A Marvell is a marvell. I spent several years of my life on this book, and of course his delightful prose satires mostly of clerics, such as his Rehearsal Transpros'd, and I have never regretted a minute of it. The book I wrote on him, This Critical Age: Deliberate Departures from Literary Conventions
in Seventeenth Century English Poetry, was published by the U MI doctorate mill. It's in one German library, at the University where Pope Benedict XVI once taught and administered. I cannot claim he ordered it, but...
Directing my thesis was the delightful Leonard Unger (U MN), who with his friend Saul Bellow once composed, over lunch, a translation of the first four lines of Eliot's Wasteland--into Yiddish. Leonard had an expansive mind, and broadened my studies of Marvell into comparative European literature-- since Marvell tutored languages to Lord General Fairfax's daughter. They lived near Hull at Appleton House, after Fairfax retired as head of Cromwell's army at age 33, because of his refusal to participate in the trial of Charles I; when Fairfax's name was read in Westminster Hall, a voice called out, "He has too much sense to be here." This caused a mini-riot; it was his wife's voice, Anne Vere's. The following day, someone tried the same thing, and was branded.
In his "Garden," Marvell writes perhaps the best lines in all lit on the human mind, especially in the midst of nature, "The Mind, that Ocean where each kind/ Does streight its own resemblance find,/ Yet it creates, transcending these,/ Far other Worlds, and other Seas,/ Annihilating all that's made/ To a green Thought, in a green Sade." His environmentalist lines in the same poem criticize Fond lovers' carving names in trees. "Fair trees! where s'eer your barkes I wound/ No names shall but your own be found." He puts this into practice in his Latin version of the same poem, "Hortus." He says he will carve "nullla Naera, or Chloe, but Plane tree and Elm, Plantanus ...Ulmus.
Marvell had a marvelous ear, so that even in his funny prose satirizing the bishops (whom, like Milton, he generally opposed) he writes with amusing alliteration, on Archbishop Parker's sexual peccadilloes, "The sympathy of silk brought tippet to petticoat, and petticoat to tippet."
My study emphasizes that all of Marvell's poems are criticism of other poems, in verse. Many of them critique the pastoral convention then so prevalent, like "Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers," and "The Garden." His most famous poem, "To his Coy Mistress," unprecedented and unreiterated in his canon, critiques Carpe Diem poems, including many sonnets. (Shakespeare's "My Mistress' Eyes" also critiques sonnet conventions, as do a a few of Sidney's sonnets.) In fact, English poets until Dryden usually included criticism of other poems--Donne, Jonson, Herbert, Herrick, Carew, Suckling, Cleveland. After Dryden, criticism became a prose landscape. Too bad. With this loss, poetry became famously non-analytical. But why? Many Renaissance poems discourse on natural philosophy, what we call "science." Cowley in English, Giordano Bruno in Latin. (My last two books are on G Bruno.)