However accurate Andrew Marvell's association with the metaphysical poets, it is unfortunate that the singular writer – so singularly spiteful, winning, allusive, sardonic – should share a limited codified space with anyone else, even if his spacemates include such luminaries as... [more]
However accurate Andrew Marvell's association with the metaphysical poets, it is unfortunate that the singular writer – so singularly spiteful, winning, allusive, sardonic – should share a limited codified space with anyone else, even if his spacemates include such luminaries as John Donne, George Herbert, George Chapman, and Anne Bradstreet. His poetry and prose bear the unique mark of a moral thinker whose sense of morality was not beyond natural human vagaries, of a stylist whose lyricism never stooped to Mannerist rhapsody, of an objector who realized the value of discretely and seethingly conscientious art over outright vitriol and polemics; his life bore enough salacious scandals and connections – among them flirtations with a variety of religions, a questionable secret marriage, much important unpublished poetry at the time of his death, a friendship with John Milton, an expressed disgust with the Dutch, the possibility that he was a closeted homosexual, an influence on the foundation of the Whig Party – to make him fit for innumerable apocryphal tales.
Marvell's most famous poem, "To His Coy Mistress," is among the poems left unpublished during his lifetime, and it has received particular reinvigorated study since T.S. Eliot's championing of it. It is the subject of immense debate – essentially coming down to whether or not the poem was intended sarcastically – and at the same time is a staple among his admirers' sentimental favorites; Marvell's seamless incorporation of subversive and often extraordinarily complex elements and themes into otherwise quite readable and approachable poetry has earned him a formidable following. The allusions made in his works reach quite extensive degrees of separation from the presumed topic – they often were used as caustic reprobation of the Restoration, a reference that does not today come easily to the unprepared reader – all the while maintaining a cohesive central focus that would nonetheless satisfy the uninitiated. His life was a singular event, his poetry a singular benchmark, reading him a singular experience. [show less]