Our books in growing ranks so numerous be
That scarce one cuttle fish swims in the sea,
by which he means that they all have been captured for ink; and continues, of the multitude of books:
Sturdier they rise from printing-press’s blows,
The more ’tis pressed this Hydra bulkier grows.
Can aconite or plant else known to men
Expel this cacöethes of the pen?
Ind only on our sorrows taking pity
Provides an antidote, dear Dr. Wittie.
Tobacco, useful poison, Ind bestows,
Which more than hellebore drives out our woes.1
Marvell, who acted as Milton’s secretary, was one of the few of the poet’s contemporaries conscious of the sublimity of Paradise Lost. As the years pass on it is likely that the appreciation of his own poetry will increase rather than lessen.
Poet and critic, Mrs Alice Meynell (1874-1922) regularly contributed an unsigned column entitled ‘The Wares of Autolycus’ to the Pall Mall Gazette and later became its art critic. Never one to ignore her earlier (or later) labours, she used the notes to the poems included in her anthology The Flower of the Mind (1897) in the essay on Marvell of that year. Later she incorporated the notes to the satires in a second essay (1899) on Marvell’s satiric poetry. A collection of her ‘unrepublished essays’ has been printed under the title of The Wares of Autolycus, ed. P. M. Frazer (1965).
1 Translation of the Latin by A. B. Grosart (I, p. 423).