Andrew Marvell: Poems

Andrew Marvell: Poems Summary

To His Coy Mistress:

This poem is spoken by a male lover to his female beloved as an attempt to convince her to make love to him. The speaker argues that the Lady’s shyness and hesitancy would be acceptable if the two had “world enough, and time.” However, because their lives are finite, he thinks they should take advantage of their sexual abilities while they can.

The Garden:

“The Garden” is a reflection upon the vanity and inferiority of men’s devotion to public life in politics, war, and civic service. The speaker of the poem values a retreat to “Fair Quiet” and its sister, “Innocence,” in a private garden. He proceeds to describe the garden’s natural perfection and beauty in terms that suggest that the mind is more transcendent than the physical body.

An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell's Return From Ireland:

The occasion for this poem is Oliver Cromwell’s return to England after his military expedition to Ireland. Marvell praises Cromwell’s defeat of the Irish Catholic and English Royalist alliance in a series of battles, as well as Cromwell’s leadership of the newly formed English Republican government. Marvell models his poem on the odes of the Roman poet, Horace, who fought on the side of Roman Republicans, but eventually came to accept the rule of Augustus Caesar and the ensuing peace. Marvell also expresses some ambivalence about the execution of King Charles I, even though he clearly favors Oliver Cromwell’s rule.

The Mower Poems

The series of Mower poems includes “The Mower Against Gardens,” “Damon the Mower,” “The Mower to the Glowworms,” and “The Mower’s Song.” Each of the four poems corresponds to one of the four seasons. Additionally, Marvell develops the Mower's growing sense of alienation over the course of the series, as the protagonist becomes obsessed with his unrequited passion for Juliana. The Mower goes from being a happy and productive worker in the meadows to extremely dissatisfied and disconnected from his natural environment.

Upon Appleton House

“Upon Appleton House” is a country-house poem modeled on the tradition of Ben Jonson’s poem “To Penshurst.” Appleton House was Lord Fairfax's country home. Fairfax was Marvell’s most important patron and the father of Mary Fairfax. There is a clear structure to the thematic content of the poem, which can be described as follows: Stanzas 1-10 describe Appleton house itself, Stanzas 11-35 give a history of the house as a priory, Stanzas 36-46 describe its flower gardens and suggest Sir Thomas Fairfax’s military prowess, Stanzas 47- 60 give an account of the meadows, Stanzas 61-81 move on to discuss the woods, and finally, Stanzas 82-97 start out at the river and evolve into praise for Mary Fairfax and her family.


“Bermudas” is a poetic celebration of English colonists arrival in the Bermudas during the mid-seventeenth century. It is delivered as a song of praise that the group of English colonists sing as they travel to the islands on a boat. The song begins by praising God, whom the colonists believed protected them from sea-monsters and storms and allowed them to land safely upon the shore. Once there, the colonists are happy to discover that the island provides an “eternal spring” of natural abundance. The colonists perceive the island to be a perfect temple that God has delivered specifically for them to settle in and to “sound His name” in praise. The colonists imagine their song arriving at “Heaven’s vault” and echoing joyously. The poem ends with an image of the singing colonists keeping time with the rowing oars.

The Coronet:

The speaker of the poem is a shepherd who goes about gathering flowers from “every garden” in order to fashion a new crown to glorify his savior, Jesus Christ. However, the speaker soon realizes that his task is “foolish” because he is attempting to use physical materials to construct this coronet, which can only “debase” the glory of “Heaven’s diadem.” He then appeals to Christ, the only figure who “could’st the serpent tame,” asking Him either to undo the coronet’s “slipp’ry knots” or to destroy its “curious frame.” The poem concludes with the speaker suggesting that if Christ were to destroy the serpent’s power over the coronet, the shepherd could tread over the spoils of the serpent and coronet alike, which would “crown [Christ's] feet” since they were unfit to “crown [his] head.”

The Definition of Love:

This poem explores love through the description of perfect yet irreconcilable love between the speaker and his lover. Their love is perfect in itself, but according to the speaker’s formulations, that same condition prevents these two hearts from meeting in the physical sphere. For instance, the speaker compares the lovers’ love to two infinite lines, each of which forms a perfect circle. Because these lines are parallel, they shall never intersect or meet. Therefore, the speaker concludes, the love that binds them is also thwarted enviously by Fate, and the only union they can share is between their minds.

The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn:

The speaker of the poem is a nymph, who narrates the death of her fawn in the form of a lyric pastoral. Critics have read Marvell’s poem in many different ways, with interpretations ranging from light-hearted fantasy to a psychological tale of lost love or a complex political allegory. The nymph’s speech is fairly simplistic and child-like, which contrasts sharply with the poem’s serious subject matter: betrayed love, violence, and death. From the beginning of the poem, the nymph implies a deep psychological connection with her fawn, and its death invokes an emotional response that mirrors what the nymph felt when her lover, Sylvio betrayed her. In fact, Sylvio gave the fawn to the nymph, as a symbol of the love between them and of Sylvio’s “hunt” to capture the nymph’s affections.