By Susan A. Clarke (Australian National University)
“The Garden” used to be regarded as a product of Andrew Marvell’s period of retirement with Lord Fairfax at Nunappleton, between late 1650 and mid-1652. Nigel Smith (Poems 152-59) outlines the shift in critical consensus to a date post-1668, a shift that followed publication of Alan Pritchard’s influential 1983 essay, “Marvell’s “The Garden”: A Restoration Poem?” In this paper, I reassess evidence of the dating of Marvell’s poem from the perspective of writing of the wide-ranging royalist literary discourse of retirement, mainly during the Civil Wars and early years of the Interregnum. I argue that the heavily politicised libertin and neo-Stoic poems, translations and polemic on retirement, in particular those by writers associated with Thomas Stanley’s literary group including Marvell, provided the more famous poet with the materials to construct his poem.
In developing his argument, Pritchard relies heavily on Marvell’s known habit of incorporating influences in his poems from recently published printed volumes and the suspicion that Marvell’s poetry did not circulate widely in manuscript. He cites as evidence specific echoes in “The Garden” of poems and translations of Katharine Philips and Abraham Cowley published in 1667 and 1668 respectively. Pritchard also notes the importance of the larger thematic connection which exists between Marvell’s “Garden” and Cowley’s Works. In the Poems, Smith finds the argument for a later date “preferable until better evidence to the contrary is produced” (152). He acknowledges the possibility that Marvell may have revised the poem in the Restoration, having first composed it during the Interregnum. In his recently published biography of Marvell, Smith (Chameleon 219) follows Nicholas von Maltzahn in the Chronology (5, 102) in attributing “The Garden” to the period of Marvell’s retirement at Lord Wharton’s estate at Wooburn in Buckinghamshire in 1672, thus enabling the poem to be read against the backdrop of the collapse of the Clarendon administration.
The literary garden spaces Marvell refers to include “the Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise, and that garden to which Stoic and Epicurean, as well as Platonist, retire for solace and meditation. The first two are in many respects one and the same; the third is the garden of Montaigne, of Lipsius and Cowley” (Kermode 230). Kermode notes that both Fairfax (Reed 263-70) and Katherine Philips (170-83) translated Saint Amant’s “La Solitude,” a poem which has been prominent in debate on “The Garden” (231). He develops Bradbrook’s and Lloyd-Thomas’s earlier discussions in relation to Marvell’s poem on the influence of the libertin poets and their English translators, and of Ovidian metamorphoses in Golden Age gardens, glades and forests which is such a feature of libertin and royalist poetry. Leishman sees the glow and color which radiates from the Golden Age space of Theocritus’s Idylls VII. 143-46 as being central to Marvell’s “The Garden” (295-96). However, he contests Kermode’s reliance on the libertins’ Golden Age and Ovidian spaces on the basis that they lack the dialectical purpose which characterizes Marvell’s poem. In Leishman’s view “The Garden”:
may indeed be incidentally regarded, and may well have been incidentally intended as a reply to these various neo-classical celebrations of the Golden Age as the Age of Free Love and of Gardens and other loci amoeni as places “apt for love.” It should, however, be regarded primarily as a continuation … of that very ancient philosophic and theological debate on the respective benefits of society and solitude, the active and contemplative life (303).
Recent criticism has tended to follow Leishman, despite his apparent faux pas in recognizing the links with Philips and Cowley but maintaining the earlier dating. Nevertheless, the references to Philips’s translation of Saint Amant’s “La Solitude,” and other references shared with Cowley, have continued to attract attention. It is worth noting here that more recent assessments of royalist literature of the war years and Interregnum (e.g. Corns, Loxley, McDowell, Clarke) have emphasized royalists’ politicization of the discourse of retirement in its many manifestations. The cavalier poet Richard Lovelace, whose work is known to have influenced Marvell, was skilled at juxtaposing the varied politically inflected representations of gardens for dialectical effect, for example chaste against Golden Age in “To Amarantha” or the sites of activist or passive retirement in “The Grasse-hopper” (Lucasta 6-7, 34-36; Clarke, Chs 4, 7). Looked at from this perspective, the various royalist representations of gardens and groves of retirement assume a dialectical edge.
There is a level of critical acceptance that, after his return from the Continent in 1647, Marvell associated with the literary community that formed in London around the poet and translator Thomas Stanley between 1646 and early 1649 (McDowell Ch. 1, Smith Chameleon, 65). The community included, among others, Lovelace, Edward Sherburne, Marvell’s acquaintance the polemicist John Hall of Durham and the playwright and poet James Shirley. Various members published between 1646 and 1652. Its project was royalist, although Hall had already declared his republican sympathies by 1648 and Marvell was to align himself with Parliament shortly afterwards. Nicholas McDowell, who has recently examined the group and its activities, argues convincingly that members shared not only their literary interests, but also a culture of collaboration and competition in which Marvell participated (35, 48, 129). As McDowell points out (4-5), and contrary to Pritchard’s view, the assumption must be that members of the group – including Marvell – exchanged manuscripts that have not survived. The temptation is to see membership of Stanley’s group and the one which formed around Katherine Philips as being mutually exclusive — as, indeed, both principals may have wanted them to be regarded. However, as Peter Thomas noted in his biography of John Berkenhead, whose relationship with Stanley’s group and as Philips’s “Cratander” is well known, no such gap existed. The “Cavaliers were a comparatively small group of people, united by political and cultural and, very often, family ties who naturally sought out each other’s company during the Interregnum” (142-43). Philips’s earlier work is currently being reassessed as a contribution to public life of the Interregnum and as a writer of public-political commendation, linked with male royalist writers, rather than specifically in gendered terms (Gray).
The key allusion Pritchard traces to Philips and Cowley is the trees Marvell’s speaker wounds when he memorializes their names (rather than a lover’s) in their bark. Stanley and Sherburne were translating classical works which formed the basis of the broader discourse of retirement, including the Stoic philosophers and Seneca, during the relevant years. They were also working on the French libertin poets, Marc Antoine Girard, Sieur de Saint Amant, Tristan L’Hermite and Theophile de Viau. In Marvell’s “Garden” (ll. 23-24), the speaker proclaims “Fair trees! Wheres’e’er your barks I wound, / No name shall but your own be found.” Philips uses the trope twice. In “Upon the Graving of Her Name upon a Tree in Barnelmes Walks,” a short, tongue-in-cheek poem, Philips decries the habit of engraving lovers’ names in trees. The tree:
Deserves not to be wounded thus;
See how the Yielding Bark complies
With our ungrateful injuries. (137, ll. 4-6)
Philips was probably visiting Cowley on this occasion. She translates the lines from Saint Amant’s “La Solitude”: “Nor Elders, Reeds, nor Willows want, / Which the sharp Steel did never harm” (173, ll. 52-53). Both “La Solitude” and the “Barnelmes” poem were almost certainly drafted after the Restoration (Beal II 2 152-54, 177-78). Fairfax’s translation of these lines in “La Solitude,” probably drafted early in his retirement while Marvell was with him, is: “With Sallow, Elme, & Popler tree / Wch Iron yett hath given noe wound” (Reed 365, ll. 53-54). As an aside, in their first stanzas, both Philips and Fairfax retain the reference to “green.” The similarities between Philips’s and Fairfax’s translations of “La Solitude” are such that they do not influence the case for an earlier or later dating of Marvell’s poem. The “Barnelmes” reference is not so close to Marvell as to clinch the argument.
The bark trope was used by Stanley and Sherburne in translations published in 1651. In Stanley’s translation of Tristan l’Hermite’s “Acanthus’ Complaint” the hopeless, hapless lover has engraved Sylvia’s name on a thousand trees, which, like Daphne and Syrinx in “The Garden,” have their origins in Ovidian stories of metamorphosis:
Their stories too I can disclose;
How Juno’s Milk the Lilly died,
And Cytherea’s Blood the Rose; . . .
Thousands of trees thou shalt see there,
With grateful Earths ripe presents fraught,
And on the ruggid coats they wear,
Have I thy Name and Motto wrought:
The luscious Plum, the purple Berry,
Guilt Apricock and juicy Cherry. (178, ll. 80-90)
In Sherburne’s translation of Theophile’s “Metamorphosis of Lyrian and Sylvia,” the hapless lover/poet also carves his love’s name on the trunk of a tree:
Silence should first in death have quench’d his flame,
E’r he’ld have rudely voic’d it unto fame.
Nor had it yet to any (had not Stone
And stocks discover’d it) been ever known,
Which, (for on them he us’d his Plaints t’incise)
By chance presented it to Sylvia’s eyes. (20, ll. 29-33)
In answer, Apollo and Pan turn Sylvia into an elm. As Marvell manipulates the trope in “The Garden,” where his speaker will only wound the trees with their own names, Theophile and Sherburne twist it in “Lyrian and Sylvia”: the gods turn Lyrian into ivy, which twines around Sylvia’s elm in an eternal, slippery embrace. Sherburne, like Marvell in “The Garden”, invokes the stories Daphne and Syrinx turned into trees by Apollo and Pan (ll. 163-66). The presence in Stanley’s and Sherburne’s translations of variations on a cluster of the tropes Marvell puts into play in “The Garden”: the “white nor red”; the list of luscious fruits, the incised bark of the “Fair Trees,” and the Ovidian allusions more generally, is striking.
There is evidence that Lovelace was engaging with the work of the libertin poets at the same time as Stanley and Sherburne were undertaking their translations. “Aramantha. A Pastorall” (145-164), published in 1649, refashions the same Ovidian topos and many of the same tropes. Notably, Lovelace plays with a variation on the bark theme in an Ovidian context. Aramantha clothes herself as Daphne, imbarked. Her “angry Gray” robe is nevertheless beautiful because it is from nature. It fits her so “close and free, / As the just bark unto the Tree” (ll. 13-14). Just before she metamorphoses into Lucasta, Alexis says that if she were but to “Imbark thee in the Lawrell tree” (274), Apollo would chase her, not Daphne. The couple chooses to find relief from the tribulations of civil war in retirement in each other’s arms. They transcend their Golden Age paradise where, in a play on Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” and Carew’s “To My Mistresse in Absence,” Virgins meet their lovers:
Or souls their bodies in yon’ sphere,
Or Angels men return’d from Hell,
And separated mindes can tell. (382-84)
In “The Garden” (stanzas 6-7), Marvell’s speaker’s mind “Withdraws into its happiness.” His soul is in paradise because it is solitary, rather than entwined and thus sullied by the presence of a mate. Marvell’s lines have more depth than Lovelace’s. Nevertheless, the confluence of ideas is notable.
Pritchard identifies Philips’s use of the rude/solitude rhyme in her “A Country-life” as a likely source for Marvell, noting that it was first published in 1667 (375). In Marvell’s “The Garden”:
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude. (ll. 15-16)
In “A Country-life,” a poem which embraces the common tropes of mid-seventeenth century retirement poems, Philips writes:
Then welcome dearest Solitude,
My great Felicity;
Though some are pleas’d to call thee rude,
Thou art not so, but we. (89 ll. 29-32)
Pritchard may not have been aware that Philips’s “A Country-life” was already in manuscript circulation early in the Interregnum. Beal (II, 2, 143) notes a copy in Cardiff Central Library, MS 2. 1073, ff. 9-10v dated c. 1651. Another copy in the so called “Rosania” manuscript, c. 1664, National Library of Wales, NLW. MS 776B, pp. 267-70, dates the poem “1650.” It is possible that Marvell saw Philips’s poem in manuscript. It is also possible that Philips and/or Marvell were both echoing William Habington’s use of the same rhyme in his poem “Vias tuas Domine demonstra mihi,” which was published pre-war in Castara and is not noted in Smith:
My God if thou shalt not exclude
Thy comfort thence:
What place can seeme to troubled sense
So melancholy darke and rude,
To be esteem’d a solitude. (216 ll. 41-45
The title of Habington’s poem (Show me thy ways, O Lord) is taken from Psalms 25. 4. In it, Habington’s speaker wonders at how he has left the way of the Lord, although his “sad soule” has warned him against straying. It is hard to imagine that Habington was writing biographically — he was known for his adherence to the Henrietta Maria’s particular cult of neo-Platonism, with its focus on monogamy within marriage. His poetry was targeted for ridicule by Davenant and Carew in the pre-war years, and later by Lovelace (Delany; Clarke 114, 161).
Over the years, others have identified many echoes of the retirement verse of the royalist poets in Marvell’s “Garden,” including Benlowes, Casimire Sarbiewski and Mildmay Fane, Earl of Westmorland, most of which are noted by Smith in the Poems. McDowell has pointed to Shirley’s poem “The Garden,” “‘in which no woman will find me out’ as a neglected model for Marvell’s lyric” (190). Identifying Shirley, Fane and Casimire as possible sources for the poem reveals the complex web of royalist literary connections with interests in the discourse of retirement surrounding Marvell before he went to Nunappleton. Shirley worked as a hack on John Ogilby’s translations of Virgil. G. Hils, who translated Sarbiewski’s Odes, claimed Shirley’s friendship in his commendatory verse on Shirley’ s poems, and was probably known to the others. The textual links between the poems of Marvell, Lovelace, Casimire and Fane indicate that Fane shared the group’s interest in the literature of retirement and was at least aware of their work. Fane was Herrick’s patron (another royalist poet associated with Stanley’s group) and was married to Fairfax’s sister-in-law. Fane was living in retirement on his country estates during these years, having been one of the first peers to compound. He published Otia Sacra in 1648 as part of the royalist propaganda effort that preceded the Second Civil War. This propaganda effort also saw Lovelace’s Lucasta licensed and Herrick’s Poems published. Stanley’s and Lovelace’s uncle, George Sandys’s, translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1632) was the lavish standard edition of its day. Sandys also published a Paraphrase of the Song of Solomon. Casimire’s interest in the Song of Solomon is signaled in Hils’s translation of the Odes. Many of the translations from the works of Horace collected by Alexander Brome, another associate of Stanley’s group, and published in 1666 are known to have been made during the Interregnum, if not earlier.
Pritchard’s strongest argument for a post-Restoration dating of the poem is that linking Marvell’s “Garden” more generally with the Cowley folio Works and, in particular, with Several Discourses by Way of Essays. Cowley wrote the essays while he was in retirement at Barn Elms, towards the end of his life (Works, sig. d1v). Pritchard identifies the Essays as providing “probably the most comprehensive treatment of the characteristic themes of rural retreat that had ever appeared in English. They included, as well as prose essays in the manner of Montaigne, Cowley’s versions of great key classical poems on country life by Virgil, Horace, Martial, and others, and a related series of poems” (372). There is an inherent problem in relying on Cowley’s Essays to date “The Garden”. Their subject matter is the same body of writing on retirement, in particular the works of Virgil, Horace and Martial, which Cowley translates, but also Montaigne, which are a presence in Marvell’s poem and which are so well represented in the verse and translations by members of Stanley’s group and their associates. Cowley has the grace to acknowledge the familiarity of his source material in the context of an aphorism attributed to Scipio by Cicero, “Nunquam minus solus, quam cum solus” (never less alone than when alone), which, he writes, has “now become a very vulgar saying. Every man and boy these seventeen hundred years, has had it in his mouth” (Works, Essays 91).
Two further arguments have been mounted more recently supporting Pritchard’s later dating of Marvell’s “Garden.” Andrew Shifflett, in Stoicism, Politics and Literature in the Age of Milton, draws on the work of the Flemish philosopher Justus Lipsius to present an activist construction of the topos of retirement. For Lipsius, the ideal Stoic individual in the political world is “the citizen who acts according to reason, is answerable to himself, controls his emotions and is ready to fight” (Shifflett 16, quoting Oestreich 30). Shifflett establishes the influence of the work of the Justus Lipsius on Marvell, Cowley and Philips. He excludes the possibility that royalist poems of the war years and Interregnum may have incorporated an activist, Lipsian construction of retirement. In accepting the alignment of “The Garden” with Cowley’s and Philips’s work, Shifflett rather glosses over the allusive and metaphorical presence of Lipsius’s On Constancy, first published in 1584 and translated into English by Sir John Stradling in 1595, in Marvell’s earlier “Appleton House” and “Bilbrough” poems. I make the detailed case for a strong Lipsian presence in a number of Lovelace’s poems elsewhere, particularly in his iconic poem of retirement “The Grasse-hopper” (Clarke Chs 4, 5, 7). Lipsian ideas are also evident in the poetry of Mildmay Fane, including in his “To Retiredness,” which is often quoted as a probable source of allusions in Marvell’s “Garden” (Smith Poems 153; Clarke 273-74, 316-17). If my arguments are accepted, Shifflett’s reasons for supporting a later dating of Marvell’s poem need reassessment.
Secondly, as noted earlier, von Maltzahn in the Chronology (5, 102) accepts the argument for a later dating of “The Garden”, referring in particular to the reference in the Latin version of the poem, “Hortus” translated by Smith (Poems 162) as “Jupiter, neglecting his wife, is dying about an aged oak.” Von Maltzahn sees this as a reference to the aging Charles II. Both Charles I and Charles II were often characterised as oaks throughout their reigns. Von Maltzahn’s argument is attractive. Taken at face value (admittedly dangerous), and without entering into the argument over whether Marvell drafted “Hortus” or “The Garden” first, the allusion could also be interpreted as a development of the Ovidian themes of the poem. Ovid certainly dominates the lines immediately preceding and following the reference, in the form of gods who have known so many nymphs in the course of the Metamorphoses and, inevitably, Daphne and Syrinx. The reference to Jupiter dying beside an old oak, neglecting his wife, could as well apply to Charles I following the royalist defeat in 1648 as to Charles II. This would fit with Lovelace’s treatment of the Charles I as the “Royal Oak” in “Aramantha,” probably written in 1648. On the other hand, it is hard to see why Henrietta Maria as Juno in the next line would be grieving for “another rival,” unless the Crown and Britain are seen as the rivals that keep her in France, apart from her husband.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg, Marvell’s “The Garden” or Philips and Cowley’s later works? Or were all three relying on the body of retirement writing of the early Caroline years and the Interregnum? In my view, the evidence outlined here supporting a pre-Restoration dating for Marvell’s “The Garden” is strong. Pritchard’s arguments in relation to the references in poems by Philips and Cowley do not take sufficient account of the dominance of the literature of retirement of the Civil War years and the Interregnum. This may be due to the lack of interest in royalist writing at the time he wrote. Perhaps Marvell drafted the poem in retirement with Fairfax at Nunappleton as a compliment to his patron, returning to it in retirement at Wooburn, when Cowley’s Essays, written while Cowley in turn was in retirement, could have been relatively fresh in his mind. Unless new evidence is uncovered, we may never know.
[Note: This article is a revised version of a paper presented at a meeting of the Andrew Marvell Society at the South-Central Renaissance Conference, Corpus Christi, TX, March 18-20, 2010. I would like to thank my audience and co-presenters for their suggestions.]
Susan A. Clarke (Australian National University)
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