Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

102.

Cyril Falls on the tercentenary of Marvell’s birth

1921

Known for his writings on military topics, Cyril Falls (1888-1971) published his essay on Marvell in April 1921. It was later incorporated in the Tercentenary Tributes.

Extract from ‘Andrew Marvell, Nineteenth Century and After, No. 530 (April 1921), pp. 630-3, 637-42.

Andrew Marvell marks the close of an era. Having produced him, Mother England, that had been of late so fecund of poets, fell barren or nigh barren for a while. In the thirty years that preceded his birth were born, to name but the greatest, Herrick, Herbert, Randolph, Waller, Milton, Suckling, Butler, Crashaw, Lovelace and Cowley, of whom Waller and Butler alone outlived him. In the next thirty, nay in the next sixty, years there appears but one great poet, Dryden. There is not another the equal of Waller, least of the company of the elders….

Followed a long and leisurely Grand Tour, which embraced France, Holland, Italy and Spain. In its couse he met Flecknoe, born, if ever man was, to be a butt, and wrote a hateful satire to mark the occasion—hateful because, however dull and stupid a man may be, his poverty and his hunger are unpleasant subjects for mockery. On his return he showed some sympathy with royal-ism by a blistering poem on the death of Thomas May, and by declaring his friendship for the prince of Cavalier poets, Richard Lovelace, then fallen on evil times….

Marvell’s lyrical poetry belongs to his youth, but on the principle of keeping the good wine till last we may leave it for a moment to consider his other work. His verse satire and his prose have each a certain importance, but he would be a very minor and uninteresting figure if they were all he had left. The Marvell of the lyrics and he of the satires are different poets, belonging to different ages.

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