Sample Questions

1) "Such was this happy garden state / While man there walked without a mate"

Marvell’s Poetry Mourns Man’s Desire. Discuss

It should be noted there are a number of different desires within Marvell’s poetry e.g. man’s desire for a woman, a ‘mate’; desire for escape from social and political turmoil; desire for creative retreat. Desire for a woman is very much present in the ‘Mower’ poems, the ‘happy garden state’ disrupted due to it.

In ‘Damon the Mower’ the main theme is the way in which Damon’s desire for Juliana unbalances the relationship between him and nature – backed up in "The Mower to Glow-worms" and "The Mower’s song". Damon’s force becomes stronger than nature and overpowers – this has a damaging effect.

"To His Coy Mistress" and "Little T.C." do differ in theme to the "Mower Poems"; these are more explicitly about females and individuals. "Little T.C." does not yet understand concept of desires, at the moment she is a natural creature on equal terms with nature. She is not yet old enough to be a mate so does not have the power to disrupt or destroy yet. In "To His Coy Mistress" man’s desire is not equated to nature (except for his "vegetable love"). Here Marvell’s poetry does seem to ‘mourn desire’ as it laments the effect that it has on individuals and the fact that it makes them act in unchivalric and even deceitful ways. Desire has made the poetic voice threatening and insipid.

In "The Garden" and "The Mower Against Gardens" it is man’s desire for accolades and public approval which destroy the perfection of nature and the harmony which exists within this. "The Garden" highlights the struggle that exists between the natural beauty of nature and the more contrived social world – the idea is taken further in "The Mower Against Gardens" where man has a desire to create an inferior imitation of nature – it is manipulated in a negative way – man’s desire to alter is destructive.

2) Marvell Tries to Escape into a Political Landscape. Does he Succeed?

"Lyrics….had lost their social function and existed only to resolve the conflict within the poet’s mind….the poet had become an isolated individual in a divided society, and his own mind is divided too." (Christopher Hill) If this is true then Marvell did seem to retreat into his own mind during the revolutionary period. He does have a strong pastoral interest and political imagery is mapped onto these landscapes and gardens. The most important poems to look at are "Upon Appleton House", "The Garden", "The Mower Against Gardens", "Damon the Mower" and "An Horation Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland". However, here landscapes treated more as temporary retreats that escapes.

Hill said Marvell had a "double-heart" which was a product of a sensitive mind and a divided society. This is manifested in Marvell’s ability to see both sides of the Revolution and his eventual faith in his own convictions.

Talk about the introspective nature of Marvell’s work (see above) and how he is anxious about what will happen when Oliver Cromwell dies (there was no hereditary heir to the Great Protector although his son Richard did take over.) Therefore not surprising that Marvell wanted to escape into his own mind or a political landscape.

Note all the political references within the poems – both the subtle ones and the more obvious ones (see above) these can be seen as Marvell politicizing his landscapes, thus he can never really escape because his creative spirit is so intrinsically linked with the political events taking place around him.

The landscapes themselves are political too, giving the sense that boundaries are very important to Marvell. Due to fact that the borders and land distinctions are what the concept of sovereignty depended on. The idea of building hedges and defining borders within gardens ("Mower Against Gardens") can be equated with the idea of the drawing up of territories and distinguishing of lands within a kingdom. "Upon Appleton House" takes the concept further asserting that the boundaries of England are automatically

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