Marvell - notes for teachers ‘A Dialogue between the Soul and Body’ The poem is in the form of a dialogue or verbal duel, a tradition dating from the Middle Ages incorporating rhetorical questions and illustrative techniques. The human condition is seen as both complex and hopeless, with the antagonists bound together till death. It is written formally in iambic tetrameter. Other love poems, particularly ‘Clorinda and Damon’ may offer interesting points of comparison.
Soul: O, WHO shall from this dungeon raise A soul enslaved so many ways? With bolts of bones, that fettered stands In feet, and manacled in hands; Here blinded with an eye, and there
Extended metaphor/conceit sees the Body as a prison. The use of alliteration emphasises the imprisonment and torture of the flesh. Paradox - the senses do not sharpen the Soul’s experience, but limit it.
Deaf with the drumming of an ear; A soul hung up, as 'twere, in chains
Anatomical detail typical of metaphysical imagery also shows contempt for the powers of feeling, and false emotion.
Of nerves, and arteries, and veins; Tortured, besides each other part, In a vain head, and double heart ?
Body: O, who shall me deliver whole,
The Body feels restricted by spiritual demands. Note the use of language of pain/illness and torture such as crucifixion. The Body is in danger of falling into sin.
From bonds of this tyrannic soul? Which, stretched upright, impales me so That mine own precipice I go; And warms and moves this needless frame,
Sense of being forced to live. The paradox lies in the fact the Soul should be good, but here causes pain and trouble. Note the irony of Soul and Body joined but not united, like the state of man after the fall.
(A fever could but do the same), And, wanting where its spite to try, Has made me live to let me die A body that could never rest, Since this ill spirit it possessed.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 1 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers
Soul: What magic could me thus confine
Compare with Ariel in The Tempest. The spirit is confined by the body, referred to as ‘it’. Qualities of Soul are intellectual, but it must feel the Body’s senses and emotions.
Within another's grief to pine? Where, whatsoever it complain, I feel, that cannot feel, the pain; And all my care itself employs,
Ironic metaphor – the ‘port’ is Heaven, the ‘shipwreck’ is life. The Soul uses intelligence to preserve the Body, to stay alive, and therefore frustrate its desire for union with God.
That to preserve which me destroys ; Constrained not only to endure Diseases, but, what's worse, the cure; And, ready oft the port to gain, Am shipwrecked into health again.
Body: But Physic yet could never reach
The mental anguish of guilt/conscience and varied emotions (hope, fear, love, hate, joy) is worse than physical pain, which can be cured in the body.
The maladies thou me dost teach; Whom first the cramp of hope does tear, And then the palsy shakes of fear; The pestilence of love does heat,
Knowledge and memory are seen as functions of the Soul which cause illness in the Body.
Or hatred's hidden ulcer eat; Joy's cheerful madness does perplex, Or sorrow's other madness vex;
Bitterness and contempt in the question? The Body’s essential innocence is betrayed by the soul: the sense of guilt/sin is spiritual, not physical. Final ironic paradox that the soul uses its powers to twist or ‘work’ what is natural and innocent?
Which knowledge forces me to know, And memory will not forego; What but a soul could have the wit To build me up for sin so fit? So architects do square and hew Green trees that in the forest grew.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 2 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘Ametas and Thestylis making Hay-Ropes’ In Greek pastoral conventions, Thestylis was a nymph, but in this poem both characters are farm labourers in a more English setting. The title may refer to the country dance ‘The Haymakers’ Jig’, a serpentine dance of parting and joining, ending with a kiss. The poem with its setting and themes has a pastoral tone. This poem could be seen as a companion piece to ‘Clorinda and Damon’. It takes the form of a dialogue between a lover and his mistress and can perhaps be seen as a parallel to ‘Coy Mistress’. ‘Ametas and Thestylis’ has a formal verse structure and rhyme scheme. The quatrains show discord, but the final exchange is shared between the two characters and could be seen as a symbol of the harmony they seem to achieve.
Ametas Think'st Thou that this Love can stand,
Sexual pun? Unrequited love/lust? Draws comparison between love and a country task and the reciprocal nature of both.
Whilst Thou still dost say me nay? Love unpaid does soon disband: Love binds Love as Hay binds Hay. Thestylis Think’st Thou that this Rope would twine
Pattern of rhetorical question and development mimics that of the first stanza. Her argument is that love grows stronger through debate and tension.
If we both should turn one way? Where both parties so combine, Neither Love will twist nor Hay. Ametas Thus you vain Excuses find,
Construction of logical argument. Compare with third stanza of ‘Coy Mistress’ (‘Now therefore…’).
Which your selve and us delay: And Love tyes a Womans Mind Looser than with Ropes of Hay. Thestylis
Suggestion that love and/or women are inconstant and must be taken as found.
What you cannot constant hope Must be taken as you may. Ametas Then let's both lay by our Rope,
End of conflict leads to resolution.
And go kiss within the Hay
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 3 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘Clorinda and Damon’. The poem is a dialogue in the form of a Spenserian pastoral, a form developed from Elizabethan conventions. Clorinda is a shepherdess, but symbolically represents the female/the flesh. Damon is the shepherd (not to be confused with Damon the Mower) and symbolises the male/spirit. Heraldic terma shield. Roman goddess of flowers. References to classical gods place poem within pastoral tradition.
Religious symbolism of water- baptism and purity.
God of wild places, flocks and shepherds. Possibly also a veiled ref. to Christ, the good shepherd.
Clorinda. DAMON, come drive thy flocks this way. Formal couplets Damon. No: 'tis too late they went astray. emphasise the Clorinda. I have a grassy scutcheon spied, exchange of ideas and contrast of Where Flora blazons all her pride; moral viewpoints. The grass I aim to feast thy sheep, The flowers I for thy temples keep. Damon. Grass withers, and the flowers too fade. cf ‘To His Coy Clorinda. Seize the short joys then, ere they vade. Mistress’ – carpe Seest thou that unfrequented cave? diem. Damon. That den? Clorinda. Love's shrine. What is the effect Damon. But virtue's grave. of this reference Clorinda. In whose cool bosom we may lie, chain? Safe from the sun. Damon. Not Heaven's eye. Beauty/pleasure. Clorinda. Near this, a fountain's liquid bell Innocence of Eden? Tinkles within the concave shell. Damon. Might a soul bathe there and be clean, Or slake its drought? Knowledge of sin – Clorinda. What is't you mean? post Edenic. Damon. These once had been enticing things, Clorinda, pastures, caves, and springs. Clorinda. And what late change? Effect of questions Damon. The other day and use of Pan met me. stichomythia? Clorinda. What did great Pan say? Damon. Words that transcend poor shepherd's skill; But he e'er since my songs does fill, And his name swells my slender oat. Clorinda. Sweet must Pan sound in Damon's note. Damon. Clorinda's voice might make it sweet. A quick conversion – Clorinda. Who would not in Pan's praises meet? is this satisfying? Chorus. Of Pan the flowery pastures sing, Caves echo, and the fountains ring. Sing then while he doth us inspire; Like a hymn of For all the world is our Pan's quire. praise? Vade, pass away. Lat., vadere.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 4 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘Bermudas’ ‘Bermudas’ was written about 1653 when Marvell was tutor to Cromwell’s ward. He lived with John Oxenbridge, a Puritan divine who had visited the Bermudas after being deprived of a position at Oxford. The islands of Bermuda were a haven for the persecuted Puritans escaping religious intolerance in England. The poem gives a surprisingly unaustere view of Puritanism. It presents a vision of the innocence and pleasure of a new Garden of Eden and has parallels with Marvell’s own escape in ‘The Garden’. It reflects a turbulent period in political and religious terms. WHERE the remote Bermudas ride, In the ocean's bosom unespied, From a small boat, that rowed along, The listening winds received this song: “What should we do but sing His praise That led us through the watery maze, Unto an isle so long unknown, And yet far kinder than our own ? Where He the huge sea-monsters wracks, That lift the deep upon their backs; He lands us on a grassy stage, Safe from the storms, and prelate's rage. He gave us this eternal spring, Which here enamels every thing, And sends the fowls to us in care, On daily visits through the air; He hangs in shades the orange bright, Like golden lamps in a green night, And does in the pomegranates close Jewels more rich than Ormus shows; He makes the figs our mouths to meet, And throws the melons at our feet; But apples plants of such a price, No tree could ever bear them twice; With cedars chosen by His hand, From Lebanon, He stores the land, And makes the hollow seas, that roar, Proclaim the ambergris on shore; He cast (of which we rather boast) The Gospel's pearl upon our coast, And in these rocks for us did frame A temple where to sound His name. Oh! let our voice His praise exalt, Till it arrive at Heaven's vault, Which, thence (perhaps) rebounding, may Echo beyond the Mexique Bay.” Thus sung they, in the English boat, An holy and a cheerful note; And all the way, to guide their chime, With falling oars they kept the time. © 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
The song of the Puritans is nested within the first and final stanzas, almost like the islands themselves. The image of a jewel worn on a woman’s breast is unusual, given the context. The form is a hymn of praise, written in iambic tetrameter and rhyming couplets. A parallel is drawn between God’s bounty providing for exiles such as the Puritans, and the Israelites. The dangers of sea monsters (whales), storms and religious persecution such as that under Archbishop Laud, are equally defeated by God. This section echoes ‘The Garden’. The natural world seems to cooperate to feed the persecuted travellers. Vibrant colours and luscious imagery suggest a golden age of abundance and pleasure. The clear, active presence of God is apparent in the choice of useful and beautiful plants, but also in the provision of a natural temple/ church where the exiles can sing his praises. This seems almost an afterthought: beauty and plenty perhaps seem the greatest blessings. The closing stanza is detached, but gives a positive view of exile, where dignity and perseverance are rewarded. 9483
Page 5 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers
‘The Garden’ The poem seems to be in Marvell’s own voice, unlike the Mower poems. It takes its attitude from the Platonic ideal, where the pleasures of ambition and society are rejected as imperfect shadows of true happiness. The tone is light and ironic, with conscious wit. The form is rhymed couplets of regular tetrameter, which seems calm, reflective and detached. The critic Empson and others claim the fifth stanza recounts the biblical Fall of Man, which prompts the question: was the biblical apple or fruit a symbol of sensuous surrender, rather than the conventional belief of a desire for knowledge? How vainly men themselves amaze To win the palm, the oak, or bays; And their uncessant labours see Crowned from some single herb or tree, Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade Does prudently their toils upbraid; While all flowers and all trees do close To weave the garlands of repose.
This stanza contrasts the bewildering efforts of men as they strive for triumph as athletes, soldiers or poets, losing sight of the beauty of a more restful existence, closer to visions of paradise, rather than earthly glory. Single herbs/ plants represent single-minded application to one task and are also rewarded for success in certain fields.
Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, And Innocence, thy sister dear! Mistaken long, I sought you then In busy companies of men Your sacred plants, if here below, Only among the plants will grow; Society is all but rude, To this delicious solitude.
Uses personification. There is a contrast between the bustle of life and the pleasures of solitude. Comments that in general people are unaware of the pleasures to be found in solitude. This stanza is concerned with the soul.
No white nor red was ever seen So amorous as this lovely green; Fond lovers, cruel as their flame, Cut in these trees their mistress' name. Little, alas, they know or heed, How far these beauties hers exceed! Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound No name shall but your own be found.
The poet contrasts colours conventionally associated with feminine beauty with the calmer colouring of plants. The effect of alliteration is to emphasise the cruelty of love. Unlike the Mower, the speaker here seems intent on protecting/preserving rather than cutting down plants. Suggestion that the beauty of the natural world exceeds that of the women honoured by their lovers’ carvings.
When we have run our passion's heat, Love hither makes his best retreat: The gods who mortal beauty chase, Still in a tree did end their race. Apollo hunted Daphne so, Only that she might laurel grow, And Pan did after Syrinx speed, Not as a nymph, but for a reed.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Continues the metaphor of the flame from the previous stanza. The references to classical myth form link with tales of attempted rape which ended in the women being transformed into plants (see Ovid’s Metamorphoses).
Page 6 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers What wondrous life is this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons as I pass, Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
A change of tone to one less reflective, more excited as the poet surrenders to the world of the senses. The erotic undertone of the imagery is clear and there are also elements of the story of the fall of man. There is a sense of nature’s bounty and man’s gluttony. This stanza is about the body.
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness: The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green thought in a green shade.
This stanza explores the pleasures of the mind, which seem superior to physical delights. It needs to be able to withdraw, and the exploration conceit shows the power of the imagination. The last line perhaps suggests both innocence and wisdom are to be found in the garden.
Here at the fountain's sliding foot, Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root, Casting the body's vest aside, My soul into the boughs does glide: There like a bird it sits and sings, Then whets and combs its silver wings; And, till prepared for longer flight, Waves in its plumes the various light.
The soul casts off the demands of the body for transcendent, mystical experiences represented by the conceit of the bird. It waits for death conscious only of spiritual beauty. These three stanzas show the completeness of man’s relationship with the garden, as it satisfies all aspects of his existence.
Such was that happy garden-state, While man there walked without a mate: After a place so pure and sweet, What other help could yet be meet! But 'twas beyond a mortal's share To wander solitary there: Two paradises 'twere in one To live in Paradise alone.
The poet describes the Garden of Eden before Eve: this stresses the weakness of man. There is humour in the final definite rejection of the pleasures of love.
How well the skillful gard'ner drew Of flowers and herbs this dial new; Where from above the milder sun Does through a fragrant zodiac run; And, as it works, th' industrious bee Computes its time as well as we. How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers! © 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
The final stanza returns to the present. The floral clock shows how a natural calendar and labour bring sweetness and contentment, rather than the false striving for fame and fortune of the opening of the poem.
Page 7 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn.’ The poem is a complex allegory of love, suffering, betrayal, cruelty, forgiveness and martyrdom. It can be read as a lament for lost innocence. The tone is allusive and subtle. In form, it is an epicedium (a funeral ode), written in rhyming couplets and tetrameter. It falls firmly in the classical, pastoral style, though the mix of Christian and pagan GraecoRoman can make interpretation difficult. It is wrong to try to pin down each symbol to only one meaning, but the reader needs to be aware of the complexity. Emblem books, pictures and tapestries all form contemporary visual sources. It may be interesting to compare this with ‘The Gallery.’ THE wanton troopers riding by Have shot my fawn, and it will die. Ungentle men! they cannot thrive Who killed thee. Thou ne’er didst alive Them any harm, alas! nor could Thy death yet do them any good. I'm sure I never wished them ill; Nor do I for all this, nor will: But, if my simple prayers may yet Prevail with Heaven to forget10 Thy murder, I will join my tears, Rather than fail. But, O my fears! It cannot die so. Heaven's king Keeps register of everything, And nothing may we use in vain; Even beasts must be with justice slain, Else men are made their deodands. Though they should wash their guilty hands In this warm life-blood which doth part From thine, and wound me to the heart, Yet could they not be clean; their stain Is dyed in such a purple grain. There is not such another in The world, to offer for their sin. Unconstant SYLVIO, when yet I had not found him counterfeit, One morning (I remember well), Tied in this silver chain and bell, Gave it to me: nay, and I know What he said then, I'm sure I do: Said he, “Look how your huntsman here Hath taught a fawn to hunt his deer.” But SYLVIO soon had me beguiled; This waxèd tame, while he grew wild, And quite regardless of my smart, Left me his fawn, but took his heart. © 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
The opening statement’s simplicity suggests restrained grief. There is a suggested link to Roundhead troops. Second person familiar form is used for intimacy. The random cruelty of war is emphasised. ‘Troopers’ was a relatively new word - the nymph’s life is disrupted by new words and thoughts, as well as the misery caused by war.
Christian virtue of forgiveness is expressed. Use of human term ‘murder’ stresses the importance of the death: judicial language is typical of wideranging metaphysical approach. We have a strong moral view of mankind’s place in the scheme of things. ‘Deodands’ are personal goods forfeit to the crown for an act of murder. References to blood and stains emphasise the dreadful nature of the crime. There is also an allusion to the crucifixion as the means of redemption. Ironically, if the fawn represents Christ, it fails to redeem the troopers.
The swain/lover is a hunter, not a shepherd. This section develops the idea of the falseness of men, where a gift is merely a seductive technique. The nymph’s voice appears girlish and innocent. ‘Beguiled’ means charmed or diverted. The balance of ideas and play on deer/dear, or heart/hart are perhaps more the intellectual Marvell than the rejected nymph. 9483
Page 8 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers The nymph seems to accept her fate and give herself up to an ideal world of innocence/childlike simplicity, without carnal love. ‘Sport’ could refer to hunting or to amorous meetings.
Thenceforth I set myself to play My solitary time away, With this; and very well content, Could so mine idle life have spent; For it was full of sport, and light Of foot and heart, and did invite Me to its game: it seemed to bless Itself in me; how could I less Than love it? O, I cannot be Unkind to a beast that loveth me. Had it lived long, I do not know Whether it too might have done so As SYLVIO did; his gifts might be Perhaps as false, or more, than he; But I am sure, for aught that I Could in so short a time espy, Thy love was far more better then The love of false and cruel men. With sweetest milk and sugar first I it at mine own fingers nursed And as it grew, so every day It waxed more white and sweet than they. It had so sweet a breath! And oft I blushed to see its foot more soft And white, shall I say than my hand? Nay, any lady's of the land It is a wondrous thing how fleet 'Twas on those little silver feet; With what a pretty skipping grace It oft would challenge me the race; And, when’t had left me far away, 'Twould stay, and run again, and stay; For it was nimbler much than hinds, And trod as if on the four winds. I have a garden of my own, But so with roses overgrown, And lilies, that you would it guess To be a little wilderness; And all the spring-time of the year It only lovèd to be there. Among the beds of lilies I Have sought it oft, where it should lie, Yet could not, till itself would rise, Find it, although before mine eyes; For, in the flaxen lilies' shade © 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Effect of the rhetorical question is to emphasise the innocence of the nymph compared to the treachery of Sylvio, and by extension, men.
The nymph speculates on the danger of losing innocence as life progresses, but the love of the fawn symbolises purity. Is this an allegory of the love of Christ, an innocent love without ulterior motive? Notice unusual rather tortured comparative.
Description is full of intimate detail, like a mother with her child. This section takes the form of a love poem, with typical references to whiteness, softness, grace. Compare with ‘The Garden’ in its sensuous treatment of nature.
This is a parallel to the Garden of Virgin Love, in medieval allegory, but also provides a link with the imagery of the ‘Song of Songs’ from the Bible. The flowers are symbolic – lilies symbolising chastity, virtue, faith, wisdom and purity. In both Christian and pagan traditions, lilies symbolise fertility. Roses symbolise love and remembrance, and red roses (colour only suggested in the poem) symbolise passion. The fawn represents the qualities of non-sexual love, or a love not sexually awakened; both complex and beautiful. The tone is pensive, as the nymph recalls past happiness. 9483
Page 9 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers It like a bank of lilies laid. Upon the roses it would feed, Until its lips e'en seem to bleed And then to me 'twould boldly trip, And print those roses on my lip. But all its chief delight was still On roses thus itself to fill, And its pure virgin limbs to fold In whitest sheets of lilies cold: Had it lived long, it would have been Lilies without, roses within. O help! O help! I see it faint And die as calmly as a saint! See how it weeps! the tears do come Sad, slowly, dropping like a gum. So weeps the wounded balsam; so The holy frankincense doth flow; The brotherless Heliades Melt in such amber tears as these. I in a golden vial will Keep these two crystal tears, and fill It till it do o'erflow with mine, Then place it in DIANA'S shrine. Now my sweet fawn is vanished to Whither the swans and turtles go; In fair Elysium to endure, With milk-like lambs, and ermines pure. O do not run too fast: for I Will but bespeak thy grave, and die. First, my unhappy statue shall Be cut in marble; and withal Let it be weeping too; but there The engraver sure his art may spare; For I so truly thee bemoan, That I shall weep, though I be stone, Until my tears, still dropping, wear My breast, themselves engraving there; There at my feet shalt thou be laid, Of purest alabaster made; For I would have thine image be White as I can, though not as thee.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
A sudden change of tone brings us back to the cruel present from the idyllic past. The Christian view of death is suggested (cf ‘On a Drop of Dew’ or ‘The Resolved Soul’). The imagery makes us think of Christ, whose birth gifts were symbolic of his death. The Heliades were the sisters of Phaeton, who died when he stole his father, the Sun’s, chariot and lost control. His sisters were changed to poplars (or willows in some versions) to weep for their loss. In some versions of the myth they weep tears of amber. Classical and Christian images mix here. Image of a precious reliquary, as for a saint. Diana is the Roman goddess of hunting. Turtle doves were emblematic of constancy, forming life-long pairings. Swans often symbolise light and are a popular symbol in Greek mythology. The lamb is a symbol of Christ. In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields were at the ends of the earth, the place to which favoured heroes, exempted from death, were conveyed by the gods. Christ ascended to Heaven, having risen from the dead.
The nymph’s statue will be like that of Niobe who was turned to stone, weeping at the death of her children. The fawn at her feet will copy the stylistic devices of tombs, which often have a small dog as symbolic of faithfulness. The detail of the statue can be compared with the treatment of the pictures of the mistress in ‘The Gallery’. No homage to the fawn will ever truly reflect its purity.
Page 10 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘The Gallery’ This is the poetic rendering of a work of art (ecphrasis) following Horace’s statement that ‘poetry and painting are alike’. It follows the pattern of an Italian poet, Marino. The pictures are a conceit of love, being courtly and controlled, following accepted ‘stances’ from the mistress. There is none of the passion found in ‘To his Coy Mistress.’ By the end, the lover seems no further on in his relationship, there is no real analysis of emotion, remaining essentially an artifice or game. The poem is written in tetrameter, 8 line stanzas, rhyming couplets, so the formality is established through rigid pattern of verse. CHLORA, come view my soul, and tell Whether I have contrived it well: Now all its several lodgings lie, Composed into one gallery,
Poem is framed as invitation to the mistress through the use of a courtly pose - stylised rather than passionate. The soul equates to the picture gallery.
And the great arras-hangings, made Of various facings, by are laid, That, for all furniture, you'll find Only your picture in my mind.
The old-fashioned tapestries (perhaps suggestive of old loves) have been removed to leave room for visions of Chlora- exclusive adoration.
Here thou art painted in the dress Of an inhuman murderess; Examining upon our hearts, (Thy fertile shop of cruel arts,) Engines more keen than ever yet Adornèd tryant's cabinet,
Picture 1. This is the first of a contrasting pattern of stanzas showing an alternately cruel and kind mistress. The images of torture are balanced by conventional themes of love poetry. Dark colours linked to passion and love.
Of which the most tormenting are, Black eyes, red lips, and curlèd hair. But, on the other side, thou'rt drawn, Like to AURORA in the dawn; When in the east she slumbering lies, And stretches out her milky thighs, While all the morning quire does sing, And manna falls and roses spring, And, at thy feet, the wooing doves
Picture 2. A clear contrast establishes different moods of the mistress. The classical subject is erotic. The pose is fixed, without the urgency of ‘To his Coy Mistress’. The language of love is soft and yielding, in contrast to the torture of previous stanza. The colours are also more muted.
Sit perfecting their harmless loves.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 11 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers Like an enchantress here thou show’st, Vexing thy restless lover's ghost; And, by a light obscure, dost rave Over his entrails, in the cave, Divining thence, with horrid care, How long thou shalt continue fair; And (when informed) them throw'st away
Picture 3. The mistress is seen as using magic to foretell her future and how long her beauty will last. Again, a classical setting is used. We see she is careless of men, using them for her ends then discarding them. Emotive language stresses the helplessness of the lover.
To be the greedy vulture's prey. But, against that, thou sitt'st afloat, Like VENUS in her pearly boat; The halcyons, calming all that's nigh, Betwixt the air and water fly; Or, if some rolling wave appears, A mass of ambergris it bears, Nor blows more wind than what may well Convoy the perfume to the smell. These pictures, and a thousand more, Of thee, my gallery doth store, In all the forms thou canst invent, Either to please me, or torment; For thou alone, to people me, Art grown a numerous colony, And a collection choicer far Than or Whitehall's, or Mantua's were.
Picture 4. Again the contrast is pointed. The picture is reminiscent of Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, calm and supremely beautiful. Halcyons are kingfishers, emblematic of peace. Ambergris is a perfumed fatty substance found in whales, the base for many exotic perfumes and said to be an aphrodisiac. The overall effect is of a calmly sensuous experience.
The sheer quantity of images suggests the depth of his love and contemplation of her. The word ‘invent’ stresses the falseness of her behaviour. It is part of the courtly ritual of love, balancing tyranny and gentleness. The conceit from exploration and colonisation may remind us of ‘The Bermudas’. Charles I’s fine collection of paintings was sold by Parliament after his execution. Mantua was an Italian court known for artistic patronage.
But of these pictures, and the rest, That at the entrance likes me best, Where the same posture and the look Remains with which I first was took; A tender shepherdess, whose hair Hangs loosely playing in the air, Transplanting flowers from the green hill, To crown her head and bosom fill.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Picture 5. The final stanza gives us a sense of constant re-evaluation, suggesting that the start of his love was with a simple view of the woman, which appears artless, but is part of the pastoral tradition; it may be as artificial as the other poses, despite the simple image which closes the poem.
Page 12 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘The Mower, against Gardens.’ The poem deals with the natural man warning against the falseness of sophistication, here represented by formal gardens, developed through the elaborate conceit to include courtly life and artifice. The Mower with his scythe is at once ravisher, killer and procreator - an active man. We are shown the conflict between wild, natural sensuality and the restrictive demands of society and civilisation. Compared to the other Mower poems, this might seem more philosophical, less selfabsorbed. The conceits/images are drawn from contemporary 17th century horticultural practice. There are clear links to the idea of Eden and the Fall: here the garden has also ‘fallen’. Consider whether the concluding couplet suggests an innate morality, not linked to any religious system or philosophy.
Introduces the concept of sexuality, licentiousness, rather than our modern usage.
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. He first inclosed within the gardens square A dead and standing pool of air,
Mix of tetrameter and pentameter, rhymed couplets formal and controlled.
And a more luscious earth for them did knead, Which stupefied them while it fed. The pink grew then as double as his mind; The nutriment did change the kind. With strange perfumes he did the roses taint;
Unnatural colours, like women in make-up.
Post Eden sinfulness and images of sexual corruption introduced by man into natural world. Walled garden nature no longer free but confined by man. Composted soil is over-rich.
Flowers changed through selective breeding are spoiled by man.
And flowers themselves were taught to paint. The tulip white did for complexion seek, And learned to interline its cheek; Its onion root they then so high did hold, That one was for a meadow sold:
Craze for tulips in 17th century led to wild prices. Exotic plants were brought back from the newlyexplored Americas.
Another world was searched through oceans new, To find the marvel of Peru;
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 13 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers Argument suggests that man’s superiority is God-given, but the true fault or sin is hybridisationbastardising
And yet these rarities might be allowed To man, that sovereign thing and proud, Had he not dealt between the bark and tree, Forbidden mixtures there to see. No plant now knew the stock from which it came; He grafts upon the wild the tame, That the uncertain and adulterate fruit
Comparison of garden to a Sultan’s harem with castrated (infertile) guards.
Might put the palate in dispute. His green seraglio has its eunuchs too,
This draws parallel with sexual infidelity and sin. Origins of species are unclear due to selective cultivation.
Lest any tyrant him outdo; And in the cherry he does Nature vex, To procreate without a sex.
Artificial pollination. Unnatural.
'Tis all enforced, the fountain and the grot, While the sweet fields do lie forgot, Where willing Nature does to all dispense A wild and fragrant innocence; Magical and ancient powers there before man and his science.
And fauns and fairies do the meadows till
Self-conscious, ironic use of word – natural beauty is overlooked in the pursuit of artificial beauty.
More by their presence than their skill. Their statues polished by some ancient hand, May to adorn the gardens stand; But, howsoe'er the figures do excel, The Gods themselves with us do dwell.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Not a Christian perspective? Seems to suggest great powers remain in Mankind?
Page 14 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘A Dialogue, between The Resolved Soul, and Created Pleasure’. This forms a poetic dialogue after the tradition of the Middle Ages. It incorporates Puritan philosophy, though the Choric verses suggest it may have been intended to be set to music. There is conflict between the two voices, Pleasure representing emotion and the senses, while the Soul represents reason. A greater sense of harmony prevails than can be seen in the ‘Dialogue between the Soul and Body’ which is characterised by bitterness. During this whole dialogue, there is a parallel to the temptation of Christ, where the pleasures of the world were laid out for him. Though the pleasures of the senses may seem harmless, they divert the Soul from its direct course towards God. The situation throughout is dramatic and full of conflict, yet with the careful patterning of a morality play. COURAGE, my soul! now learn to wield The weight of thine immortal shield; Close on thy head thy helmet bright; Balance thy sword against the fight; See where an army, strong as fair, With silken banners spreads the air! Now, if thou be'st that thing divine, In this day's combat let it shine,
Poses a question/challenge to the Soul.
And show that Nature wants an art To conquer one resolvèd heart. Pleasure: Welcome the creation's guest,
Formality continues in an artful, gracious and deferential manner, similar to a joust or tournament. The temptation offered appeals to the sense of taste, which the Soul cannot directly experience.
Lord of earth, and Heaven's heir! Lay aside that warlike crest, And of Nature's banquet share; Where the souls of fruits and flowers Stand prepared to heighten yours. Soul: I sup above, and cannot stay,
Reply is quite abrupt, though explanation is given genially.
To bait so long upon the way.
Touch. Alliteration used to link pillows, plumes and associated pleasure. Is there a hint of hidden pain (roses have thorns) and perhaps of sloth (one of the seven deadly sins)?
Pleasure: On these downy pillows lie, Whose soft plumes will thither fly: On these roses, strowed so plain Lest one leaf thy side should strain.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 15 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers Soul: My gentler rest is on a thought,
Puritan response: duty not pleasure.
Conscious of doing what I ought. Pleasure: If thou be'st with perfumes pleased, Such as oft the gods appeased, Thou in fragrant clouds shalt show, Like another god below. Soul: A soul that knows not to presume,
Smell is represented as next stage in the debate, using rhetoric. The comparison with gods suggests an element of pride, a factor in the fall of man and another deadly sin.
Terse reply showing resistance.
Is Heaven's, and its own, perfume. Pleasure: Everything does seem to vie
Sight. Draws on pride, the gravest of the deadly sins. Classical links to Narcissus and biblical link to Lucifer.
Which should first attract thine eye: But since none deserves that grace, In this crystal view thy face.
Ref. to Book of Common Prayer and Catholic Ash Wednesday service: ‘remember, Man, that thou art dust…’
Soul: When the Creator's skill is prized, The rest is all but earth disguised. Pleasure: Hark how music then prepares
Note the sense of immediacy and drama. Sound is represented as having the power to delay.
For thy stay these charming airs, Which the posting winds recall, And suspend the river's fall.
The first point at which the Soul wavers. It sees the danger of wasting time, in a different context to ‘Coy Mistress’, though linguistically similar. Note the pun of ‘cordage’ (ropes) and chords of music.
Soul: Had I but any time to lose, On this I would it all dispose. Cease, tempter ! None can chain a mind, Whom this sweet cordage cannot bind. Chorus: Earth cannot show so brave a sight,
Entrance of the Chorus reinforces resolution of the Soul but warns against future temptations. Promises heavenly reward for steadfastness.
As when a single soul does fence The batteries of alluring sense, And Heaven views it with delight. Then persevere; for still new charges sound, And if thou overcom'st thou shalt be crowned.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 16 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers Pleasure: All that's costly, fair, and sweet,
Love/sex/lust (deadly sin) represented through faithful and alluring mistress.
Which scatteringly doth shine, Shall within one beauty meet, And she be only thine.
A dismissive tone. Rhetorical questions and repetition show unwillingness to yield.
Soul: If things of sight such heavens be, What heavens are those we cannot see?
Wealth (greed - deadly sin) relies on artifice, but also suggests a limit/shallowness to earthly pleasures. Contemporary expeditions to the New World often brought back riches. Insatiable.
Pleasure: Wheresoe'er thy foot shall go The minted gold shall lie, Till thou purchase all below, And want new worlds to buy. Soul: We'rt not for price who'd value gold?
Rhetorical question and response. Futility of pursuit of wealth.
And that's worth naught that can be sold. Pleasure: Wilt thou all the glory have
Power. Echoes of Matthew chapter 4 verses 8 and 9, the promise of all the kingdoms.
That war or peace commend? Half the world shall be thy slave, The other half thy friend.
A soul enslaved to pleasure loses the way to God. The double question shows the strength of the debate.
Soul: What friend, if to my self untrue? What slaves, unless I captive you? Pleasure: Thou shalt know each hidden cause, And see the future time; Try what depth the centre draws,
Knowledge/intellect. Fruit of the tree of knowledge was Eve’s temptation.
And then to Heaven climb. Certainty of this final statement defeats all of pleasure’s arguments. We must be humble to enter heaven.
Soul: None thither mounts by the degree Of knowledge, but humility. Chorus: Triumph, triumph, victorious soul! The world has not one pleasure more: The rest does lie beyond the pole, And is thine everlasting store. © 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
The double accolade in this choric ending suggests the final reward for a soldier of Christ. The formal pattern is iambic, sounding serious yet celebratory. Page 17 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘The Mower to the Glo-Worms’ This poem can be seen as a companion piece to ‘Damon the Mower’ and ‘The Mower’s Song’. The four stanzas are quatrains, in tetrameter. It continues the theme of the simplicity of the natural world, in contrast to the despair of the Mower, whose world is changed/unsettled by love. The scene is set when the working day is complete, later than the setting of other poems in the group. i Ye living Lamps, by whose dear light Almost whimsical in approach as the Mower addresses living creatures anthropomorphically.
The Nightingale does sit so late, And studying all the Summer-night, Her matchless Songs does meditate; ii Ye Country Comets, that portend
Alliteration stresses their humble aspect. Plays on beliefs that such phenomena were omens of significant events to come.
No War, nor Princes funeral, Shining unto no higher end Then to presage the Grasses fall; iii
Doing their duty - a positive connotation. Plural, not the solitary figure of Damon. ‘ignis fatuus’ or misleading ideas/things is this symbolic of unrequited love?
Ye Glo-worms, whose officious Flame To wandring Mowers shows the way, That in the Night have lost their aim, And after foolish Fires do stray; iv Your courteous Lights in vain you wast,
Final purpose held till last line. Makes the appeal more complex as his life has become. His mind is preoccupied with love.
Since Juliana here is come, For She my Mind hath so displac'd That I shall never find my home.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 18 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘The Unfortunate Lover’ This poem is more fanciful than ‘The Gallery’ or ‘To his Coy Mistress’, because there is no woman in the poem except the mother; the lover is a ‘type’, not a real person. The conceits take in emblem books, astronomy, medical and surgical ideas, the weather, classical myth, natural history, military exploits, heraldry. The range suggests the poem was written with literary readers in mind.
ALAS! how pleasant are their days, With whom the infant love yet plays! Sorted by pairs, they still are seen By fountains cool and shadows green; But soon these flames do lose their light, Like meteors of a summer's night; Nor can they to that region climb, To make impression upon Time.
Sense of melancholy/regret from the opening word. He was once in the position he describes. Examines the natural order and settings traditionally associated with love. Recognises transitory nature of love.
Narrative style is based around a shipwreck, suggesting trying times/relationships. The child begins life in harsh conditions, is this a symbol of struggles to come? The rhyme at the end provides humour through being forced and awkward, like the lover. Possibly also mocking attempts at wooing through poetry where form is forced to fit meaning. In classical mythology Venus is born from the sea, though here the birth is less romantic.
‘Twas in a shipwreck, when the seas Ruled, and the winds did what they please, That my poor lover floating lay, And, ere brought forth, was cast away; Till at the last the master wave Upon the rock his mother drave, And there she split against the stone, In a Cæsarian section. The sea him lent these bitter tears, Which at his eyes he always bears, And from the winds the sighs he bore, Which through his surging breast do roar; No day he saw but that which breaks Through frighted clouds in forkèd streaks, While round the rattling thunder hurled, As at the funeral of the world.
Conventional descriptions of lovers’ trials are overturned. All his experiences are coloured by great passions, similar to the storms of the natural world. The strength of emotion is apparent from the final line. The masque was a formal court entertainment, reserved for births, marriage. Images of cormorants often appeared in heraldry. Both suggest high birth. Is this mocking when compared with the description of his birth? Alliteration emphasises harsh conditions of his life. The adoption of a child by animals has echoes of Greek/Roman mythology.
While Nature to his birth presents This masque of quarrelling elements, A numerous fleet of cormorants black, That sailed insulting o'er the wrack, Received into their cruel care, The unfortunate and abject heir; Guardians most fit to entertain The orphan of the hurricane.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 19 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers They fed him up with hopes and air, Which soon digested to despair, And as one cormorant fed him, still Another on his heart did bill; Thus, while they famish him and feast, He both consumèd, and increased, And languishèd with doubtful breath, The amphibium of life and death. And now, when angry Heaven would Behold a spectacle of blood, Fortune and he are called to play At sharp before it all the day, And tyrant Love his breast does ply With all his winged artillery, Whilst he, betwixt the flames and waves, Like Ajax, the mad tempest braves.
There is a suggestion of cruelty as the very hopes that he is given provide fodder for the pain that will follow. He wastes away and is weakened by this. The last line suggests the contradictions he experiences that torture him.
Suggests the gods intervene in his life for their sport. He is seen as a Roman gladiator at the games, with unbaited or sharp sword. He seems to be punished, through deliberate cruelty, to fight pointlessly against Love and Fortune. In mythology, Ajax on his return from Troy battled with the sea but eventually drowned. His attempts are portrayed as ultimately futile.
See how he nak'd and fierce does stand, Cuffing the thunder with one hand, While with the other he does lock, From which he with each wave rebounds, Torn into flames, and ragg'd with wounds; And all he says, a lover drest In his own blood does relish best.
Lover is seen as both vulnerable and powerful, holding with on with one hand, pushing away with the other. Violent adjectives and images continue the feel of previous stanza. The last couplet suggests he is resigned to suffer because of love, but there is a suggestion that he enjoys his suffering.
This is the only banneret That ever Love created yet; Who, though by the malignant stars, Forcèd to live in storms and wars, Yet dying, leaves a perfume here, And music within every ear; And he in story only rules, In a field sable, a lover gules.
Banneret: a knight, indicative of bravery. Cruelty of fate is suggested and links back to references to Heaven and meteors in the first stanza. The poem ends with a heraldic image of a black shield symbolising constancy and red emblem symbolising fortitude. It is only in his death that he obtains his own identity, which is softer than all preceding images associated with his life. This kind of lover is presented as a fiction, not a reality.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 20 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers ‘The Mower's Song’ The poem can be linked with ‘Damon the Mower’. The regular tetrameters in rhyming couplets echo the steady rhythm of the mower’s work. The use of the refrain and longer final line break this rhythm and emphasise the mower’s constant thought. The tone is personal - we hear the direct voice of the Mower. Mowing can be seen as destructive, since it cuts down, yet also provides opportunity for new growth and natural development. I. MY mind was once the true survey Of all these meadows fresh and gay, And in the greenness of the grass Did see its hopes as in a glass; When JULIANA came, and she, What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.
Gives a sense of Mower’s lost hope. His idealism was reflected in the beauty of the natural landscape. Simplicity of life before love. The final couplet compares his treatment at the hands of Juliana to what he does to the meadow.
II. But these, while I with sorrow pine, Grew more luxuriant still and fine, That not one blade of grass you spied, But had a flower on either side; When JULIANA came, and she, What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.
Language suggests his longing/pining for love. The natural world seems to mock him as it flourishes while he remains affected by Juliana’s treatment of him. Natural world is resilient.
III. Unthankful meadows, could you so A fellowship so true forego, And in your gaudy May-games meet, While I lay trodden under feet? When JULIANA came, and she, What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me?
Tone of question suggests his annoyance at nature’s lack of empathy with him. Almost as though nature’s bounty is an insult while he is lovelorn. Repetition of final couplet suggests power that Juliana has over him and the continual rejection he suffers.
IV. But what you in compassion ought, Shall now by my revenge be wrought; And flowers, and grass, and I, and all, Will in one common ruin fall; For JULIANA comes, and she, What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me. V. And thus, ye meadows, which have been Companions of my thoughts more green, Shall now the heraldry become With which I shall adorn my tomb; For JULIANA came, and she, What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.
Seeks to gain satisfaction by destroying meadow as punishment for lack of fellow-feeling he feels he was owed. Elaborate metaphysical conceit. Change to present tense in final couplet adds sense of immediacy to his feelings. Self pitying and melodramatic tone. Will line his tomb with flowers. Symbolic of his pain at unrequited love that taunt him with memories of carefree times. Final couplet returns to past tense showing how he feels
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 21 of 22
Marvell - notes for teachers Suggested tasks and approaches 1.
Some critics have claimed that ‘Clorinda and Damon’ is a piece of Puritan propaganda. How does your reading of the poem and your knowledge of Marvell support or refute this?
Is ‘The Mower to the Glo-Worms’ a picture of an Eden disturbed by the fall? Has knowledge of love and sex removed the innocence of ‘thoughts more green’? Compare with ‘The Garden’.
How is the natural world used in ‘The Mower’s song’? Do we sympathise with the Mower or reject his self-centredness? How are the life cycle, sexuality, growth and death combined?
How does nature mirror the feelings of the protagonist in ‘The Mower to the GloWorms’ and ‘The Mower’s Song’?
the presentation of the lover in ‘The Unfortunate Lover’ and ‘The Gallery’.
the tone of ‘A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body’ and ‘A Dialogue, between The Resolved Soul, and Created Pleasure’.
The methods used to cajole the female characters in ‘Ametas and Thestylis making Hay-Ropes’ with ‘Clorinda and Damon’.
the presentation of the natural world in ‘The Mower, Against Gardens’ and ‘Bermudas’.
© 2008 www.teachit.co.uk
Page 22 of 22