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I am the mower Damon, known
Before her darling daffodils.
Who seem like Israelites to be
The aspects of the country on which he dwells with deepest pleasure—and here lies the charmare not those of Nature in her sublimer or more elated moods, but the gentler and more pastoral elements, that are apt to pass unnoticed at the time by all but the true lovers of the quiet country side, and crowd in upon the mind when surfeited by the wilder glories of peak and precipice, or where tropical luxuriance side by side with tropical aridity blinds and depresses the sense, with the feeling that made Browning cry from Florence,
Oh, to be in England, now that April's there! Marvell's lines, “On the Hill and Grove at Billborow," are an instance of this; there is a certain fantastic craving after antithesis and strangeness, it is true, but the spirit underlies the lines. The poem however must be read in its entirety to gain the exact impression.
Again, for simple felicity, what could be more airily drawn than the following from “The Garden" ?
Here at the fountain's sliding foot,
Or this, from the Song to celebrate the marriage of Lord Fauconberg and the Lady Mary Cromwell, of the undisturbed dead of night ?
The astrologer's own eyes are set,
Through the clear and silent night.
At the same time it must be confessed that Marvell's imagery is sometimes at fault-it would be strange if it were not so; he falls now and then, the wonder is how rarely, to a mere literary conceit. Thus the mower Damon sees himself reflected in his scythe ; the fawn feeds on roses till its lip
seems to bleed," not with a possibly lurking thorn, but with the hue of its pasturage. With Hobbinol and Tomalin for the names of swain and nymph unreality is apt to grow. When the garden is compared to a fortress and its scents to a salvo of artillery
Well shot, ye firemen! O how sweet
Then in some flower's beloved hut
here, in spite of a certain curious felicity, we are in the region of false tradition and rococo expression. The poem of “Eyes and Tears," again (so whimsically admired by Archbishop Trench), is little more than a string of conceits; and when in “Mourning” we hear that
She courts herself in amorous rain,
when we are introduced to Indian divers who plunge in the tears and can find no bottom, we think of Macaulay's “Tears of Sensibility," and Crashaw's fearful lines on the Magdalene's eyes
Two walking baths, two weeping motions,
Nevertheless Marvell's poems are singularly free as a rule from this strain of affectation. He has none of the morbidity that often passes for refinement. The free air, the wood-paths, the full heat of the summer sun--this is his scenery ; we are not brought into contact with the bones beneath the rose-bush, the splintered
sun-dial, and the stagnant pool. His pulses throb with ardent life, and have none of the "inexplicable faintness" of a deathlier school. What would not Crashaw have had to say of the “Nuns of Appleton" if he had been so unfortunate as to have lighted on them? But Marvell writes :
Our orient breaths perfumed are
And passing by a sweet and natural transition to his little pupil, the young Recluse of Nunappleton
I see the angels, in a crown,
The poems contain within themselves the germ of the later growth of satire in the shape of caustic touches of humour, as well as a certain austere philosophy that is apt to peer behind the superficial veil of circumstance, yet without dreary introspection. There is a Dialogue between Soul and Body, which deals with the duality of human nature which has been the despair of all philosophers and the painful axiom of all religious teachers. Marvell makes the Soul say :
Constrained not only to endure
In the same connection in “The Coronet," an allegory of the Ideal and the Real, he says:
Alas! I find the serpent old,
Much of Marvell's philosophy however has not the same vitality, born of personal struggle and discomfiture, but is a mere echo of stoical and pagan views of life and its vanities drawn from Horace and Seneca, who seem to have been his favourite authors. Such a sentiment as the following, from “ Appleton House"
But he, superfluously spread,
and from “ The Coy Mistress
The grave's a fine and private place,
are mere pagan commonplaces, however daintily expressed.
But there is a poem, an idyll in the form of a dialogue between Clorinda and Damon, which seems to contain an original philosophical motive.