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More vivid than the merely ‘concrete’ – Marvell’s ‘The Mower to the Glo-Worms’

When we talk about sensuousness in poetry we tend, I think, to mean the intensity of the sensory evocativeness of imagery and description. We might be thinking of lines like ‘The luscious clusters of the vine / Upon my mouth do crush their wine’ from Marvell’s ‘The Garden’. There, physical sensations of taste and touch are directly referred to by ‘luscious’ and ‘crush’. The sensuous impressions evoked by the meanings of the words aren’t just a matter of meaning, though. They’re powerfully reinforced by sound, and even more by the physical sensations of forming the sounds in our mouths. ‘Luscious’, … Continue Reading

Marvell, The Picture of Little T C in a Prospect of Flowers

See with what simplicity
This nymph begins her golden days!
In the green grass she loves to lie


It’s impossible to pin down what makes the first three lines of Marvell’s ‘The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers’ such a magical fusion of tenderness, delicacy and radiant energy. It’s something to do with the degree to which different beauties of the writing breathe life into each other.

One such beauty is the sheer lightness and sophisticated simplicity of the poet’s metrical, phonetic and syntactical fingering. Sounds and rhythmic contours melt into or swell out of each other smoothly, … Continue Reading

Andrew Marvell’s The Mower to the Glow-Worms

The Mower to the Glow-Worms

Ye living lamps, by whose dear light
The nightingale does sit so late,
And studying all the summer night,
Her matchless songs does meditate;

Ye country comets, that portend
No war nor prince’s funeral,
Shining unto no higher end
Than to presage the grass’s fall;

Ye glow-worms, whose officious flame
To wand’ring mowers shows the way,
That in the night have lost their aim,
And after foolish fires do stray;

Your courteous lights in vain you waste,
Since Juliana here is come,
For she my mind hath so displac’d
That I shall never find my home.


I’d like to try to explain … Continue Reading