About this poet

Due to the inconsistencies and ambiguities within his work and the scarcity of information about his personal life, Andrew Marvell has been a source of fascination for scholars and readers since his work found recognition in the early decades of the twentieth century. Born on March 31, 1621, Marvell grew up in the Yorkshire town of Hull, England, where his father, Rev. Andrew Marvell, was a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church and master of the Charterhouse. At age twelve Marvell began his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge. Four years later, two of Marvell's poems, one in Latin and one in Greek, were published in an anthology of Cambridge poets. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 1639, Marvell stayed on at Trinity, apparently to complete a master's degree. In 1641, however, his father drowned in the Hull estuary and Marvell abandoned his studies. During the 1640's Marvell traveled extensively on the continent, adding Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian to his Latin and Greek—missing the English civil wars entirely.

Marvell spent most of the 1650s working as a tutor, first for Mary Fairfax, daughter of a retired Cromwellian general, then for one of Oliver Cromwell's wards. Scholars believe that Marvell's greatest lyrics were written during this time. In 1657, due to John Miltons efforts on his behalf, Marvell was appointed Milton's Latin secretary, a post Marvell held until his election to Parliament in 1660.

A well-known politician, Marvell held office in Cromwell's government and represented Hull to Parliament during the Restoration. His very public position—in a time of tremendous political turmoil and upheaval—almost certainly led Marvell away from publication. No faction escaped Marvell's satirical eye; he criticized and lampooned both the court and Parliament. Indeed, had they been published during his lifetime, many of Marvell's more famous poems—in particular, "Tom May's Death," an attack on the famous Cromwellian—would have made him rather unpopular with royalists and republicans alike.

Marvell used his political status to free Milton, who was jailed during the Restoration, and quite possibly saved the elder poet's life. In the early years of his tenure, Marvell made two extraordinary diplomatic journeys: to Holland (1662-1663) and to Russia, Sweden, and Denmark (1663-1665). In 1678, after 18 years in Parliament, Marvell died rather suddenly of a fever. Gossip of the time suggested that the Jesuits (a target of Marvell's satire) had poisoned him. After his death he was remembered as a fierce and loyal patriot.

Now considered one of the greatest poets of the seventeenth century, Marvell published very little of his scathing political satire and complex lyric verse in his lifetime. Although he published a handful of poems in anthologies, a collection of his work did not appear until 1681, three years after his death, when his nephew compiled and found a publisher for Miscellaneous Poems. The circumstances surrounding the publication of the volume aroused some suspicion: a person named "Mary Marvell," who claimed to be Marvell's wife, wrote the preface to the book. "Mary Marvell" was, in fact, Mary Palmer—Marvell's housekeeper—who posed as Marvell's wife, apparently, in order to keep Marvell's small estate from the creditors of his business partners. Her ruse, of course, merely contributes to the mystery that surrounds the life of this great poet. Marvell died on August 16, 1678.

The Garden

Andrew Marvell, 1621 - 1678
How vainly men themselves amaze 
To win the palm, the oak, or bays; 
And their uncessant labors see 
Crowned 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 hers exceed! 
Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound 
No name shall but your own be found. 

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. 

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.

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 combs 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 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. 

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!

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell

A well-known politician, English poet and satirist Andrew Marvell held office in Oliver Cromwell's government and represented Hull to Parliament during the Restoration.

by this poet

poem
Where the remote Bermudas ride   
In the ocean's bosom unespied,   
From a small boat that row'd along   
The listening woods 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
poem
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.

    But these, while I with sorrow pine,
    Grew more luxuriant still and fine
poem
My Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown
But vainly flapped its Tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt