Andrew Marvell's "Upon Appleton House": An Analytic Commentary

Andrew Marvell's "Upon Appleton House": An Analytic Commentary

Andrew Marvell's "Upon Appleton House": An Analytic Commentary

Andrew Marvell's "Upon Appleton House": An Analytic Commentary

Synopsis

This edition provides both professional critics and casual readers with a methodical aid to appreciating what the author believes to be the most aesthetically eventful, unobtrusively playful, and undemanding complex long poem of the English Renaissance. Using line-by-line annotation, the edition strives to pay minute and continuous attention to the workings of the poem's dazzlingly protean wit, to its multiple, often breathtakingly artful, internal coherences. While the edition does all the usual work a scholarly annotation is expected to do, it is particularly focused on accomplishing what has not been done by previous Marvell scholarship: laying bare every instance of the poem's dynamic wit. In doing so, it, in particular, alerts Marvell's readers to such, for the most part, non-interpretive, aspects of the poem as associative connections operating on the periphery of one's conscious experience, palpable or merely hinted-at wordplay, coexisting multiple syntaxes, and patterns of formal and informal phonic coherence.

Excerpt

Singling out “Upon Appleton House” for a line-by-line analytical annotation may seem odd even in this age of critical overproduction. It is therefore incumbent upon the annotator to offer a justification not only for his methodology, but also for the choice of literary work he proposes to annotate. It is only fair to say that Andrew Marvell’s poetical works in general and “Upon Appleton House” in particular have been subjected to much critical and editorial scrutiny for the better part of the past hundred years—a period that not only firmly cemented Marvell’s status in the canon of English Renaissance literature, but propelled him to a level of prominence that has secured him an undisputed place in most poetical anthologies, alongside Shakespeare, Milton, and Donne. To the general reader Marvell is still mostly known as an author of short verse: a rare high-school student has not read “To His Coy Mistress” or one of the “mower poems.” As for Marvell’s “Horatian Ode,” it may well be, in this era of historical and politically conscious literary criticism, the most studied short poem of the seventeenth century. Despite Marvell’s unquestionable canonicity and popularity with a broad variety of readers, however, the longer “Upon Appleton House,” compared to the widely read and admired shorter poems, remains in relative obscurity. Granted that its size makes “Upon Appleton House” unfit for most poetical anthologies, the relative neglect that it has suffered can be probably explained by several other factors. One such factor is the poem’s perceived triviality, its lack of relevance to what most current and fashionable concerns of literary criticism are. Neither a pastoral nor a plot-driven or character-driven dramatic narrative, “Upon Appleton House” is a rather rambling, perfectly frivolous country house poem that seems to be (and indeed is) about nothing in particular. a student of literature, or any casual reader of a poetic anthology, for that matter, may embrace the debonair playfulness, tongue-in-cheek naïveté, and selfproclaimed lightness and frivolity of much of Marvell’s short verse, particularly if such reader comes upon Marvell somewhere on his . . .

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