“Annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought, in a green shade.”
In “The Garden,” this phrase refers to the activity in the speaker’s mind when the fruitful abundance of the garden has overwhelmed his bodily senses. He retreats into his mind, where the powers of contemplation become a source of superior creativity. His mind is capable of making other worlds and “other seas” that transcend the limitations of physical embodiment and thereby annihilate the physical world. This image of green thought denotes the vibrant creative power of the intellect and the rational faculty of the soul.
“By his own scythe, the mower mown.”
In “Damon the Mower,” the speaker, Damon, remains troubled by his love for Juliana. He attempts to throw himself into his work to forget his sorrow, but his unrequited passion distracts Damon from his task, and in a moment of “careless chance,” his blade cuts into his ankle. This image is the peak of poem’s many connections between Damon and his environment. Now, his body has literally become the grass that he cuts, and he tumbles to the ground, “the mower mown” by his own hand.
“What field of all the civil wars / Where his were not the deepest scars?”
In his ode to Oliver Cromwell, Andrew Marvell displays ambivalence about Cromwell’s role in the English Civil Wars. The above lines could mean that Cromwell’s battle scars are deeper than those of any other military leader, and that the wars caused him to suffer valiantly for his brave cause. However, the lines could also mean that the wounds that Cromwell and his army inflicted upon the nation’s “field” are, in fact, the “deepest scars.” In an ideological sense, did Marvell mean to insinuate that Cromwell bravely endured these wars for the good of England, or imply that the Commonwealth has suffered at his hands? The speaker suggests that the answer to this question depends upon the success of the new Republic that Cromwell will lead.
“My vegetable love should grow / Vaster than empires, and more slow.”
The speaker uses the image of a growing vegetable to suggest that slowly and steadily, his “love” might increase to vast proportions, perhaps encoding a phallic suggestion. This languid pace would allow him to praise his lady’s features – eyes, forehead, breasts, and heart – in increments of hundreds and even thousands of years, which he believes the Lady deserves due to her superior stature. He assures the Lady that in an ideal world where time is unlimited, he would never value her at a “lower rate” than she is worth. However, time is finite, so the speaker employs this image as part of his elaborate attempt to seduce his Lady.
“He grafts upon the wild the tame: / That th’uncertain and adulterate fruit / Might put the palate in dispute.”
The Mower mounts a vicious tirade against the artificiality of gardens, and his language suggests that man’s interference with the natural world is wicked and lascivious. He refers to acts of grafting as “Forbidden mixtures” that produce “adulterate fruit,” which recalls the myth of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Book of Genesis. Eve’s decision to eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge brought sin into the world, and the Mower implies that humanity’s manipulation of Nature to suit its own ends is a similarly sinful enterprise.
“Ye living lamps, by whose dear light / The nightingale does sit so late”
The Mower addresses these opening lines to the glowworms that surround him on a country evening while he is looking over the meadows. By calling the glowworms “living lamps,” he compares a natural source of light with an artificial one. During Marvell's time, the word “lamps” referred either to torches or lanterns that held burning candles. The fact that these “lamps” occur in Nature gives them a special status, however, and suggests that the light emanating from their being is natural perfection that human artifice and ingenuity can never reproduce.
“He gave us this eternal spring, / Which here enamels everything”
In “Bermudas,” the group of English colonists call the titular island an “eternal spring,” suggesting that its bounty will never end because God wills it so. “Spring” doubly implies an endless flow of blessed water as well as the season during which life springs forth after a period of winter decay. Marvell uses these images of divine life and natural bounty to suggest that as a result of the English presence, the island will become a reformed Eden, a Godly community that reconciles free will and God’s intention in a new fellowship of Christian living.
“Thinking (so I myself deceive) / So rich a chaplet thence to weave”
The shepherd and speaker of the poem has gathered his materials and begins to think about how to weave them into a “rich chaplet” in praise of Christ. He soon realizes that his idea is tainted and that his thought process has been affected by the deceitful serpent, or Satan, whom that hides among the flowers. Satan’s hidden presence suggests that no matter how good the shepherd’s intentions are, he cannot create a work of Christian praise that is not at the same time a physical embodiment of self-aggrandizement.
“Though they should wash their guilty hands / In this warm life-blood…Yet could they not be clean”
The nymph watches her fawn die from a wound inflicted by hunters. She invokes the image of the hunters' “guilty hands," stained with blood. She also suggests similarities between the hunters' sin and the deviousness of her former lover, Sylvio, because both have had violent effects. Sylvio abandoned the nymph, leaving her alone with the fawn. The nymph’s association of blood with sin and guilt is a direct contrast to the images of whiteness throughout the poem. The nymph describes feeding the fawn sugar and milk, which makes it become “more white and sweet then they,” and the fawn rests on beds of white lilies in the nymph’s private garden. Therefore, blood, a symbol of sin, stains white, which represents innocence and purity.
“Therefore the love which us doth bind, / But Fate so enviously debars, / Is the conjunction of the mind, / And opposition of the stars.”
These four lines compose the final stanza of Marvell’s poem. Here, the speaker delivers two definitions of his love: it is both “the conjunction of the mind” and the “opposition of the stars.” This two-part definition encapsulates the divided nature of the love the speaker shares with his beloved. On one hand, the image of conjunction suggests proximity and harmony, while the image of opposition implies that the lovers can never experience a completely holistic union. This contrast refers to Marvell's belief in the power of Fate in the physical universe, which prevents the lovers from meeting on the plane of material embodiment.
Andrew Marvell: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Andrew Marvell: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.