John Donne and the Seventeenth-Century Metaphysical Poets

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

RUTH NEVO
Marvell's "Songs of
Innocence and Experience"

There is a distinct strain of Epicureanism in Marvell's sensibility which would, on the face of it, seem to sort ill with either his Platonism or his Puritanism. But in fact, as his Puritanism is intimately related to his Platonism, so are both conditioned by the claims upon the resolved soul of a high Renaissance culture. The " Drop of Dew," emblematic companion piece to the " Dialogue between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure," illustrates the pattern of these relationships.

The equation dewdrop = soul, rose petal = earthly habitation, is never of course made explicit. There is thus scope for wit in the logical manipulation of the emblematic conceit to reveal layer upon layer of implication, all confirmatory of the original premise. The core of the poem's wit, however, lies in the description of the soul's attitude to its material mansion. The dewdrop is "careless" of its mansion new; it "slights" the purple flower; it "shuns" the sweet leaves; "every way it turns away," wound in that "coyest" of figures, the circle. The suggestion is, or would be, of a reluctant mistress in a conventional, mundane amorous affair, save that the real reason for the soul's cool reserve is implicit all the time: not, clearly, coquetry, but its recollection of the clear region where it was born. Both spheres of love are brought together and set off against each other in the concluding antithesis: "Here disdaining, there in Love"; while the true source and final goal of the soul's desire are brought out in the climax of the poem:

____________________
From Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 5, no. 1 ( Winter 1965). © 1965 by William Marsh Rice University.

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