Introduction to the Poet: Andrew Marvell (1621-78) was a renowned Metaphysical poet , a politician,a satirist and held a remarkable position in literature. He was born in Winestead-in-Holderness, East Riding of Yorkshire, as the son of a clergyman. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, he became a tutor to the daughter of Lord Fairfax, and wrote the best poetries during this season (1650-52).
Marvell was an acquaintance of Milton and protected him from the royal wrath. He also served as the Member of Parliament for Hull from 1659 until he died in 1678.
‘The Garden’ by Andrew Marvell is one of the most complex poems with a blend of passion and wit, mixed with imagery, thus standing supreme in literature. The poem can be analyzed in a political manner and also with reference to the Bible. It’s striking conceits and psychological insights magnify the poem’s beauty and are characteristic of Marvell’s poems.
Setting of The Garden
The poem is set in a ‘Garden’, which becomes the poet’s place of relaxation and lax, unperturbed by the hassles of society.
“While all flow’rs and all trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose”
This is deeply suggestive of the beauty of the garden and the relaxation, stress-free environment it provides.
The ‘Garden’ provides peace and ‘delicious solitude’. It may be referred to as ‘Garden of Eden’ as there are many bibliographical references throughout the poem. This ‘Garden’ can be considered as God made and unless Eve had intervened, this ‘Paradise’ was enjoyed by man, alone; in solitude. This interpretation is cleared by –
“But ‘twas beyond…….To live in paradise alone”.
Also, the presence of ‘herbs’ acting like a ‘sundial’ is suggestive of the fact that indeed The Garden is a place beyond the society; away from the regular toil of men, created by God.
Poetic Devices in The Garden
“My soul into the boughs does glide
There like a bird it sits and sings”
This is a very significant simile as the soul leaves the body (a concept that the soul is indestructible) and thus can transcend beyond the ‘body’s vest’ or the skin. This soul is compared with that of a bird because it frees itself and prepares itself for a ‘longer flight’, resembling death.
Keeping in pace with the metaphysical poems, ‘The Garden’ is full of metaphors, too.
In the 6th stanza, the mind, being compared to an ocean is considered as a metaphor. The poet compares the mind to an ocean as our mind, just like the ocean, has a corresponding image of everything in the world (according to the theory of the seventeenth century).
Further, in the 9th stanza, the garden is compared with the galaxy, where the flowers are ‘zodiac run’ and the bees’ work is compared with the computation of time.
‘Fair Quiet’ and ‘Innocence’ are personified in the 2nd stanza and they have been given living attributes by calling Innocence the sister of Fair Quiet and that the poet searched for them. He found them away from the Society (which is also personified); away from the company of others. The Society was rude to the delicious solitude that he enjoys, presently.
In the fourth stanza, the poet personifies Love and says that it makes it’s retreat to Mother Nature when all the lust and ardent passion has been exhausted.
In the first stanza, ‘the palm’, ‘the oak’, ‘the bays’ are symbolisms of the badges of honor endowed upon men for their accomplishments over military, poetic, political fields. Also in the last stanza, the ‘skilful gardener’ symbolizes God or the Almighty who created this garden, Mother Nature.
Green is the literal color of the garden, but Marvell also plays with the other meanings like fresh and new.
The poem is a source of vivid imagery like:
“Ripe Apples drop about my head;
The Luscious Clusters of the Vine
Upon my Mouth do crush their Wine;”
Further, the imagery of “green thought in a green shade” provides us with the beautiful imagination. The pastoral imagery here enhances the beauty of the poem. Though more prominent as a simile, the soul bird waving its wings and preparing for a higher flight , sitting and singing on the boughs, while combing its silver wings is a platonic imagery.
The flowers weaving “the Garlands of repose” is another imagery.
Style of The Garden
The Poem is written in 9 stanzas of octaves and contains rhyming couplet of Iambic pentameter.
The terseness of style: A rare talent for condensation and compression is seen in Marvell’s poetry which is a concentration of meaning in his lines.
It has a rhyme of AABBCCDD.
Summary of The Garden
‘The Garden’ by Andrew Marvell can be regarded as a unique poem; blending metaphysical concepts and allusions, romanticism as well as classicism. The poet mocks the incessant labors of men for something so insignificant; recognition in the man made world. Unaware of the garland of tranquility that nature weaves for the mortal, the man chases materialistic pleasure. Virtues like Quietness and Innocence are absent among men but finds itself embedded in nature. Only in mother Nature, we can enjoy the delicacies of solitude; not in the Society.
To the poet, green is a symbolism of amatory, of freshness and tranquility. Men are busy in admiring the beauty of maiden but they fail to notice the enigmatic beauty of nature.
The Nature in its purest form is a heavenly bliss with the ripe apples and melons rolling on the ground and the grape vine crushing its juices on the poet’s mouth.It is where the soul frees itself from bodily attachment and like a bird sings on the boughs.
The poet contemplates about the Garden and says that no other company was needed for enjoying this heavenly bliss.Rather, it would be ‘double paradise’ if the poet can relish this Paradise in solitude.
In the end, the poet praises the Almighty, in the form of ‘skilful gardener’ , as he created this garden of elements like herbs & flowers that act like a sundial and bees who work to compute time.
Critical Analysis of The Garden
‘The Garden’ begins with the poet criticizing the devotion of men to public life, war, politics. He values Quietness and Innocence and appreciates the gift that nature offers. The Garden , a place for sacred plants to grow, provides solitude and repose.
He praises the beauty of garden; the fruits and shade it provides-unlike the crowns of the man-made world. Achieving a sense of tranquility, the free bird-like-soul transcends for a higher purpose, the journey for salvation. Nature proliferates the senses and helps the body to detach itself from platonic pleasure, incentives the soul.The poem concludes with the poet comparing himself with Adam, and enjoying the lonely paradise before Eve brought ‘the fall’.He thanks God for the beautiful creation where the rush of society is absent. Thus, the Garden serves as the source of fulfillment – for body, mind, and soul.
Central Idea of The Garden
‘The Garden’ by Andrew Marvell focuses on the exhilaration of the gifts of Nature, rather than the celebration of the pompous man-made world.
The poet condemns men for their disregards towards Mother Nature, the tranquility and serenity she has to offer and losing themselves in the chase for earthly gains. Throughout the poem, Nature is glorified and celebrated in the purest form.
The poem deals with the theme of isolation which lay intimately with the predominating theme of rejoicing Mother Nature. The world full of materialistic pleasure absorbs the spectrum of our thought, keeps us from divulging into the depth of our own being. Thus, when the poet says society is rude to the solitude, he righteously points out that society cannot rejoice the peace and serenity that nature offers. Only through solitude can Nature’s gifts be appraised.
Discarding the body’s vest, the soul sings in happiness and glides in the boughs. Nature’s serenity helps the poet’s soul to transcend to something noble, beyond the comprehension of the material pleasure.
Thus, the central theme deals with Nature and exultation for its gifts, in solitude.
Tone of The Garden
The tone of the poem varies as it progresses. Starting with mockery, the poet criticizes men about the ‘vanity’ over their endless labor to be crowned for their contribution in various fields. He claims that the life in the wrap of nature is far more significant than life in man-made society.
As we progress through the poem, the tone becomes contemplative and in the 5th stanza, it is that of exaltation, thus enhancing the poem.
Further, the tone remains to be contemplative and meditative throughout the poem till it ends; as the poet compares his soul to a bird, the garden with the galaxy and brings in bibliographical references of Eve and the Garden of Eden.
‘The Garden’ is a poem that enhances Nature’s elegance, helps us contemplate about the futility of the man-made world and indulges us into deep rumination of the benefaction that Mother Nature offers us. Nature serves a higher soul satisfying journey beyond the reach of earthly desires. The poem provides a deep psychological insight and gains a remarkable position in the history of literature.
Contributor : Bidisha Das