Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections

By Neil Fraistat | Go to book overview

It is not necessary to commit arcane meanings to paper, and to conceal licit stratagems with multiple deceit. Even if you say nothing, your name is an embassy; and, just as in Scytale [an ancient Spartan form of code] it carries public significance.

I think we could probably say the same for the naming that appeared on the title page of the 1681 folio: "Miscellaneous Poems By Andrew Marvell, Esq; Late Member of the Honourable House of Commons"; and as in the art of Scytale the message could only be read when wound on a staff of a particular shape and size, so the meaning of the 1681 folio depends in part on its structure. In fact, as the relationship between respublica and publica verba is an extraordinarily complex one, not only in English political history, but also in language theory and ideas of representation, one might venture the larger statement, however rhetorically crude, that the original order of the volume was its meaning in 1681. This is not to devalue Margoliouth's edition, the object of which was to show as far as possible the shape of Marvell's career as a poet and hence the importance of chronology, when determinable; nor does it resolve the central ambiguity in my use of the term "original." But if Marvell did not himself arrange his poems in this way, leading his readers through different categories, different imperatives, until they arrived at active republicanism, it was done by someone who knew his work and its import extremely well.


NOTES
1.
F. E. Hutchinson, The Works of George Herbert ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941), pp. lxvii-lxix.
2.
John R. Roberts, in George Herbert: An Annotated Bibliography of Modern Criticism, 1905-1974 ( Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1978), lists twenty- seven items relating to the structure of The Temple. Amy Charles, however, in "The Williams Manuscript and The Temple," Renaissance Papers ( 1971): 59-70, doubted whether anyone except Herbert could ever explain the order.
3.
Louis L. Martz, Poet of Exile: A Study of Milton's Poetry ( New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), p. 37. The argument was first made in "The Rising Poet, 1645," in The Lyric and Dramatic Milton, ed. Joseph Summers, Selected Papers from the English Institute ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), pp. 3-33.
4.
Martz, Poet of Exile, p. 34. He cites as other evidence Moseley's association in his preface of Milton with Waller, recently exiled for a royalist plot against the Long Parliament, and the reprinting from the 1637 edition of the Maske at Ludlow of Lawe's dedication to "a young nobleman with strong royalist associations."
5.
This assumes that the masque was unequivocally regarded as a court form, mor

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