Day One: "To His Coy Mistress" & "Definition of Love"
"The Coronet" & "A Dialogue between the Soul and Body"
"The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn"
"Upon Appleton House"
"Horatian Ode" & "First Anniversary of Government Under
the Lord Protector"
Our book anthologizes 42 pages of Marvell’s poems (pages
829-71)—more than we can possibly cover in a week’s time. It is okay to read
just the poems in the following list. I have organized them into groups
according to their subjects, and within these categories I have boldfaced the
most important poem(s). We will most certainly have time to discuss all the
poems with boldfaced titles. Questions on each poem follow in a separate
Categories of Marvell’s Poems
- Religion and philosophy:
- 832: “The Coronet”
- 856: “On a Drop of Dew”
- 857: “A Dialogue between the Soul and Body”
- 863: “Bermudas”
- 832: “The Gallery”
- 833: “The Definition of Love”
- 834: “To His Coy Mistress”
- 858: “Damon the Mower”
- 860: “The Mower to the Glow-worms”
- 860: “The Mower’s Song”
- Rural life:
- 855: “The Garden”
- 858: “The Mower against Gardens”
- 835: “An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return From
- 864: “The First Anniversary of the Government under
His Highness the Lord Protector”
- Poems about the relationship between the active life
and rural life:
- 838: “The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her
- 841: “Upon Appleton House”
Questions about specific poems
Religion and philosophy:
832: “The Coronet”
- Begin with the assumption that the poem is about
Puritanism and art. What does it suggest about poet’s attitude toward
856: “On a Drop of Dew”
- What is the conceit here, and how does Marvell develop
- What point is he making via the dew drop?
857: “A Dialogue between the Soul and Body”
- How does this poem qualify as a “metaphysical” poem?
- Who wins the argument—soul or body?
- Can you make any connections between this poem and “The
- How can the poem be taken as a commentary on Anglican
- What portrait of nature and society emerges from the
832: “The Gallery”
- How does the poem’s stanza structure relate to the
- How does your answer to the previous question relate to
the use of “metaphysical conceit”?
833: “The Definition of Love”
- This poem should remind you of Donne’s “A Valediction:
Forbidding Mourning.” What similarities and differences do you find?
- What conceits does Marvell use here?
834: “To His Coy Mistress”
- What details in this poem suggest an ambivalent attitude
toward sexual love? (Base your answer on Marvell’s elaborate conceits.)
- What is the structure of the poem, and how does it
fortify the argument being made here? Does the syllogism work?
- How does each verse paragraph portray time in a
Mower poems: 858: “Damon the Mower”; 860: “The Mower to
the Glow-worms”; 860: “The Mower’s Song”
- What is the tone of the mower poems?
- What do you make of the fact that the mower cuts his own
ankle with his scythe?
- Does the poem make a political statement or offer a
- What do you make of the presence of death in two of
855: “The Garden”
- Which side does this poem take in the
action-versus-contemplation debate that animates many of Marvell’s poems? How
does the speaker’s misogyny relate to the issue? Does anything in the final
stanza, stanza 9, inform your answer about action versus contemplation?
- Be able to say something about colors (stanza 3) and the
mythological references in the poem (stanza 4).
- What is the relationship between “Upon Appleton House”
and “The Garden” in terms of the relationship to nature?
- How is “The Garden” a “metaphysical” poem?
858: “The Mower against Gardens”
- Find and copy for the class Perdita’s argument with
Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale 4.4 (easy to find online). Is the
mower’s position similar to or different from Perdita’s?
- What is/are the mower’s beef(s)?
- Does the poem reflect contemporary politics and/or
835: “An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return From Ireland”
- What portrait of Cromwell emerges here? Do you detect
- How is Charles I portrayed? Is there ambivalence here?
Is this a royalist poem?
- What do you make of the image of the “sword erect” in
- How does this poem enact and/or commemorate the shift
that England is undergoing? In other words, in what way(s) does the poem show
that the country is passing into a new phase of history?
864: “The First Anniversary of the Government under His
Highness the Lord Protector”
- How has Cromwell done during his first year in office
according to this poem? Is all well in the realm?
- What do you make of Cromwell’s accident? Can you read
it as a comment on the realm itself?
- What does the poem say about the Catholics?
Poems about the relationship between the active life and
838: “The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn”
- What is the nature of the two worlds that come into
conflict here? In other words, what is the poem’s theme? Can any connection
be made to Cromwell in the “Horatian Ode”?
- Is this an allegorical poem? What or who might the fawn
be? Is such a reading an overreading?
- What attitude toward men does the nymph embrace? Does
this make her like or unlike Isabel and Mary in “Upon Appleton House”?
841: “Upon Appleton House, To my Lord Fairfax”
http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~kbrundan/apple.htm for a helpful
summary/outline of the poem.
- If you put this poem together with the “Horatian Ode,” a
homology emerges: Cromwell is to engagement in war and public affairs as
Fairfax is to private retirement in the country. Does the poem express
ambivalence about the right side of the homology, Fairfax’s decision to retire
from public life? Does it criticize Fairfax?
- What are the moral implications of choosing rural life
and withdrawal from public affairs and service?
- Can you make any points about Isabel and Mary in terms
of public life versus a private, rural retirement? How is Mary portrayed? Is
there truth in the following homology? Fairfax is to Appleton House as Isabel
was to the nunnery.
- Stanzas 49-55 anticipate the four “mower” poems in our
book (pages 858-60). Can you make any connections?