About this poet

Due to the inconsistencies and ambiguities within his work and the scarcity of information about his personal life, Andrew Marvell has been a source of fascination for scholars and readers since his work found recognition in the early decades of the twentieth century. Born on March 31, 1621, Marvell grew up in the Yorkshire town of Hull, England, where his father, Rev. Andrew Marvell, was a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church and master of the Charterhouse. At age twelve Marvell began his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge. Four years later, two of Marvell's poems, one in Latin and one in Greek, were published in an anthology of Cambridge poets. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 1639, Marvell stayed on at Trinity, apparently to complete a master's degree. In 1641, however, his father drowned in the Hull estuary and Marvell abandoned his studies. During the 1640's Marvell traveled extensively on the continent, adding Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian to his Latin and Greek—missing the English civil wars entirely.

Marvell spent most of the 1650s working as a tutor, first for Mary Fairfax, daughter of a retired Cromwellian general, then for one of Oliver Cromwell's wards. Scholars believe that Marvell's greatest lyrics were written during this time. In 1657, due to John Miltons efforts on his behalf, Marvell was appointed Milton's Latin secretary, a post Marvell held until his election to Parliament in 1660.

A well-known politician, Marvell held office in Cromwell's government and represented Hull to Parliament during the Restoration. His very public position—in a time of tremendous political turmoil and upheaval—almost certainly led Marvell away from publication. No faction escaped Marvell's satirical eye; he criticized and lampooned both the court and Parliament. Indeed, had they been published during his lifetime, many of Marvell's more famous poems—in particular, "Tom May's Death," an attack on the famous Cromwellian—would have made him rather unpopular with royalists and republicans alike.

Marvell used his political status to free Milton, who was jailed during the Restoration, and quite possibly saved the elder poet's life. In the early years of his tenure, Marvell made two extraordinary diplomatic journeys: to Holland (1662-1663) and to Russia, Sweden, and Denmark (1663-1665). In 1678, after 18 years in Parliament, Marvell died rather suddenly of a fever. Gossip of the time suggested that the Jesuits (a target of Marvell's satire) had poisoned him. After his death he was remembered as a fierce and loyal patriot.

Now considered one of the greatest poets of the seventeenth century, Marvell published very little of his scathing political satire and complex lyric verse in his lifetime. Although he published a handful of poems in anthologies, a collection of his work did not appear until 1681, three years after his death, when his nephew compiled and found a publisher for Miscellaneous Poems. The circumstances surrounding the publication of the volume aroused some suspicion: a person named "Mary Marvell," who claimed to be Marvell's wife, wrote the preface to the book. "Mary Marvell" was, in fact, Mary Palmer—Marvell's housekeeper—who posed as Marvell's wife, apparently, in order to keep Marvell's small estate from the creditors of his business partners. Her ruse, of course, merely contributes to the mystery that surrounds the life of this great poet. Marvell died on August 16, 1678.

The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers

Andrew Marvell, 1621 - 1678
See with what simplicity
    This nymph begins her golden days!
      In the green grass she loves to lie,
  And there with her fair aspect tames
  The wilder flowers, and gives them names;
    But only with the roses plays,
                       And them does tell
What colour best becomes them, and what smell.
  
      Who can foretell for what high cause
    This darling of the gods was born?
      Yet this is she whose chaster laws
  The wanton Love shall one day fear,
  And, under her command severe,
    See his bow broke and ensigns torn.
                      Happy who can
Appease this virtuous enemy of man!
  
      O then let me in time compound
    And parley with those conquering eyes,
      Ere they have tried their force to wound; 
  Ere with their glancing wheels they drive
  In triumph over hearts that strive,
    And them that yield but more despise:
                       Let me be laid, 
Where I may see the glories from some shade.
  
      Meantime, whilst every verdant thing
    Itself does at thy beauty charm,
      Reform the errors of the Spring; 
  Make that the tulips may have share
  Of sweetness, seeing they are fair, 
    And roses of their thorns disarm; 
                       But most procure
That violets may a longer age endure.
  
      But O, young beauty of the woods,
    Whom Nature courts with fruits and flowers,
      Gather the flowers, but spare the buds;
  Lest Flora, angry at thy crime 
  To kill her infants in their prime,
    Do quickly make th' example yours;
                      And ere we see,
Nip in the blossom all our hopes and thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell

A well-known politician, English poet and satirist Andrew Marvell held office in Oliver Cromwell's government and represented Hull to Parliament during the Restoration.

by this poet

poem
Where the remote Bermudas ride   
In the ocean's bosom unespied,   
From a small boat that row'd along   
The listening woods received this song:   
  
'What should we do but sing His praise
That led us through the watery maze   
Unto an isle so long unknown,   
And yet far kinder than our own?   
Where He the
poem
My mind was once the true survey
    Of all these meadows fresh and gay,
    And in the greenness of the grass
    Did see its hopes as in a glass;
    When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

    But these, while I with sorrow pine,
    Grew more luxuriant still and fine
poem
My Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown
But vainly flapped its Tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt