Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

Marvell was a dark-complexioned man, with an expressive countenance, silent and reserved among strangers, but lively and facetious in the company of his intimates. His early poems express a fondness for the charms of rural nature, and much delicacy of sentiment; they are ingenious and full of fancy, after the manner of Cowley and his contemporaries.


40.

William Wordsworth’s sonnet

c. 1802

Political events in the early years of the nineteenth century stimulated Wordsworth (1770-1850) to many expressions of patriotic fervor. In 1802 he copied the ‘Horatian Ode’ into his notebook W and composed some of his political sonnets as well. The one printed below, while commenting on the current scene, looks back with admiration to seventeenth-century Republican leaders and writers. Three years later he was to suggest to Sir Walter Scott, at work on an edition of Dryden, that he might ‘peep with advantage’ into Marvell’s poems, adding, somewhat disingenuously, ‘which I have not seen these many many years’ (Early Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, ed. E.de Selincourt, 1935, p. 541).

From Poems, 2 vols, 1807, I, Sonnet XV (c. 1802)

Great Men have been among us; hands that penn’d
And tongues that utter’d wisdom; better none:
The later Sydney, Marvel, Harrington,
Young Vane, and others who call’d Milton Friend.1

1 Algernon Sidney (1622-83) was beheaded for supposed complicity in the Rye House Plot; James Harrington (1611-77), author of Oceana, was imprisoned after the Restoration; Sir Henry Vane (1612-92) was a Puritan statesman; ‘and others’ included Cyriac Skinner, according to a manuscript note.

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