"Upon Appleton House"

Marvell was a poet who was trying very hard to come to terms with the political turmoil that faced his country and this is exemplified by this poem about the country retreat of a great military general, who had been opposed to the violence of the rebellion against the Charles I. It is most obviously in this poem that Marvell shows a concern with looking into the ‘abyss’ of the human heart (an idea initially used by his mentor Milton in Paradise Lost and his theory of self-determination), it is due to this that the poem is slightly Narcissistic in its nature. The mythical figure himself is referred to directly in the poem ("Narcissus-like, the sun too pines") and there is also a great deal of self-reference, particularly in the middle section of the poem; "I toss", "I begin", "I returning", "I careless on the bed", "I move and "I your silken bondage break". This excessive use of the first person singular in a poem in which Marvell has previously been a spectator observing the garden of the stately home from afar, jolts the reader into remembering that Marvell too has been involved in the political struggles of his country.

The poem is littered with political imagery. Thestylis who is conventionally considered to be a simple- shepherdess is referred to as "bloody" and her actions as vulture-like. We are told how "death trumpets creak" in the throats of parent birds and meadows suddenly become a "camp of battail", the mower a military leader; "The mower now commands the field", and the meadow a battle field of the civil war, littered with bodies; "the meads with hay, the plain / Lies quilted o’er with bodies slain."

Within the poem there is real sense of the ‘a world turned upside down’ highlighting the bizarre political incidents that have taken place within the country. Before the 1640s it would have been unthinkable that an English monarch could be executed, yet after the Revolution this became an actuality:

"here men like grasshoppers appear,

But grasshoppers are giants there:

They, in their squeaking laugh, contemn

Us as we walk more low than them:"

The hierarchy of the garden has been subverted: man is now subordinate to insects. Grasshoppers who were usually seen as weak and decorative insects are humanized and empowered – they are now linked to the Cavaliers of the civil war. This historical and political phantasmagoric world reminds us of Gulliver’s Travels (Swift) or Alice In Wonderland (Lewis Caroll): nothing is as it should be and we are disorientated and confused by this.

There are many references to the Biblical book of Exodus within the poem and this does seem to allude to Marvell’s concern of escaping from the political bondage of his country ("He called us Israelites; / But now, to make his saying true, Rails rain for quails, for manna dew"). Just as Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and away from the bondage of the Egyptian people to the liberty of the wilderness it seems that Marvell is looking to poetry to free him from his political constraints:

"Bind me, ye woodbines, in your twines,

Curl me about ye gadding vines….

Do you, O brambles, chain me too,

And, courteous briars, nail me through."

Here, he seems stoically resigned to the fact that he can never escape from the turmoil his country is faced with, however in his resignation he manages to show wit. It is as though this image is a camp joke, he is aware of his fate so he will regard it with a slightly sexual, sensual even masochistic contempt.

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