Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

78.

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s comments

1887-8, 1849-92

The comments of the poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-92) on Marvell are recorded by his son Hallam and his close friend F. T. Palgrave, well known for his anthology The Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrical Poems (see Nos 67, 69).

Extracts from Alfred Lord Tennyson, A Memoir, compiled by his son (1897), II, pp. 335, 500-1.

(a) 1887-8: He would now quote long pieces from Andrew Marvell to us, ‘The Bermudas, ’ ‘The Garden, ’ and he told us that he had made Carlyle laugh for half-an-hour at the following line from ‘The Character of Holland’—

They, with mad labour, fish’d the land to shore.

‘And, ’ he continued, ‘about poetry or art Carlyle knew nothing. I would never have taken his word about either, but as an honest man, yes—on any subject in the world. ’

(b) Personal Recollections by F. T. Palgrave, 1849-92: With most by far of the pieces submitted [to the Golden Treasury] he was already acquainted: but I seem to remember more or less special praise of Lodge’s ‘Rosaline, ’ of ‘My Love in her attire…’ and the ‘Emigrants’ Song’ by Marvell. For some poems by that writer then with difficulty accessible, he had a special admiration: delighting to read, with a voice hardly yet to me silent, and dwelling more than once, on the magnificent hyperbole, the powerful union of pathos and humour in the lines ‘To his Coy Mistress’ where Marvell says

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime…

[Quotes ll. 7-10; 21-4. ]

-246-

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