A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, February 5, 2010

Poem of the Day: Andrew Marvell

The Garden 

How vainly men themselves amaze 
To win the palm, the oak, or bays
And their uncessant labours see
Crown'd from some single herb or tree, 
Whose short and narrow verged shade 
Does prudently their toils upbraid; 
While all flow'rs and all 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 am'rous 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! wheres'e'er your barks I wound, 
No name shall but your own be found. 

When we have run our passions' heat, 
Love hither makes his best retreat. 
The Gods, that 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 wond'rous life in 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, 
Insnar'd with flow'rs, I fall on grass. 

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasures 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 prepar'd for longer flight, 
Waves in its plumes the various light.

Such was that happy garden-state, 
While man there walk'd 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 gardener drew  
Of flow'rs 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 reckon'd but with herbs and flow'rs! 
-- Andrew Marvell
Marvell is my favorite 17th century poet -- excluding Shakespeare, who really belongs mostly to the 16th century, but not excluding Milton, whom I admire more than enjoy. This is a much commented-on poem, and I don't want to add commentary to it. I'd rather go think some green thoughts.

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