Andrew Marvell Poems
The Problem with Ambition: Understanding “The Garden” Through Allusions and Close Reading
H.C. Beeching proclaimed about ‘The Garden’ that ‘Marvell is the laureate of grass, and of greenery’. This is recognition of Marvell’s desire to explore, effectively, the relationship between man and creation through the analogy of a Garden. However, it is important to note that there are many other facets of Marvell’s writing that make ‘The Garden’ a multi-layered poem that discusses a multitude of different themes. We are also posed questions as to the benefits of blissful isolation through metaphors of shade, as well as the futility of ambition through comparisons to military victory. Therefore, while ‘The Garden’ does indeed explore the relationship between man and creation, it is also an effective argument as to how we should view isolation and ambition.
The primary way in which Marvell explores the relationship between man and creation is through is an analogy of a garden, namely the Garden of Eden and what it can provide for humanity. E.K Chamber states, ‘how should the intoxication of meadow, and woodland, and garden be better expressed’ than in the lines ’Stumbling on melons as I pass, / Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.’ This is the first example of a multi-faceted approach to man’s interaction with nature. Firstly, the ‘stumbling on melons’ provides the suggestion of the plentifulness the God has implanted within nature. Moreover, the ‘melon’, being a large, juicy fruit implies that nature is what gives us the ability to feed ourselves and thus, survive. Therefore, because we have a plentiful source of food, Marvell highlights the importance of nature to man as it is ultimately what sustains us in life. Next, ‘insnared with flowers’, highlights the happiness of the speaker in being among the wildlife, and thus the enjoyment that nature provides to man. The speaker seems to be perfectly happy getting stuck in the flowers as he traipses about the garden. However, this has ominous overtones as it harks back to Genesis, where Eve, busy tending to the flowers of Eden, gets ensnared by Satan. This suggests that while nature greatly enriches our lives, we must be careful to not to over indulge or we may too become ‘insnared’ by the Devil. Finally, ‘I fall on grass’ highlights the comfort that nature provides man. Despite the speaker evidently falling on the flowers, he seems almost relieved to have hit the grass. From the imagery of ‘grass’, we gain a picture of smooth, soft bliss, like in a meadow and therefore the ‘fall’ that may have been so detrimental on a battlefield, turns into relief. This symbolises the relief that nature provides man from the ‘rude’ ‘society’. However, there are also hints to Adams fall of man. Much like the previous line, the use of the word ‘fall’ suggests the possibility of nature being removed if it is over indulged, much like in the Garden of Eden. This idea holds particular relevance nowadays as man seems to be over indulging in our environment to the extent that it is being destroyed. Moreover, at the time this poem was written, the start of the industrial revolution, this may well have also been the case.
Furthermore, Marvell discusses the use of nature as a protective function within humanity. To do this, he poses a mythological allegory within the poem from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses 1’. ‘Apollo hunted Daphne so’ and ‘Pan did after Syrinx’ relate to the stories in which two men (Apollo and Pan) fall madly in love with female nymphs (Daphne and Syrinx), but the ladies want nothing to do with them or any other man. The men chase the women all over the woods and are about to catch them when river gods decide to step in and save the the nymphs by turning the ladies into plants. Therefore, the ‘race’ of the gods, ends in the creation of trees. The significance of this story is that it suggests the overall safety that nature provides man. Moreover, the extensive references to ‘race’s in stanza 4, suggest that it is in the fundamental human nature to do against our environment in search for ‘mortal beauty’.’ Ardhendu De suggests that ‘In this garden both man and nature is unfailing.’ The suggestion is that our goal is to ‘mortal beauty chase’ is such that the nature we live in, is in itself immortal and thus better than any human beauty. The overall significance of the allegory in stanza 4 is to show that man requires nature in order to be protected from corrupted forces, such as the Greek gods that are portrayed in the story.
However, it is clear that man and nature are not the only concerns that are discussed throughout ‘The Garden’, and that the idea of isolation and solitude is central to the poem. Garrett Hazelwood states that ‘Marvell uses the image of the garden and the shade it provides to symbolise a place of quiet and innocence, which he illustrates as an ideal environment for stimulating thought, progress, and reason.’ To evidence this, Marvell speaks to the quiet he has found ‘here’, that is, in the garden. He compares his life now to what it was when he was trying to gain success in the world, and moreover, that society ‘was all but rude’. By ‘rude’ Marvell means uncivilised and thus indicates that the garden is his only escape from the unnecessary luggage of the world. Furthermore, Marvell suggests that he has been ‘mistaken long’ by ‘sought’ing the ‘busy companies of men’. By this, he is suggesting that in order to find the ‘Fair Quiet’ that he is looking for, he must go to the garden as it provides ‘delicious solitude’. There is particular significance of the word ‘delicious’, as it suggests a sensual enjoyment of solitude that you may not find through conventional means amongst society. Finally, ‘Only among the plants will grow’ suggests that in order to gain real knowledge, one must get rid of ‘society’ and adopt solitude amongst nature, as your soul can only ‘grow’ when it is free from impurities. This sense of purity can only be found in the isolation of the garden, and therefore this theme of solitude becomes important to Marvell’s general outlook towards the metaphysical development of the soul.
The final concern of the poem that holds significance is the issue of ambition, and it’s relevance in living a life of ‘eudaemonia’ – Aristotle’s idea of blissful happiness. The Garden opens on the theme of ambition, portraying human efforts seek to recognition. Symbolically, this recognition is in the form of laurels, made from ‘the Palm, the Oak, or Bays’. These would have been how victors were crowned in classical times in the fields of military, civic, and poetic achievements respectively. However, in order to make these crowns, branches have to be cut down, and therefore the life of natural life is shortened. These laurels then fade, cut off from their natural source of life. If left in their natural state, they would have offered people peace and tranquillity, symbolised through the imagery of ‘shade’. Lawrence Hyman supports this by stating that ‘The Garden’, ‘depicts the prizes gained from endeavours seeking honour or material gain as casting a narrow shadow that fails to provide the shade he uses as a central metaphor in the poem’.
The overall effect of this imagery is to suggest that a quest for glory through ambition to conquer different fields is foolish as the best solution is within the garden itself. Marvell states that once, ‘we have run our passion’s heat’, ‘Love hither makes his best retreat’. Hither in this context is the garden, and it highlights that while our worldly ambitions will lead us nowhere, the eternal nature will remain in order to provide ‘Love’, which could well refer to Gods love, which ultimately is the only important thing.
While Marvell does clearly and effectively discuss the relationship between man and creation, in order to gain a full appreciation for ‘The Garden’, one must embrace the multitude of topics that are discussed. Concerns such as solitude and ambition hold great weight throughout much of Marvell’s poetry, and thus, their significance as themes within the poem must not be overlooked.
(1) – Andrew Marvell’s ‘Garden’ of Enlightenment Thinking – Garrett Hazelwood
(2) Hyman, Lawrence W. “Marvell’s Garden.”
(3) – Ardhendu De – The Analysis of Marvell’s “The Garden” : Developed Through Studied Contrast
(4) – E.K Chambers – Revival of Interest
(5) – H.C. Beeching – Revival of Interest
The Logic of Metaphor in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”
Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” was written when Cromwell’s Calvinism constrained liberty and free-will, and the poem exemplifies an unconventional assertion of love and sexual propositioning, while validating the request to yield in sexual activity with three “arguments”, structured into stanzas. These segments of the poem consider what would happen if the speaker and his beloved had eternity, the reality of life’s brevity and the potential joy of the sexual union. Marvell employs a range of linguistic-stylistic devices to sustain his central method of sexual imagery. The enhancement of the poem caused by his use of enigmatic metaphors in rhymed couplets within an iambic tetrameter makes us question whether Marvell is condemning deceitful male chauvinism or the coyness of females.
The Petrarchan language used by Marvell fundamentally determines the structure of “To His Coy Mistress,” as the speaker commences the poem by suggesting the consequences of acquiring eternity to pursue their courtship: “Had we but world enough and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime”. By applying hyperbole, metaphor and the conditional tense to this devious speculation he implies that the speaker lacks boundless amounts of time to wait for their sexual union, however he attains such a persuasive trait, through metaphor, that unlocks the emotional barrier of doubt in the “mistress”. Marvell recognises that “metaphor is pervasive in language” as the “listener is thrown into a state of momentary uncertainty” which creates an alternate dimension to her view of reality. He suggests that this woman’s “coyness” is almost criminal through the imagery fabricated by the use of the word “crime”. This implies that rejecting sex automatically makes her a lawbreaker, alluding to the religious and moral expectations of 17th century society, where fornication was seen as a crime as the church morality dominated social behaviour.
The tone of the poem is rather didactic as the speaker presents the “lady” as “coy” which connotes reluctance with an underlying urge to be mischievous; it implies insincerity. The poem’s title suggests then that the mistress is merely pretending that she doesn’t want to participate in sex with him, and the poem goes on to explain why he labels “coyness” is a “crime.” The poet’s concerns transcend merely the narrator’s view of the 17st century’s personal or everyday moral constraints, and articulates how all readers should grab life with both hands and live every moment to the fullest without having to think about every detail therefore presenting “a very modern view of chastity”. On the other hand, as the first stanza proceeds Marvell depicts the “crime” of wasting immeasurable time by implicitly criticising the seducer through “The rich brew of symbolic suggestion” (24c) as he states the oxymoron “My vegetable love should grow, vaster than empires and more slow”. This could be seen as associating his “love” with a startlingly erotic, exceedingly suggestive “vegetable” which may have shocked 17th century readers, but equally it could suggest how inert and bland their love would be if they were to postpone physical desire indefinitely. The overall effect of the first stanza is that the victim feels as if he is almost patronising and over-indulging her with every woman’s desire of true love and that the speaker could be a potential lover, however as the second stanza progresses he outlines scenarios that easily reveal he is self-seeking and manipulative and question whether his actions are
In the second stanza, the movement of the verse is flowing and unfettered as he begins with the connective “But” as to imply reluctance to any word but “yes”, so there is a clear contrast between the first section and the second to show that the speaker is eager to pursue his desires at once. Marvell employs the signalling metaphor “And yonder all before us lie, deserts of vast eternity” to juxtapose “time” with the vastness of a “desert” suggesting that their future is represented by a desert in the sense that deserts symbolise desolation and emptiness, if they postpone sex for too long. The speaker attempts to persuade the mistress to have sex with him but graphically and unusually suggests that “worms shall try, that long-preserved virginity”. This powerful image is apparently a shock tactic aimed to present an unattractive alternative to his proposition as “it is typical that metaphors use concrete images to convey something abstract, helping to communicate what is hard to explain” (14d). The reader sees this as Marvell criticising the seducer because the comment is so counterproductive that it is likely to defer the potential lover with its cynical almost horrific image but the speaker is manipulating her to think that a dreadful occurrence would become her if she did not succumb to his will. Therefore the response of the representative hyperbole (that if she rejects his offer, that she will stay a virgin forever) will be disgusting to her as her virginity would be taken away from worms in the grave anyway. Marvell continues this interestingly elaborate notion of time through critiquing the mistress by stating that her “quaint honour” will “turn to dust” and all her “ashes” will behold his “lust”; this mockery of her possession of her “quaint honour” signifies how when she dies she would have regretted not experiencing such a vital part of life with him so it is important the experience is grabbed now. The rhyming between “dust” and “lust” draws absurd comparison between death and love, suggesting that love (or in this case – making love) is such an essential part of life and the relationship of death and love is one of antagonism that would make the seducer want to participate in sexual intercourse with him and so avoid death.
Marvell also personifies time as a “winged chariot hurrying near” ““This pattern of concretisation”, where we try to capture the essence of an abstraction by recasting it in terms of something more palpable……” (16a) to help us sense a moving vehicle quickening towards us, it is an echo of Apollo’s chariot – a reference to classical mythology. The idea of a journey appeals to the reader’s kinetic senses as the thought-provoking imagery that time moves and travels would have been current as the invention of the first clock was in 1656, so contemporary readers would have had an immediate understanding of the events described. ‘If we make love as I want, it will be momentous’ is the speaker’s message he wants the final stanza to portray to the mistress, which is evident in his repetition of the imperative “now”. This demonstration of his reluctance to wait is also portrayed in the simile “Now let us sport us while we may, and now, like amorous birds of prey”, by comparing their companionship to “amorous birds of prey” the narrator creates conflicting ideas in the reader’s mind as “amorous” expresses love and “birds of prey” are animals that viscously hunt. This echoes a desperate, savage lust as a hunt or sexual “sport” of freedom showing that “Elaboration involves capturing an existing component of the source domain in an unusual or unconventional way” (17a). “Let us roll all our strength and all our sweetness up into one ball” continues the idea of sex being a sport and is one of the few images that is genuinely expressed as spirited yet direct and passionate in the form of a metaphor. The fact that this one of the few modest lines in the poem displays how he must not desire a genuine relationship with his mistress and simply wants to use her for sex. Hence Marvell can be seen to use metaphor to criticise the seducer. Conversely, Marvell also reprimands the victim through the seducer as he states “while the youthful hue sits on thy skin like morning dew” symbolising how her youthful appearance (“like morning dew”) will diminish as the days develop however these lines of brightness and vitality use antithesis in relation to the rest of the poem which talks of darkness and death. This demonstrates how Marvell is “implicitly criticising the would-be seducer rather than his victim”.
“Language is the ultimate form of the construction of symbolic power, the means to stir humanity to pursue conquest.” This idea enables Marvell to builds the speaker up, then construct his downfall till with the last couplet showing how much of a lothario he is, hence why “the concept is metaphorically structured, the activity is metaphorically structured, and consequently, the language is metaphorically structured” (22b). Here, I believe, Marvell is showing how the speaker convinces himself that chastity is not as important as passion and desire which demonstrates a “very modern view of chastity”. However, he does not simply criticise the speaker on his attempt to seduce a woman as the motif of “Carpe Diem” is interlaced throughout the poem. Marvell acknowledges the inevitability of death and how instead of becoming morally constrained human-beings we should all ‘seize the day’.
 Critical Anthology: The importance of metaphor  Chapter 1: The presence and power of metaphors  Critical Anthology: The importance of metaphor, Lakoff and Johnson(1980) Metaphors we live by  Critical Anthology: The importance of metaphor  Critical Anthology: The importance of metaphor, Knowles and Moon (2006) Introducing metaphor  Critical Anthology: The importance of metaphor, Knowles and Moon (2006) Introducing metaphor  Chapter 1: The presence and power of metaphors  Critical Anthology: The importance of metaphor, Simpson(2004) Stylistics
Defamiliarization in the “The Definition of Love” by Marvell and “Washing Day” by Barbauld
The art of poetic depiction of daily actions and familiar objects has become one of the most unique, especially with the development of such technique as defamiliarization. This stylistic technique has become popular due to its ability to depict typical objects from an unusual angle. That is why today it is possible to find a range of poetic masterpieces, which enable the reader to have a totally different vision on familiar things. In particular, The Definition of Love by A. Marvell and Washing Day by A. Barbauld are the perfect examples of the art that enable to have the most unusual view of the things reader might face every day.
The Definition of Love is one of the most famous poems of Andrew Marvell, which is believed to be categorized as metaphysical and philosophical at the same time. In this case, an anonymous lover, the speaker of the poem, provides with his struggle to understand and explain the true feeling of love. In general, this poem represents a scientific and ontological approach to the explanation of love concept. Thus, the speaker tries to define: “What is the being of my love?” The very headline of the poem gives a hint about the paradoxical attempt to define what the love is. In other words, the speaker seeks to find the central feature, which might define love and, therefore, find its limits. The Definition of Love provides with the elaborate imagery and platonic implications of love between minds and souls that are distinct to the body. This poem depicts the two lovers who are opposite, enviously separated by Fate and its “Decrees of Steel”; to save this love would require world`s destruction: “And, us to joyn, the World should all / Be cramp’d into a planisphere” (Marvell 22-24). The philosophical style allows looking deeper into the essence of feelings` description. Thus, the speaker is not simply concerned with the romantic relations to his beloved but the core state of being in love matters a lot. The very first lines of the poem seem to be uncommon in the traditional poetry about love: “My love is of a birth as rare, As ’tis for object strange and high” (Marvell 1-2). The speaker describes love as a strange phenomenon, which happens rarely to him, which makes the reader think about his tragic experience. The lines “It was begotten by Despair Upon Impossibility” (3-4) are filled with the two personified entities, which is evident by the capitalization used. As the speaker claims, Despair and Impossibility are the only driving forces of his love experience. Thus, this is a surprisingly dark formulation of love, as the speaker explains that only despair could have opened this love for his, as it reveals the utter perfection of his feeling and the impossibility of its physical realization. Hence, the second stanza begins with the oxymoron: “Magnanimous Despair alone Could show me so divine a thing” (5-6), which brings the reader closer to the speaker`s unusual feeling of love. Such oxymoron leads to wonderful paradox, as despair could show him the divine nature of love, while hope could not. In fact, the use of the high-flown vocabulary might give a hint to lady`s noble state, which makes this love impossible to live. Here, Despair is identified as emotional integrity and strength, which makes the speaker search for the more logical explanation.
A third phenomenon which might explain love is Fate. As mentioned by the speaker, Fate does not allow two perfect lovers to be united and together enjoy their feelings. In this case, he compares their connection with the two infinite lines. For Fate with jealous eye does see Two perfect loves, nor lets them close; Their union would her ruin be, And her tyrannic pow’r depose. And therefore her decrees of steel Us as the distant poles have plac’d (Marvell 14-18) These lines indicate speaker`s frustration about the physical separation, which is also viewed through the abstract ontological notion. It is evident that Fate is also personified here, as its power is perceived as usurping to some extent. Fate is depicted as tyrannic, with its “jealous eye” trying to take control over two people in love. Mainly, the presence of third “separation power” is the feature that makes this poem unique. In this case, the speaker blames Fate in his personal tragedy. While traditional love poetry does not seem to figure out the essence of love, the speaker in Marvell`s poem constantly seeks for the direct and clear definition of this concept by introducing personified phenomena. Besides, he tries to explain love from the geometrical point of view, which is introduced by the parallel constructions: “As lines so Loves oblique may well Themselves in every angle greet: But ours so truly parallel” (Marvell 25-26). In this case, lovers are compared to the oblique lines, which will never meet. In the final stanza, the speaker manages to formulate two definitions for his state of love: it is “the conjunction of the mind” as well as “the opposition to the stars” (Marvell 33-34). Such two-sided definition represents the divided nature of love as such. Being “the conjunction of the mind”, it suggests being harmonious, while the opposition implies its tragedy and impossibility of lovers be together. This is the first attempt to combine the emotional aspect of love to the aspects of the physical universe, which is defined by the power of Fate preventing people from the physical union.
The poem Washing Day by A. Barbauld is filled with totally different techniques, which help view typical things from another angle. Generally, the poem illustrates two various perspectives on the same events happened during the typical washing day. The first vision incorporates the way surrounding people feel towards the chores needed to be done that day. Meanwhile, the second view is the speaker`s memories of childhood observing the events of that day. As Barbauld pays close attention to the role of women in particular situations, this piece belongs to the sort of feminist poetry. However, the key idea is to draw readers` attention to the joy of childhood, described via the image of a daily routine. Thus, typical washing day may not be that usual as it often seems. Still, the opening line “The Muses are turned gossips; they have lost, The buskined step, and a clear high-sounding phrase, Language of gods” (1-3) immediately create negative tone, as inspiration (Muses) are turned here into something unpleasant and common. As the poem goes on, the sense of sarcasm can be traced, as the author describes the typical day of women “pratting on”. What is more, Barbauld successfully implements metaphor here by naming women “domestic Muses”, which also sarcastically depicts the status of women in the society. Then, the author ends this section by the lines: “Come, Muse; and sing the dreaded Washing-Day” (Barbauld 8). The use of negatively connotated word “dreaded” creates a paradoxical situation, as it is not usual to sing about the “dreaded” things in life. In this case, the greatest opposition is evident. In fact, Barbauld expresses the ways possible to find pleasure and joy even living in the overwhelming misery and hard physical work.
However, the whole poem indicates constant shifts concerning the events on the washing day. For example, the description of marriage is clearly negative: “Beneath the yoke of wedlock bend,…” a yoke is put on an ox which is a beast of burden!” (Barbauld 9-10). These lines probably indicate the absence of choice for women in questions of marriage. Besides, one of the most remarkable features of Washing Day is reflection and motif of childish games: Sometimes thro’ hollow bole Of pipe amused we blew, and sent aloft The floating bubbles, little dreaming then To see, Montgolfier, thy silken ball Ride buoyant thro’ the clouds – so near approach (Barbauld 80-84) This is a postmodern technique of observation, which is generated through the light image of bubbles flying from the tub. Moreover, the image of childish innocence is created by the alliteration of the sounds /b/ and /s/ that echo with the sound of washing. In addition, the poem creates a number of symbolic connections, which enable the reader to see the full picture of the daily routine. Barbauld manages to depict all typical aspects of domestic atmosphere- women`s work, children`s play, singing. All of them are collected in order to combine human activities together with the restoration of harmony and conventional hierarchy. The lines “Earth, air, and sky, and ocean, hath its bubbles, And verse in one of them – this most of all” (90-91) present the childish figure of a bubble, which conceptualizes and opposes the sense of playfulness to adults` everyday hard work.
The suggested poems can definitely be named as the perfect examples of defamiliarization technique. Marvell adopts a completely new philosophic and scientific approach in order to understand the concept of love. What makes this poem unique, is its parallel constructions and personifications, which contribute to the two-sided definition of love. In fact, the very attempt to scientifically define “love” is rather non-typical for the traditional poems. Besides, the poem by Barbauld reveals the opposed vision on the same day. In this case, she manages to combine the worlds of adults and children by adding negative and positive connotations to the events. Therefore, the variety of perspectives is the key feature, which makes the readers fully understand the poems.
Barbauld, Anna, Letitia. Washing Day. Monthly Review. 1797. Web. 12 September 2016. Marvell, Andrew. The Definition of Love. The Poems of Andrew Marvell. 1892. Web. 12 September 2016.
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 are Edenic references. Mira Sengupta’s interpretation of the poem argues that 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 http://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&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBQ#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: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/marvellsociety/newsletter/mira-m-sengupta-grafting-the-texts-an-intertextual-reading-of-marvells-mower-and-garden-poems/ (Accessed: 26/03/2014).
Logical Form and Formal Logic in Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’
Dialectical structure is probably one of the major characteristics of all Metaphysical poetry. Donne was the pioneer of this type of poetry, which was marked by erudite scholarship, and difficulty of thought. It is said that a whole book of knowledge can be compiled from the scholarly allusions in only Donne and Cowley. This, perhaps, often leads to obscurity, which has been regarded as one of the demerits of Metaphysical poetry, and many of Donne’s contemporaries believed that “it confuses the pleasures of poetry with the pleasures of puzzles”. Indeed, there are many who do approve of this type of complexity, for to them it is thought-provoking and novel. But critics generally agree that such poetry makes intellectual demands on the reader, forcing him to think logically. Moreover, the very fact that only an erudite audience can properly appreciate this poetry makes for a limited readership. The fact is that Donne and his contemporaries bring the mind into play, even when they are expressing deep emotional or spiritual themes. The very combination of spiritual and emotional subject matter, and intellectual and logical form, is the essence of the type of poetry that Donne evolved.Among all the Metaphysical poets, however, there is none, not even Donne, who adheres to the methodology of formal logic as much as Andrew Marvell. His poems therefore become as much speculative and imaginative poetry, as intellectual exercises based on copybook methods of argumentation and analysis. One of his most popular and representative poems in this regard is “To His Coy Mistress,” a poem which can be used as the supreme example of the method of Metaphysical dialectics. The two logical methods that Marvell employs in this poem are taken from formal logic and philosophy. The first is the formal method of argumentation known as Syllogism. The second is a philosophical premise that is a part of ancient hedonistic doctrines, and has been popularly known as the Carpe-diem theme.Use of SyllogismLogic, basically, is of two kinds – inductive and deductive. Inductive logic is instilled into us by everyday experience, such the logic contained in the sentence : “The sun rises in the east”. It disturbs our sense of logic to say that it rises in the west, for no other reason than that it is unnatural. Inductive logic, however, may change over time under the onslaught of deductive logic, such as when people changed their minds from saying “The earth is flat” to “The earth is round”. Deductive logic, however, forms the core of all treatises on logic, and consists of several methods and types of inferences.Syllogism is a component of deductive logic, in which there are three categorical propositions, consisting of two premises and one conclusion. The conclusion that emerges is true IF the two terms are true. A stock example is the following: All men are mortal; Indians are men; So all Indians are mortal. We have to accept the first two premises from inductive logic, that men are mortal and that Indians are men. Then only we may come to the conclusion that emerges from these premises. Often, when it is not clear whether the first two premises are true, the syllogism is represented by the If….But…..Therefore structure, such as the following: If man could fly he would be a bird; But man cannot fly; So man is not a bird. It is this structure which is followed in To His Coy Mistress.To His Coy Mistress is a typically Metaphysical poem, which has been heavily influenced by Donne. Yet, there is no poem of Donne which is so rigidly logical in form. The poem is written totally from the point of view of the man, and the rigidly logical analysis centres almost totally on the desire of the lover, ignoring any analysis of the coyness of the lady. As such, being totally intellectual in nature, general readers find a lack of true and deep emotion, even though it is a poem about love, and the nature of the love concentrates almost totally on the physical. In this respect it can even be regarded as coldly calculating.Being syllogistic in structure, corresponding to the If…..But…..Therefore format, the poem has three distinct parts – 1) What he would do IF he had enough space and time; 2) BUT time flies; 3) THEREFORE we must catch the moment while it lasts. Donne is also argumentative and persuasive, but never in such an extreme form.The first section of the poem is a speculation on what the poet would have done IF he had enough time and space. If fact, the whole poem is based on the space-time continuum, and every line has words or references to either space or time. If the poet did have enough time, he would have wooed his mistress ten years before the Flood (which, by the way, refers to both the Biblical flood in which Noah was saved by means of his ark, and the classical flood, in which Deucalion and Pyrrha remained alive amidst the general doom), and she would have time enough to refuse him till Doomsday. In other words, the whole gamut of time, from Creation till the Day of Judgment would be at his disposal, in which to extend his love-making at will. With so much time on his hands, he would have spent a hundred years to praise her eyes and forehead, and two hundred to adore her breasts. Thirty thousand years would be spent to adore the rest of her body.Similarly, if he had the entire world as his own space, he would allow his love to grow vaster and slower than great empires – in this case, the erstwhile Jewish empire. In this respect, his love is truly “vegetable love”, which grows of its own accord, filling up all the surrounding space if not checked, and is totally Platonic and non-physical in character.BUT, says the poet in the second section, Time is unfortunately not so generous, and is always at his back, hurrying him along. Marvell here uses a telling conceit to picture Time as rushing up fast on a winged chariot, soon to overcome them. In front of them lies Eternity, like a huge desert, barren and stark, in which it is no use to run in order to escape from the hurrying chariot of Time. The idea is that even if the mistress does manage to preserve her virginity till death, she will not be able to escape the ravages of time, for in the grave her body will slowly crumble to dust, and her virginity, which she had so carefully preserved all these years, will be penetrated by worms. As such, she will not be able to keep her precious virginity after all, for even if she remains celibate in life, she will lose it to worms after death. It is a blatantly sexual image, but it is purposely used by the poet to instil a feeling of disgust for death, which is his aim. The space-time continuum is carried on here from a different viewpoint. The endless space and time of the first part of the argument, is closed down to the space of a small tomb and uselessness of time in death in the second part.The third section, dealing with the “THEREFORE” part of the argument, is devoted to convincing the lady that she must utilize whatever time she has at her disposal. The poet’s suggestion about the manner in which this fleeting time should be passed is essentially sensual, and is based on the fact that the mistress has the two things necessary for a sensual enjoyment of life – youth, which sits on her skin like morning dew, and burning fire of passion, with which every one of her pores transpires. The lovers are like birds of prey who “tear up” their “pleasures with rough strife”, thus devouring Time, which is posing so much of a problem – an image in which sexual connotations are uppermost. In this manner, says Marvell, they may perhaps be unable to make “the sun stop” – that is, lengthen out time; but they will certainly compel the sun “to run” – that is, utilize the time so thoroughly that the awareness of time itself may be minimized. Moreover, since the sun represents life and energy apart from time, to make it “run” also means to use life and energy to the maximum. The poem thus gives us a sense of the wide gulf between the ideal and the real, between what is imagined and what is actually possible.Syllogistic logic, though belonging to the deductive type, can be easily used for mockery or satire, by making the lines seem logical, while all the time logic is actually undermined. Such distortion of logic is common, and by the syllogistic method, false premises may be categorically stated, and conclusions may be drawn which do not directly emerge from them. False syllogisms have been the hallmark of many a conman, and also many a poet, and they have been widely used both by lawyers and by philosophers. Indeed, “State a false syllogism” was the twenty-fourth of Schopenhauer’s strategms. From this point of view, it may safely be said that To His Coy Mistress is a prime example of false logic by the use of the syllogistic method.Ostensibly this poem is strictly framed according to the If…..But…..Therefore structure. However, the primary rule for an acceptable syllogism is that the conclusion must be drawn from the two premises which have been supplied before. In this poem the “If” section describes a speculation about what the poet would have done IF he had infinite space and time. The second section asserts the obvious – that he does not have this infinitude. The third section, however, does not automatically emerge from these two premises. Not having enough space and time, the lover advises his coy mistress that they will have to use the time they have in making wild love, and in tearing their “pleasures with rough strife” – which conclusion may be countered with several other conclusions regarding the manner in which a couple may pass their time. As such, the final section is totally individualistic, and not a general rule.The conclusion we as readers may, therefore, draw is that Marvell is basically a poet writing poetry, and not a logical treatise. The tone of the entire poem is light and bantering, aimed at mockery, rather than passionate and loving, aimed at true emotion. The logic, therefore, is mocking, too, building up an argument which is basically hollow. That is why the poem has always been enjoyed as one of the best examples of Metaphysical poetry, not Puritan logic.The Carpe-diem theme :Hedonism has always been couched in a cover of logic. There are several modes and strains of hedonistic philosophy, and all of them basically try to argue the case that pleasure is the only aim and purpose of man, as his life is short, and there is nothing much to expect after it is over. The Epicurean philosophy from the Greeks, for example, tries to analyse the truism of the proposition, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”. The very word “for” suggests logical analysis. We should enjoy life not because that is what we want, but because time is running away, and there will be no more time left to take in the pleasures of the world. Usually hedonistic philosophies are strongly materialistic, often rejecting any belief in the after-life, for the idea of heaven and hell are not very conducive to regarding pleasure as the ultimate good, for too much pleasure is usually discouraged by established religions. One of these various branches of hedonistic thought has given rise to the Carpe-diem theme, originally used from an ode by Horace, but being developed as a password to pleasure. The word loosely means “Seize the day”, that is , catch the time before it passes away. This is, moreover, related to later such themes, such as Carpe-florem (“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” from Herrick’s famous poem), which all finally mean the same. All these have become popular motifs in lyric poetry. The speaker in a carpe-diem poem emphasizes that life is short, and that time is fleeting, in order to convince his mistress to make the most of the pleasures immediately available to her. Later, when carpe-diem comes to be associated with carpe-florem, the rose becomes symbolic of beauty and the transitoriness of life, as in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene – “Gather yet the rose while yet is prime”. In Marvell’s Coy Mistress the lover expresses a desperation to pursue pleasures, because of the sentence of inevitable death that is the sure end of man.The first section, in which the poet lists the ways in which he would utilize time and space if he had them in endless measures, serves as the prelude to the actual development of the carpe-diem theme. It is to be noticed that even if had all the time of the world in his hands, he would use it only to derive the pleasures of love – to praise and adore his mistress for as long as it is possible. It is the second section in which the true meaning of the theme becomes clear. Here, in contrast to the speculative endlessness of time and space of the first section, the other extreme is described – the narrowness of space and time. The image of the virgin lady lying dead in her coffin with worms eating into her, is purposely anti-Romantic, for it is the purpose of the poet to make death seem as unattractive as possible in comparison with life. In fact, the carpe-diem theme automatically brings with it speculations of what the lady will become when she grows old and ugly. Moreover, the space-time continuum is carried on here from a different viewpoint. The infinite and space and time of the first part of the argument is closed down to the space of a small tomb, and the uselessness of time in death, in the second part. It is also interesting that the view of death presented in the second part is in direct contradiction to the Christian doctrine of life after death. From a Puritan like Marvell this is indeed astonishing. We may accept that such a view is purposely non-Christian for argument’s sake, but it is positively Pagan in its celebration of life, totally ignoring the considerations of morality or faith. Death is shown to be the end, and as such, the value of life becomes greater – something which is usually the logic of all hedonistic doctrines. Instead of seeing death as a stepping stone to a better life, it is shown as fearful and disgusting. The concept of worms penetrating the mistress’s virginity underlines the intense sensuality of the lover’s argument. The third part deals with the present – the use the lovers may make of space and time as they are available now. In view of the fact that there is very little time at the disposal of the lovers, they will have to “tear” their pleasures “with rough strife”, like “birds of prey”. This image immediately brings to mind associations of wild passion, which is what the poet advocates as “pleasure”. However, the outcome of this passion is closer to the Scholastic viewpoint, most commonly accepted by the Metaphysical poets in general. By consummating their love, the lovers will roll together all their strength and sweetness into a ball, which, it should be remembered, is also the traditional symbol of perfection – something attained by the union of the qualities of strength (Male) and sweetness (Female), both of which are required to make up the whole. The idea of these qualities coming together to create perfection is also to be found in Donne’s The Canonization and other such poems.The whole poem is written in tetrameter couplets instead of the usual pentameter, which is done purposely to heighten the tempo and thus give the impression of great hurry. This suits the poems extremely well, for the incessant harping on time running away is the primary focus of the poem, and is also very much a part of the carpe-diem motif.The logical syllogistic structure of the poem is strengthened by the hedonistic arguments. In this poem, particularly, Marvell is only interested in love as a given topic, which gives him the opportunity of performing exciting variations on an old theme. Donne is far more emotionally involved in his subjects, all the more because his poetry arises from real-life situations. Like Donne, however, Marvell’s poem is extremely dramatic, for throughout we can picture the presence of the woman, even though the focus is mainly on the poet lover himself. The carpe-diem theme is essentially developed as a rhetorical theme, quite common in the time, but Marvell’s originality lies in his ironical, almost burlesque treatment of the theme. This use of paradox and exaggeration to produce an effect of comedy has also been pointed out by T.S. Eliot as being characteristic of Marvell. All said and done, To His Coy Mistress is very much an intellectual poem using stock methods of logical analysis in a mocking way for a very special poetic effect.
Layers of influence on an individual’s response to place
Both Alain De Botton’s The Art of Travel and Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘The Garden’ successfully represent the many layers of influence on an individuals response to a landscape. They particularly reflect this through the influence of the individuals prior attitudes and experiences on their later responses.
Alain De Botton represents the many layers of influence on his response to the natural landscape as he has a real experience of a London neighbourhood park. In representing this influence, he metaphorically compares the grass to a ‘forbidding arena’, highlighting his existing emotions of despair, finding ‘ready encouragement in the sodden dark-red brick buildings’ which ultimately act as this initial influence in how he will come to perceive the landscape. However his real experience of this ‘desolate spread of mud and water’ acts as an additional layer of influence that prompts him to having a remembered experience in the same park that provides him with a similar sense of the connection he has ‘as much at home in the world as in my own bedroom’. It is the fact that he had this initial experience that influences how he now responds, with despair, but is also what prompts him to have the remembered experience of how beautiful it was. Within this remembered experience De Botton recalls that he had “let (his) bare feet slip from (his) shoes to caress the grass”. The tactile imagery represents the sensory nature of the real experience that for him allows for a profound transformative experience into a remembered one, as he ‘(recalls) how…the intense heat of the previous summer’ had invited a ‘sense of freedom and expansiveness’. His tone of delight ultimately reflects the transformative nature of the influence of the physical experience to a more emotional one. Ultimately it is the memory of what the park was like ‘the previous summer’ that allows him to respond with this heightened sense of enlightenment and connection to the natural landscape.
Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘The Garden’ similarly represents the many layers of influence on his response to the garden through reinforcing the capacity of the garden to engender a transcendental response from the individual. The personas initial relationship with the physical landscape is represented through the gustatory image of the ‘luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine’ along with the repetition of ‘my’ which highlights the persona’s sensory experience of the real and physical landscape of the garden. This physical relationship is further heightened as the persona personifies ‘the nectaren and curious peach’ as they ‘reach’ for him which ultimately reinforces the influence of the mutual curiosity that the relationship is based upon. The influence of these physical sensory experiences ultimately engender his response of a meditative imaginary experience of a landscape that he moves his mind to, as he personifies his mind and metaphorically compares it to ‘that ocean’ that transcends this physical experience into an imagined one. That his experience of the garden has allowed him an enlightenment and understanding that he didn’t have prior to. Marvell states that these ‘other worlds’ are ‘annihilating all that’s made’ where the present participle verb ‘annihilating’ reinforces his idea of the superiority of these imagined ‘green’ landscapes over anything in the physical or ‘made’ world. This ultimately highlights his representation of the many influences of the physical landscape in engendering a strong spiritual response from the individual.
Alain De Botton represents the many layers of influence upon his experiences by depicting the influence of his real experience of the landscape in Ambleside as an initial experience that later engenders an emotional response from him. He observes ‘a clump of trees’ which he personifies as not seeming ‘to care that the world was old’, where the initial influence is his anxiety that he wishes to have ‘restored by their smell.’ The olfactory and tactile imagery of this desire is ultimately reflecting his response in what he hopes to gain from this experience. But this only has a resonating influence on his life as he sits in a traffic jam and has a remembered experience of Wordsworth’s ‘spots of time’ and of the ‘trees’ that ‘came back to (him)…asserting themselves in (his) consciousness’. The present participle ‘asserting’ highlights the resulting connection that remains strong and continuous. Whilst in personifying the trees, De Botton is representing a previously unrealised relationship with the landscape, one which now offers him a metaphoric ‘ledge against which (he) could rest (his) thoughts’. He is representing his emotional response to the landscape by acknowledging this alteration of mood from one of ‘anxiety’ to feeling he has a ‘reason to be alive’ simply through the influence of his initial experience. In further recalling this experience, he personifies the trees ‘whose names I didn’t know but which I could see…’ where the verb ‘see’ highlights that the trees have become the catalyst for his experience in memory. In moving to this remembered experience, De Botton is reinforcing the influence of both his prior emotions and the initial experience that have engendered this emotional response from him.
Andrew Marvell continues to represent these layers of influence on his response to the garden through expressing the spiritual elevation that results from the influence of his physical experiences. The para-rhyme in ‘foot’ and ‘root’ acts as an initial influence in firmly anchoring the persona’s subsequent spiritual elevation to the physical features of and his experience within the garden. Immersed in these features, he metaphorically casts ‘the body’s vest aside’ so as to allow for the freedom of the soul influenced by the physical experience of the garden. Marvell’s choice of the verb ‘glide’ as ‘(his) should into the boughs does glide’ reinforces a smooth transition from earthly contemplation to a form of spiritual elevation. That at the ‘foot’ of the fountain or ‘root’ of the tree and in this state of deep contemplation influenced by ‘this delicious solitude’ in the natural world, he is removing the body’s vest so that what remains is a spiritual elevation of the soul. He continues to respond to the influence of these physical elements by comparing the soul to ‘a bird’ that ‘whets, and combs its silver wings’. The sibilance expresses the serenity of the soul once exposed from the ‘body’s vest’, suggesting the influence of the spiritually elevating connection that the persona has with the landscape. The ‘silver wings’ and the ‘various light’ of the soul possesses visual and symbolic connotations of enlightenment that have resulted from this physical experience. That the physical relationship with the garden engenders a strong spiritual response from the persona.