The Mind of Andrew Marvell


Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678) an English metaphysical poet, satirist and politician, sat in the House of Commons between 1659 and 1678 and, during the Commonwealth period, was a colleague and friend of John Milton. Famous for poems such as the love-song "To His Coy Mistress", or "Upon Appleton House" and "The Garden", he also penned the political address "An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland", and later satires "Flecknoe" and "The Character of Holland".

Marvell, the son of a Church of England clergyman, was born in Winestead-in-Holderness, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, near the city of Kingston upon Hull, His father was appointed Lecturer at Holy Trinity Church in Hull, and Marvell was educated at Hull Grammar School. At the age of 13, Marvell attended Trinity College, Cambridge.

From the middle of 1642 onwards, Marvell probably travelled in continental Europe. During the English Civil War, Marvell seems to have remained on the continent, where he mastered four languages, including French, Italian and Spanish.

Marvell's first poems were written in Latin and Greek and published when he was still at Cambridge. They lamented a visitation of the plague and celebrated the birth of a child to King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. However, his "Horatian Ode", a political poem dated to early 1650, praises Oliver Cromwell's return from Ireland.

Circa 1650–52, Marvell lived at Nun Appleton Hall, near York, where he continued to write poetry. One poem, "Upon Appleton House, To My Lord Fairfax", explores Fairfax's and Marvell's own situation in a time of war and political change.

Here is a brief selection from his poetry:

“Had we but world enough and time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

We would sit down, and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side