Pastoral Poems and Politics

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), Selected Poetry.
Vol. 40, pp. 370-379 of The Harvard Classics

The many-sided Marvell, who wielded a pen that was both feared and courted, is seen at his best in stirring verse. "A Garden," "Prospect of Flowers," with the "Horatian Ode upon Cromwell," show the power of his genius.
(Marvell entered Cambridge, Dec. 14, 1633.)


A Garden

SEE how the flowers, as at parade,
Under their colours stand display’d:
Each regiment in order grows,
That of the tulip, pink, and rose.
But when the vigilant patrol
Of stars walks round about the pole,
Their leaves, that to the stalks are curl’d
Seem to their staves the ensigns furl’d.
Then in some flower’s belovèd hut
Each bee, as sentinel, is shut,
And sleeps so too; but if once stirr’d,
She runs you through, nor asks the word.
O thou, that dear and happy Isle,
The garden of the world erewhile,
Thou Paradise of the four seas
Which Heaven planted us to please,
But, to exclude the world, did guard
With wat’ry if not flaming sword;
What luckless apple did we taste
To make us mortal and thee waste!
Unhappy! shall we never more
That sweet militia restore,
When gardens only had their towers,
And all the garrisons were flowers;
When roses only arms might bear,
And men did rosy garlands wear?



The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers

 SEE with what simplicity
    This nymph begins her golden days!
      In the green grass she loves to lie,
  And there with her fair aspect tames
  The wilder flowers, and gives them names;
    But only with the roses plays,
            And them does tell
What colour best becomes them, and what smell.

      Who can foretell for what high cause
    This darling of the gods was born?
      Yet this is she whose chaster laws
  The wanton Love shall one day fear,
  And, under her command severe,
    See his bow broke and ensigns torn.
            Happy who can
Appease this virtuous enemy of man!

      O then let me in time compound
    And parley with those conquering eyes,
      Ere they have tried their force to wound;
  Ere with their glancing wheels they drive
  In triumph over hearts that strive,
    And them that yield but more despise:
            Let me be laid,
Where I may see the glories from some shade.

      Meantime, whilst every verdant thing
    Itself does at thy beauty charm,
      Reform the errors of the Spring;
  Make that the tulips may have share
  Of sweetness, seeing they are fair,
    And roses of their thorns disarm;
            But most procure
That violets may a longer age endure.

      But O, young beauty of the woods,
    Whom Nature courts with fruits and flowers,
      Gather the flowers, but spare the buds;
  Lest Flora, angry at thy crime
  To kill her infants in their prime,
    Do quickly make th’ example yours;
            And ere we see,
Nip in the blossom all our hopes and thee.


Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland

THE FORWARD youth that would appear,
Must now forsake his Muses dear,
    Nor in the shadows sing
    His numbers languishing.

’Tis time to leave the books in dust,
And oil the unused armour’s rust,
    Removing from the wall
    The corslet of the hall.

So restless Cromwell could not cease
In the inglorious arts of peace,
    But through adventurous war
    Urgèd his active star:

And like the three-fork’d lightning, first
Breaking the clouds where it was nurst,
    Did thorough his own side
    His fiery way divide:

For ’tis all one to courage high,
The emulous, or enemy;
    And with such, to enclose
    Is more than to oppose;

Then burning through the air he went
And palaces and temples rent;
    And Cæsar’s head at last
    Did through his laurels blast.

’Tis madness to resist or blame
The face of angry heaven’s flame:
    And if we would speak true,
    Much to the Man is due

Who, from his private gardens, where
He lived reservèd and austere,
    (As if his highest plot
    To plant the bergamot),

Could by industrious valour climb
To ruin the great work of time,
    And cast the Kingdoms old
    Into another mould.

Though Justice against Fate complain,
And plead the ancient Rights in vain—
    But those do hold or break
    As men are strong or weak,

Nature, that hateth emptiness,
Allows of penetration less,
    And therefore must make room
    Where greater spirits come.

What field of all the civil war
Where his were not the deepest scar?
    And Hampton shows what part
    He had of wiser art,

Where, twining subtle fears with hope,
He wove a net of such a scope
    That Charles himself might chase
    To Carisbrook’s narrow case,

That thence the Royal actor borne
The tragic scaffold might adorn:
    While round the armèd bands
    Did clap their bloody hands.

He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
    But with his keener eye
    The axe’s edge did try;

Nor call’d the Gods, with vulgar spite,
To vindicate his helpless right
    But bow’d his comely head
    Down, as upon a bed.

—This was that memorable hour
Which first assured the forcèd power:
    So when they did design
    The Capitol’s first line,

A Bleeding Head, where they begun,
Did fright the architects to run;
    And yet in that the State
    Foresaw its happy fate!

And now the Irish are ashamed
To see themselves in one year tamed:
    So much one man can do
    That does both act and know.

They can affirm his praises best,
And have, though overcome, confest
    How good he is, how just
    And fit for highest trust;

Nor yet grown stiffer with command,
But still in the Republic’s hand—
    How fit he is to sway
    That can so well obey!

He to the Commons’ feet presents
A Kingdom for his first year’s rents,
    And (what he may) forbears
    His fame, to make it theirs:

And has his sword and spoils ungirt
To lay them at the Public’s skirt.
    So when the falcon high
    Falls heavy from the sky,

She, having kill’d, no more does search
But on the next green bough to perch,
    Where, when he first does lure,
    The falconer has her sure.

—What may not then our Isle presume
While victory his crest does plume?
    What may not others fear
    If thus he crowns each year?

As Cæsar he, ere long, to Gaul,
To Italy an Hannibal,
    And to all States not free
    Shall climacteric be.

The Pict no shelter now shall find
Within his parti-colour’d mind,
    But from this valour sad,
    Shrink underneath the plaid—

Happy, if in the tufted brake
The English hunter him mistake,
    Nor lay his hounds in near
    The Caledonian deer.

But Thou, the War’s and Fortune’s son,
March indefatigably on;
    And for the last effect
    Still keep the sword erect:

Besides the force it has to fright
The spirits of the shady night,
    The same arts that did gain
    A power, must it maintain.


Song of the Emigrants in Bermuda

WHERE the remote Bermudas ride
In the ocean’s bosom unespied,
From a small boat that row’d along
The listening winds received this song:

  ‘What should we do but sing His praise
That led us through the watery maze
Where He the huge sea-monsters wracks,
That lift the deep upon their backs,
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storms, and prelate’s rage:
He gave us this eternal spring
Which here enamels everything,
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 then perhaps rebounding may
Echo beyond the Mexique bay!’
—Thus sung they in the English boat
A holy and a cheerful note:
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.


Thoughts in a Garden

HOW vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays,
And their incessant labours see
Crown’d from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid;
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of Repose.

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.

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 her exceed!
Fair trees! where’er your barks I wound,
No name shall but your own be found.

When we have run our passions’ 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.

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,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

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.

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 claps its silver wings,
And, till prepared for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.

Such was that happy Garden-state
While man there walk’d 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.

How well the skilful gardener 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 reckon’d, but with herbs and flowers!


 

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