Presentation of the Soul in “A Dialogue, between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure” and “On a Drop of Dew”
A number of Marvell’s poetry often centers around the soul and its qualities, notably in ‘A Dialogue, between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure’ and ‘On a Drop of Dew’. There is significant highlight of the soul’s spiritual and nature, along with its strong bond to religion and the heavens. ‘A Dialogue, between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure’ focuses on the soul’s resolution and devotion to divine salvation despite distractions of earthly pleasures. On the other hand, ‘On a Drop of Dew’ focuses on the human soul’s purity and desire to return to the heavens as it is trapped by the material earth and human body. The two poems’ image of the soul as a perfect and pure being devoted to the heavens is strongly portrayed and emphasized on throughout, along with the opposing entrapment of the material plane to further highlight the soul’s purity. The contrast of resolution and purity of the soul against the temptations are central themes of Marvell’s poetry.
In a ‘A Dialogue, between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure’, the human soul is presented as the noble hero as the main focus of the poem, that deflects pleasure’s attempt at temptation in favor of its pursuit of its devotion to the heavens. There is a battle imagery throughout the poem, the debate between the soul and pleasure referred to as a “combat”. The soul’s position as a noble hero is highlighted through this imagery, as the chorus depicts the soul as a divine warrior with ‘immortal shield’, helmet and sword. The chorus, as an observer, encourages and challenges the soul to let its divinity “shine” in “this day’s combat”, further highlighting the soul’s role as it describes the soul in a heroic manner. Furthermore, the poem is much like a drama of a hero’s battle, the soul as the hero who overcomes various trials and the pleasure as its antagonist. The military imagery as the soul “fence/the battering of alluring senses” further dramatizes and calls attention to the soul. Similarly, the alternating conversation between the soul and pleasure in the linguistic battle also serves to add on to the effect. Thus the soul’s pursuit for salvation and rejection of the material world is viewed as a struggle for good. The neo-platonic idea of the spiritual over the material world is visited through this poem, as it places importance on the human soul’s ability to resist the material pleasures and “triumph”. Finally, the soul is “victorious” over pleasure and gains its reward as its ”everlasting store”, conclusively calling attention to the way heroes are rewarded at the end of their trials, cheered on by the Chorus.
Furthermore, the poem depicts the soul’s characteristic as a pure and determined being with close bonds to the heavens. The soul consistently deflects pleasure’s attempt to stray it from its path, claiming its devotion to heaven is much more worthwhile, deciding to “sup above” at its final destination of heaven instead of enjoying “Nature’s banquet” and indulge in the material world. The soul answers pleasure’s temptation through couplets, generally much shorter lines than the lengthy persuasions of pleasure, showings its determination and unwillingness to entertain pleasure to distract it from its path. The soul’s language is declarative rather than the imperative one of pleasure, further highlighting its resistance and resolve. Though pleasure may tempt it, the soul ultimately emerges victorious with the aid of its devotion to the heavens, rejecting all kinds of temptations from pleasure. Through pleasure tempts the soul with all its senses and even wealth and knowledge, the soul continually maintains its stand, further highlighted through its mostly regular rhyming couplets. Along with its steady-fast attitude, the noble qualities of the soul is shown along with the religious faith, attributing good qualities to God instead, praising God’s creation of beauty and smell. The soul’s noble traits are highlighted in its value of humility over “degree of knowledge” in becoming closer to heaven, further showing its devotion. This religious allusion is further expanded as the soul continually refers to the heaven as somewhere it must and soon will return to as it leaves behind the material world, calling attention to its spiritual origins where it will be claiming its reward.
Similarly, this depiction of the soul as a pure, spiritual thing with great bond to the heavens with is further highlighted in ‘On a Drop of Dew’, which focuses on the human soul’s desire to return the heavens as it is bound to the temporary material world. ‘On a Drop of Dew’ uses conceit of the titular drop of dew to call attention to the similarities between the purity of dew and the human soul. However, in this poem, the soul takes a more passive and victimized role rather than a heroic one, as the poem has greater focus on the soul’s suffering and helplessness in the confines of the material world. However, the soul is equally resolved in its devotion to the heavens. Though the material world is not terrible, described as a “mansion” or “the human flow’r” which are both attractive and desirable things, it is still not enough for the soul as it yearns for where it came from, the heavens. The soul is shown to be so pure and superior it has reluctance in even interacting with the material world, preferring to “round in itself incloses” as it detests the material world. The soul continually longs for the much purer heaven instead, desiring it to “pity its pain” and take it back, akin to a longing for salvation. Furthermore, the perfect nature of the soul is shown in its depiction as a round drop of dew, a sphere just like the sun, which is the heaven. Similarly, it is the human soul that is the spiritual, and thus the most similar to heaven. The image of the sphere’s spirituality in its “pure and circling thoughts” underscores the bond the human soul have with the heaven once more, as the soul, dew of a perfect circle, wishes to return the other perfect circle, the sun.
Additionally, the spiritual aspect and immortality of the soul is further highlighted through the contrast in the conceits. Though the material world may be pleasurable, its natural imagery as a “flower” or “sweet leaves and blossoms green” denote its status as a mortal thing that will someday perish, unlike the heaven the soul desires, likened to the sun. The temporary nature of the material world can prominently seen in the comparisons of the human soul to drops of dew and manna, similarly bound to earth “congealed and chill” by the heavens but dissolving in time back “into the glories of th’ almighty sun.” Though both the human body and the soul’s current state are temporary, it is the human body, or the conceit of flowers, that seems beautiful now but will decay ultimately. In contrast, the soul will merely change form to rejoin the heaven, similar to a drop of dew evaporating by the sun in the water cycle. This emphasis on its ‘immortality’ brings attention to its spirituality.
Marvell’s poetry has spiritual depictions of the soul as a pure being with great devotion to the heavens. This is heavily emphasized through its detachment and rejection of the temporary and impure material world, which contrasts the higher pursuit of a soul seeking salvation. Though there are opposing depictions on the soul’s active role as a hero in ‘A Dialogue, between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure’ and a passive role as the helpless dew in ‘On a Drop of Dew’, both views ultimately brings attention to the soul’s purity and attachment to heaven, and its final destination as the desired return to the ‘pure’ heavens.
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A number of Marvell’s poetry often centers around the soul and its qualities, notably in ‘A Dialogue, between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure’ and ‘On a Drop of Dew’. […]