Andrew Marvell: Poems

Marvell's Gardens: A Reading of The Mower Against Gardens and The Garden

For both "The Mower Against Gardens" and "The Garden", the primary terms in opposition are the same: the world of nature, the world of men. The former is a realm of leisure, the latter of ceaseless, pointless toil. And yet the status granted to the garden in one poem is directly contrary to that granted in the other: for "The Mower Against Gardens", the garden is the locus of human labor (and perversion), it is at the heart of the world of men. The scene of "The Garden," by contrast, is one of leisure, solitude, and nature's fecundity. The relationship between the two poems is more complicated than the mere opposition suggested by their titles: while the terms of the argument are constant between them, the value granted them shifts; the status of labor, leisure, and nature is different in each. Also different, I will argue, is the tone of the poems: one seems earnest in its argument, while the other is self-mocking.

The argument of "The Mower Against Gardens" falls into three parts. The first (ll. 1-22) is by far the longest, and presents in its first sentence the opposed terms of its argument. In the very first word, we find the poem's moral verdict:

Luxurious man, to...

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