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Political And Pastoral In Marvells Poetry

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"A tension between the worlds of political engagement and private retreat"

How distinct are the political and the pastoral in Marvell's poetry

The political and the pastoral certainly figures highly in Marvell's poetry and often

the two worlds become intertwined. Indeed, Marvell frequently utilises metaphors of

nature to help convey and rationalise his political thoughts and feelings. With

particular reference to the 'mower' and 'Cromwell' poems, I shall explore the

relationship between the political and the pastoral in his work.

To begin, in the overtly political poem An Horation Ode upon Cromwell's return from

Ireland, Marvell begins by describing Cromwell emerging from a muses "shadow",

and "private gardens, Where he lived reserved and austere". This, as the critic

Friedman asserts, is a typical retreat of "poetic creativity", and one often employed by

Marvell. Indeed, in A poem upon the death of his late Highnesse the Lord Protector,

Marvell presents a young Cromwell spending "pleasing hours" with his mother. The

addition of a private presentation of Cromwell lends him a more human edge and

helps us to understand his human weaknesses. In his Horation Ode, Marvell portrays

Cromwell as a "flame of angry heavens" who "tis madness to resist or blame". This

lends Cromwell a godlike eminence or as Thomas. M. Greene asserts, puts him

"beyond ethical categories". However, Marvell continues that the "same arts that did

gain a power, must it maintain", i.e. the "inglorious arts" of war. The irony of

comparing war, something primarily destructive, as an art, highlights the unease and

possibly transient nature of Cromwell's rule. Certainly, the fact that Marvell likens

Cromwell to a Falcon, who once "having kill'd" seeks a "green bough" to perch on

and then "the falconer has her sure", shows that although he is strong, he cannot

continue forever and will eventually be in some way controlled. Therefore, by

utilising the idea of

natural retreat, Marvell subtly asserts beneath the grandiloquent verse, the frailty and

humanity of Cromwell existence.

Indeed the idea of the "green bough", is a recurring notion in marvels poetry,

and is often Connected with thought and retreat. In the epic poem Upon Appleton

House Marvell seeks "sanctuary" in the woodland to "among the trees and birds

confer". This is something that the critic Friedman asserts as the "primeval unity of

mind and nature". This is amply supported by the line in Damon The mower, "My

mind was once a true survey... of all these meadows fresh and gay", and further more

in the garden Marvell is able to refine his reflections to "a green thought in a green

shade". The idea appears to be one of simplicity and inward reflection, in each of

these poems; Marvell initially rejects the public world. In the garden "society is all

but rude, to this delicious solitude". Similarly in Upon Appleton House, Marvell seeks

sanctuary from the flooded meadow, which, if compared with the idea presented in

the garden that the mind "is an ocean" able to construct seas, suggests that he is trying

to escape the flood of consuming thoughts. Indeed, many critics assert that Upon

Appleton House examines the competing claims of public service and the search for

personal insight and there is much evidence to support this. For instance,

although Marvell sets himself in a traditional pastoral scene with "fragrant gardens"

and "shady woods", we see through Marvell's language how the political world

permeates the scene. The flowers are placed in "regiment" and "garrisons" and the

idea that once upon a time "the gardener had the soldiers place", shows that political

conflict has almost overthrown his thoughts by invading his pastoral scene, "but war

does all this overgrow". Here, we see clearly both the tension between the political

and the personal and how they affect one another. Furthermore, we see these tensions

within the poems, particularly the so-called "mower" poems, that seem to convey a

genuine desire for simplicity that is also punctuated by an underlying cynicism. For

example Damon the mower presents himself as an idealistic "virtuous enemy of

man", so in tune with nature that when he

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