation to take hold of the present moment, make the most of the time we have, and live life fully has resonated down the centuries in many poems and songs.
Andrew Marvell: The Pastoral, Conveyed
Andrew Marvell’s poetry exemplifies an ancient literary genre known as the pastoral. This genre, which dates back to the third century B.C.E., represents the values of the shepherd and rustic life. Marvell’s poems “The Garden” and “The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn” both embody the pastoral style, but they differ in the way they portray pastoral ideals. This essay analyzes their pastoral themes and color metaphors. “The Garden” focuses on an abstract theme, far-fetched and yet typical for Marvell, who is renowned for his unique, metaphysical elaborations. In this poem, he compares the shade of a garden to a sanctuary, a place where one finds peace and enlightenment. Marvell begins this metaphor by criticizing material ambition. He argues that glory-seeking men compete in “uncessant labors” in order to be “crowned from some single herb or tree” (3, 4). These crowns, however, produce only a “narrow-verged shade” that cannot compare to the much more satisfying shade of “all the flowers and trees” in the vast garden (5, 7). Marvell is overwhelmingly intrigued with the garden’s ability to cultivate knowledge, and in the second stanza he further develops the theme of Nature’s superiority. He goes on to explain that “busy companies of men” cannot find “Fair Quiet” and “Innocence” in their vain business (12, 9, 10). Only in the garden, he suggests, can we discover these two personified ideals. “Quiet” and “Innocence,” in this context, represent the essential elements for clear thought and pure mind, thus enabling enlightenment (9, 10). Marvell argues that “Society is all but rude / to this delicious solitude” (15, 16). Here, Marvell formulates an interesting comparison. Choosing a physical sensation such as “delicious” to modify a nonphysical state such as “solitude” strangely suggests that the garden fosters both physical pleasure as well as incorporeal perceptions (16). This paradox demonstrates a pastoral concept of Nature’s ability to transcend the body and soul. In contrast to “The Garden,” in which the pastoral theme is clearer, Marvell’s “Nymph” purposefully juxtaposes two conflicting ideas: an Edenic paradise problematized by an emphasis on momento mori, a reminder of one’s mortality. Marvell describes two falls from innocence. The first is of the nymph when she admits that her lover, whom she had not previously found “counterfeit,” “soon had me beguiled” (27, 34). Her seemingly paradisiacal love for “Unconstant Sylvio” had tarnished when he “Left his fawn, but took his heart” (25, 36). The second fall from innocence occurs as the “wanton troopers” shoot her fawn (1). The word “wanton” suggests the needlessness of killing the fawn; Marvell couples phrases such as “ungentle men” in order to establish a more dramatic fall from innocence, one caused by needless violence (1, 3). The narrator of this elegy vividly recounts the Edenic scene before the fawn was killed: “Could so mine idle life have spent; / For it was full of sport, and light” (40, 41). Marvell then slowly transitions into a momento mori, raising an interesting question about the fate of innocence — not just of the fawn, but of every living thing: …It seemed to blessitself in me; how could I lessThan love it? O, I cannot be Unkind to a beast that loveth me.Had it lived long I do not knowWhether it too might have done soAs Sylvio did… (43-49) Here Marvell suggests a reversal of roles for the Nymph’s lover. Phrases such as “a beast that loveth me” and “seemed to bless / itself in me” both indicate the fawn has taken the place of Sylvio (46, 43). The nymph fears that the fawn, if given the chance to live long enough, would lose its innocence, as Sylvio did, and flee in wild passion. Through this question, Marvell begs us to consider a difficult scenario: since we live in a postlapsarian context, are all things fated to naturally lose their innocence? Even the things that we think are pure, like the fawn? Will they too fall victim to the temptations of the rosebush? The pastoral scene of the nymph and fawn is now problematized by two falls from innocence. As is typical of Marvell, he includes a stretched metaphor involving colors to explain the dual existence of the fawn: innocent but driven by passion. He compares the white, pure innocence of a lily bed to the red, thorn-penetrating passion of a rosebush. In the flaxen lilies’ shade,It like a bank of lilies laid.Upon the roses it would feed,Until its lips e’en seem to bleed.And its pure virgin limbs to foldIn whitest sheets of lilies cold;Had it lived long, it would have beenLilies without, roses within. (81-93)The “lilies’ shade” shifts from peaceful innocence to passion when the fawn eats from the tempting red roses, allowing the thorns to pluck its virginity and stain its “lips” red (81, 85). Then the fawn’s “pure virgin limbs” fold, anticipating its fall from innocence (86). The last couplet, ending with “Lilies without, roses within,” suggests that even if the fawn had not been shot, its innocence would have been overcome naturally, as is the nature of all living things: “On roses thus itself to fill” (93, 88). Contrary to this personification of red as passion and white as innocence, in “The Garden” Marvell introduces us to another color metaphor: “No white nor red was ever seen / so amorous as this lovely green” (17, 18). Marvell uses green in this poem to symbolize enlightenment, which is only achievable through the peacefulness of the garden shade. In this garden, the mind transcends materialistic reality. It possesses the unique power to imagine “far other worlds, and other seas” (46). If this counter-reality is true, some may ask: what is the world today but a picture of our imagination? Marvell assures us that the mind transcends what we think is reality, “annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade” (47, 48). Holding true to the metaphor, Marvell suggests that the only permanence is a fresh thought in a green garden. Thus, the only way we can maintain a prelapsarian happiness is to live with nature and embrace the green shade. In both poems, Marvell portrays complex visions of the pastoral. “The Garden” serves to admire nature’s superiority, and the ability of the garden to cultivate intellectual growth. “The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn” considers innocence’s fate in a postlapsarian world. Both poems utilize extended color metaphors to personify ideals and human characteristics. Through these two poems, Marvell demonstrates his superior ability to weave metaphysical comparisons that challenge his readers and allow them to stretch their minds in order to see the pastoral through a wider — yet far more focused — lens.
To His Coy Virgins
To His Coy Virgins The concept of carpe diem or “seize the day” is a popular poetic credo. Seventeenth century poets Andrew Marvell and Robert Herrick address carpe diem by admonishing young virgins against coyness and procrastination. Despite differences in device, motive, and narrative voice, Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and Herrick’s “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time” are unified by an urgent message. This message emphasizes that a young girl should utilize the gift of youth while she is still able, or she will later regret having not lived. More specifically, the virgin should not remain chaste her entire life, and should relinquish her virginity while young so she does not cheat herself out of the pleasures of youth. The two poems share much imagery. Both poets personify the sun and time as looming reminders of mortality. Marvell sees the sun as life’s adversary, and asks his mistress to challenge fleeting time by living deliberately with him, “Thus, though we cannot make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run ” (45-46). Herrick takes a more passive approach to the sun, seeing it as a mark of time’s inevitable passage, “The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun/The higher he’s a getting/The sooner will his race be run/And nearer he’s to setting” (5-8). Herrick and Marvell also approach the entity of time differently. In the first half of “To His Coy Mistress” the speaker makes glorious promises on the hypothetical basis of having an eternity to fulfill them: “Had we but world enough and time/This coyness, Lady, were no crime” (1-2). However, after the speaker records his extensive list of noble intentions, he claims it is impossible to act upon them because “…at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near/And yonder all before us lie/Deserts of vast eternity” (21-24). In contrast, Herrick does not use the image of time as a manipulating force. He actually encourages the virgins to live as they see fit, as long as they acknowledge the existence of time and intend to utilize it, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may/Old Time is still a flying” (1-2). It is apparent that Marvell takes a negative, urgent approach to these images while Herrick is calm, passive and somewhat didactic. The speakers in these two poems have different, but not necessarily opposing, agendas. Herrick seems to take the role of a sage, giving advice to a younger generation of women, not one particular girl. The speaker in Marvell’s poem is specifically addressing his mistress, with the ulterior motive of winning her virginity. His poetry, filled with promises and pleas, has the blatant intent of seduction. In the latter half of “To His Coy Mistress,” the speaker invokes grotesque images of the grave, worms, and dust to as a desperate attempt to intimidate his obstinate mistress into acquiescence, “…then worms shall try/That long preserved virginity/And your quaint honor turn to dust, and into ashes all my lust” (27-30). In addition to extensive flattery, Marvell resorts to playing on his mistress’ fear of death in order to seduce her. His message: The only fate worse than death is dying a virgin. He ignores all repercussions of immediate physical consummation, and only acknowledges the backlash of never acting upon sexual desire, which is an odd inversion of conventional morality. Interestingly enough, Marvell does not once mention the prospect of marriage in this poem. The reader is left wondering how noble his intent truly is. From a philosophical standpoint, one could say that Marvell is “seizing the day,” living in the immediate present, and viewing each moment as an isolated chance for happiness with no bearing on the future. However, It is clear that the notion of carpe diem is merely a cheap, self-serving concept for this speaker, who could possibly be a mindless hedonist. Herrick also warns virgins against coyness, but to his merit, the last stanza recommends the virgins to “…while ye may, go marry” (14). Both poets use metaphors and a constant, predictable rhyme scheme. Herrick’s metaphors, such as the gathering of rosebuds, are very conventional, yet effective. Interestingly, he does not use simile. The effect is that the speaker appears less seductive or flattering than Marvell’s. Rather, Herrick’s tone is more didactic. Marvell’s language is overflowing with excessive, hyperbolic metaphor and simile. The majority of his images are quite grandiose, such as “My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires and more slow” (11-12). Marvell is normally classified as a metaphysical poet, and many of his far-fetched metaphors, like “vegetable love,” are characteristic of this movement. For rhyme scheme, Herrick’s uses abab, while Marvell uses the simple rhyming couplet, aabb, etc. Yet, unlike the near-perfect rhyme in “To the Virgins…” there are two couplets in “To His Coy Mistress” where slant rhyme occurs. Lines 23 and 24 rhyme “lie” and “eternity”; lines 27 and 28 couple “try” and “virginity.” Both “To His Coy Mistress” and “To the Virgins” deal with the progression of carpe diem as an ideal for a young woman who still possesses her virginity. The former poem’s approach is seductive and self-interested, and the latter is more didactic. Yet both end with the implicit message of “seize the day, or you shall wither away!” Robert Herrick’s closing lines, “For having lost but once your prime/You may forever tarry” (15-16) express this sentiment perfectly, implying that excessive coyness will result in a limbo, and a loss of life and love.
Variations of Love in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116”
In Octavio Paz’s book The Double Flame, he describes three different categories of love that can arise between partners: sexuality, eroticism, and Love. The first category, sexuality, refers to the biological and instinctive urge to reproduce, whereas eroticism descibes the pleasure and desire of the sexual act. The third category, Love, refers to an attraction to the person as a whole, and encompasses an equal sharing of love between the body and the soul. While Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116” both pursue the theme of love, each poem describes a kind of love that is different from the other. “To His Coy Mistress” seems to conform to Paz’s second type of love, eroticism; however, “Sonnet 116” posits an alternative to all three of Paz’s types. The speaker in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” longs for a woman whom he attempts to persuade to go to bed with him. Because they will not live for eternity, the speaker argues, he and his mistress should then “tear [their] Pleasures with rough strife” (43) as soon as possible, while they still have the chance. The speaker’s focus is on attaining pleasure through intercourse, and not on producing offspring. Although the speaker claims that if he had all the time in the world he would spend “thirty thousand” (16) years adoring every inch of her, he perhaps says this only to try and woo her so that he can fulfill his desire as quickly as possible. He knows that he does not have much time, so he can tell her this without ever having to prove it. The speaker is not driven by a biological urge to reproduce nor does he possess an equal sharing of love between his mistresses’ body and soul; he is focused entirely on her body. The speaker wants only to indulge in bliss by having intercourse, and as soon as possible to avoid any chance of his lust turning to ashes. For this reason, the love that the speaker has for his mistress falls under Paz’s second category, eroticism.Because in the first stanza of “To His Coy Mistress” the speaker focuses on the mistress as a whole person, and not solely on his pure erotic desire for her body, it is tempting to classify the poem within Paz’s third category, Love. The speaker declares that his “vegetable Love” (11) would grow slowly, and be “Vaster than Empires” (12) if he had more time. He insists that he would spend “An Age at least to every part,” (17) indicating he would love her as an entire person, and spend lavish amounts of time doing so. However, the reader cannot be sure that the speaker is being entirely truthful, for there is no way for him to prove this. The speaker wants to engage “now, like am’rous birds of prey” (38) in intercourse, and his aggressive tone indicates that he is becoming impatient. His impatience suggests that the speaker is anxious to explore his mistresses’ body and is not interested in anything else. Also, if he truly did want more than just her body, he presumably would not attempt to frighten her with crude images (“then Worms shall try / that long preserv’d Virginity” [27-2])) into the idea that if she doesn’t give up her virginity soon, if not immediately, she may die a virgin. Because the speaker is not willing to wait and let his love for his mistress develop prior to engaging in the sexual act, and is only interested in making sure his lust does not turn to ashes, his love is purely eroticism. While Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” illustrates Paz’s concept of eroticism, Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116” does not fit into any of Paz’s three categories. The speaker describes a “marriage of true mindes,” (1) a kind of love that is solid and “never shaken” (6). Because this love bypasses the body and is centered on the mind, it transcends both sexuality and eroticism. “Sonnet 116” puts little emphasis on love of the body, in fact, even though “rosie lips and cheeks”(9) will diminish as time continues, the speaker asserts that his kind of eternal love will not be altered. Insofar as it considers lovers that are no longer youthful, the poem does not encompass an equal sharing between body and soul, for the body begins to lose its beauty and liveliness with time, and love between souls “beares it out even to the edge of doome” (14). However, while its lovers are youthful, the poem describes Love: there is a true connection between both the young and lively body and the soul. Perhaps, Shakespere suggests, as couples age and the body begins to lose its beauty, love between partners becomes more and more love between two souls. “Sonnet 116” emphasizes that true love cannot be altered with time. In contrast, the speaker of “To His Coy Mistress” urges his mistress to pursue sex immediately because there is never enough time. While “To His Coy Mistress” illustrates eroticism, “Sonnet 116” describes a kind of Love that Paz does not account for in The Double Flame. Rather, Shakespere suggests a fourth type of love, one that is between souls alone. This kind of love can remain potent with the passing of time, as the body declines into age, and the soul is enriched with experience.Works CitedMarvell, Andrew. “To His Coy Mistress”. Selected Poetry and Prose. Ed. Robert Wilcher. New York: Methuen, 1986. 40-42.Paz, Octavio. The Double Flame. Trans. Helen Lane. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1993.Shakespere, William. “Let me not to the marriage of true minds.” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense. 8th ed. Eds. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnston. Boston: Heinle and Heinle, 2002. 1092.
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 scornÃ¨d 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 scornÃ¨d 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 unruledSuch unproportioned dwellings build?The beasts are by their dens exprest,And birds contrive an equal nest; The low-roofed tortoises do dwellIn 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 freeAs if she said, Leave this to me.Art would more neatly have defacedWhat 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 shynÃ¨d 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 beSo 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 answerÃ¨d 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 seemÃ¨d 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 isleThe garden of the world ere while,Thou Paradise of four seas,Which Heaven planted us to please,But, to exclude the world, did guardWith 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 allowedTo 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 vineUpon my mouth do crush their wine;The nectarine and curious peachInto 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.