Friday, August 13, 2010

Louis L. Martz, The Wit of Love

Louis L. Martz, The Wit of Love, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1969.

Donne, including his well-known admiration for the art of painting, which led to fill his house in London with pictures. The last point we know from the touching way in which he distributes various paintings to his friends in his will. /
‘To Doctor King my executor I give that medal of gold of the synod of Dort which the estates presented me withal at the Hague as also the two pictures of Padre Paolo and Fulgentio which hang in the parlour at my house at Paul’s and to Doctor Montford my other executor I give forty ounces of white plate and the two pictures that hang on the same side of the parlour. (19)

Donne in the costume and the manner of a melancholy lover, with a large dark hat, a fine lace collar, carelessly thrown open at the neck, thin tapering fingers, and in the background the motto “Illumina tenebr[as] nostras Domina” (“English our darkness, Lady”). This is a witty adaptation of a prayer from the service of the Compline in the Sarum Breviarium: “Illumina quesumus domine dues tenebras nostras”—words that have passed into the Book of Common Prayer for the service of Evenson: “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.” [For evidence that the wide-brimmed hat and folded arms are signs of the melancholy lover see Bryson and Gardner, See John Bryson, “The Lost Portrait of Donne,” Times (London), 13 Oct. 1959, pp. 13, 15. Also, Helen Gardner, “The Marshall Engraving and the Lothian Portrait,” in her edition of Donne’s Elegies and Songs and Sonnets (Oxford Clarendon Press, 1965), Appendix E.] (23)

In the cold spring of 1639, Thomas Carew, the favorite poet of the Court of Charles I, joined his King’s army in an ill-conceived and ill-prepared expedition against the Scots. It was the same expeditions for which Carew’s friend and fellow poet, Sir John Suckling, had beggared himself in order to provide a beautifully clothed and plumed troop of cavalry-men—but whether they could fight was another matter. (61)

Thomas Carew did not live to see the death of this “brave Prince of Cavaliers,” as Robert Herrick called him, for Carew died in March, 1640—a symbolic date, for that was the very spring when Charles was forced to reconvene Parliament after his eleven years of personal rule. (62)

Thus the poem is framed by memories of the war, as though the threat of destruction had led Carew to appreciate the values of this ancient, traditional way of noble country life—a way of life celebrated long before by Carew’s poetical master and father, Ben Jonson, in his similar poem “Penshurst,” and by Jonson’s own masters, Vergil, Horace, and Martial. /
And indeed had such a way of life really been honored and followed by King Charles and his Court, the monarchy would never have come to its disaster. But by the year 1640 Charles and his Court had lost touch with the common people, unlike the Lord and Lady in their crowded hall at Wrest. Charles and his Court lived more and more a life apart, charmed by art and music, led by a King of impeccable artistic taste, (64-65)

That end may be seen as symbolized in two more events of this climactic year: by the publication, in May or June, 1640, a few months after Thomas Carew’s death, of his volume of collected poems, containing a world of Cavalier ideals; (67)

One assumes that Thomas Carew must have been present at this gorgeous spectacle, for he loved these masques and had himself composed the libretto for a very expensive and elaborate show entitled Coelum Britannicum, presented at Court in 1634. (72)

This little Vault, this narrow roome,
Of Love, and Beautie is the tombe;
The dawning became that ‘gan to cleare
Our clouded skie, lyes darkened here,
For ever set to us, by death
Sent to enflame the world beneath; …
It seems appropriate to call this poem a work of Mannerist art, if we do not use the term Mannerist in a derogatory sense. I will use it as many art historians do, when they seek to describe certain aspects of late Renaissance culture, during the last seventy years or so of the sixteenth century, the period after the death of the two great masters, Raphael and Leonardo. But we must define closely the term Mannerist, as John Shearman has tried to do in his recent book on this subject. As he and many others have pointed out, “Mannerism” is derived from the Italian word maniera, meaning simply, style. A Mannerist painter is a painter with high style, with so strong an emphasis on style that it stands out as the figure of Venus stands out in Bronzino’s painting among the threatening gestures of the other figures in the scene. A Mannerist painter has learned all that can be learned from the earlier great masters and he now proceeds to turn their art and craft toward other ends, creating a different kind of art in which the high style stands at the front, taking the eye with its elegance and its sophistication. Such art can, of course, be mere imitation in the bad sense of that word, but it may also be creative imitation—that is, imitation of the manner of the great masters which moves into a different era of sensibility and creates a new world of art. Now transferring cautiously this term into the poetic realm, perhaps we might say that Carew is a Mannerist because he imitates so skillfully the works of the great masters who preceded him and yet brings their art into a different dimension, celebrating values different from those presented by Donne and Jonson and other poets to whom Carew is obviously indebted. The short epitaph that I have just read inherits the Jonsonian form as displayed in many of Jonson’s own epigrams and epitaphs, but carries beyond Jonson its elegance and perfection of form, its delicacy of sympathetic admiration for dead Beauty. (94)

Carew…praises Donne for refusing to imitate ancient authors and for using the English language in a remarkably original fashion that enabled Donne to excel poets who were born to speak languages more musical than English—languages such as Latin or Italian, “whose tun’d chim/More charmes the outward sense.” /
…Yet thou maist claime
From so great disadvantage greater fame,
Since to the awe of thy imperious wit
Our stubborne language bends, made only fit
With her tough-thick-rib’d hoopes to gird about
Thy Giant phansie, which had prov’d too stout
For their soft melting Phrases. (98)

Donne’s imperious intellect, his indomitable reason, bends our stubborn language into forms unprecedented in earlier ages, creating those extraordinary stanza forms that Donne used for one poem and one poem only. We should note here that Carew is praising Donne in a way that seems to castigate himself, for Carew well knows that he himself is a writer of “soft melting Phrases” and that he himself has brought back into poetry the kind of mythological imagery which he praises Donne for having banished from English verse: (99)

What we see then in these three poems to three early masters, Jonson, Donne, and Sandys, is Carew’s critical ability to enter into the very world created by other poets, to absorb them, understand them, and recreate them in his own mind—surely the basic quality that one expects in any good critic. (101)

In these love songs Carew is working in the great European tradition of the courtly love-lyric, inspired by all the Italian love-poets from Petrarch down to Carew’s contemporary Marino, and also inspired by many French poets of the sixteenth century. (102)

Thus it seems appropriate that the editor of Carew’s volume of 1640 should have chosen as the first poem “The Spring” (and we might remember and contrast it with Donne’s “Spring” poem “Loves Growth”). Here in Carew’s poem is none of Donne’s passionate reasoning, none of Donne’s philosophical argumentation and racy wit. Carew’s poem is composed in courtly cadences with a perfection of Mannerist elegance, in couplets marked with strong caesurae; indeed the whole poem is poised upon a major caesura in the center, for it is a poem of twenty-four lines which pauses and gracefully turns in another direction exactly in the middle of its thirteenth line. In its Cavalier elegance, its Mannerist styling, with all its subtle harmonies of sound, it draws together themes celebrated in dozen s of French, Italian, and English poems of the earlier Renaissance, pastoral, and Petrarchan. But here is the poem in all its perfection: [105] …it is a graceful creation in which a few touches of natural vigor suffice to prevent the Mannerist perfection from falling into frigidity. / Finally, we may find all these forces, love-songs of the European Renaissance, the craftsmanship of Jonson, and something even perhaps of the metaphysical note of Donne, in Carew’s most famous poem, properly entitled simply “A Song”: (107)

In miniature, Carew displays a perfection of form and manner that Donne and Jonson themselves never quite achieved with their more robust and wide-ranging powers; thus Carew’s whole volume of 1640 may be said to represent the ideals of the Cavalier world in a series of poetical miniatures, graceful, elegant, perfectly crafted, perfectly absorbing the lessons of the earlier masters. It is a world of art-forms, too fragile to sustain the violent pressures of the times. But in the paintings of Van Dyck, in the drawings of Inigo Jones, and in the poetry of Carew and his friends, those forms of art survive the ashes of political disaster. (110)

I have suggested that Thomas Carew is an English Mannerist, a poet who brought to perfection a special emphasis on style, on the manner, the maniera, introduced by earlier masters, especially Donne and Jonson. And I suspect, picking up the suggestion of Roy Daniells, that if John Milton had died in 1650 at the age of 42, with nothing written but those earlier poems published in one volume in 1645, Milton too might have been thought of as a fine Mannerist writer, experimenting in various styles: sonnets, the Court Masque, the Spenserian style (as in his Nativity Ode), the Jonsonian style (as in L’Allegro and Il Penseroso), a poet who was only beginning to show his greatness in one poem of that highly experimental volume: Lycidas, his first great venture in the Baroque idiom, and the poem in which he comes closest to Crashaw. (114)

Thus the Baroque Baldacchino of Bernini must be considered within its total setting as a symbol of human aspiration, spiraling upward toward the domed and vaulted harmonies of a perfect mathematical form. Thus the Renaissance ideal of harmony controls and holds in place the violent aspirations of the Baroque spirit. (116)

Secondly, consider the painted ceiling of the Jesuit Church in Rome, Il Gesu: again a basically Renaissance interior, with strict geometrical arches and a dome. But on the ceiling of the nave is a painting of the late seventeenth century which bursts out of, literally breaks through, the frame, the panel, of its Renaissance form and flows and radiates upward as though the very ceiling were opening into the heavens to reveal far off the radiant Name of Jesus. Here again, the strict Renaissance form controls and makes possible this effect of flowing Baroque aspiration. (116)

Its repeated theme of the heads and wings of cherubs, large and small, its intertwining theme of grape clusters and grape leaves, all circling richly about the center and then soaring upward in a graceful flame toward the curve of the Romanesque or Renaissance setting—all this demonstrates as well as Bernini’s Baldocchino the way in which Baroque aspires toward and lives at its best within a geometrical harmony. But more important is the subtle firmness of the internal action: the bracing rays in the background that move out with geometrical precision form the center of that inner circle, lending a simple strength to the fragile, intricate details. (120)

Thus Bernini’s fountains live within the strict confinement of the Piazza Navona, and Juvarra’s tall Church of the Superga crowns the top of its symmetrical hill outside of Turin. (122)

Finally, inevitably, we must consider the famous sculpture of Bernini, representing the scene recorded in St. Teresa’s autobiography (I quote form the translation known to Crashaw and published in 1642 under the title The Flaming Hart): /
I saw an Angell very neer me, towards my left side, and he appeared to me, in a Corporeall forme… He was not great; but rather little; yet withal, he was of very much beautie. His face was so inflamed, that he appeared to be of those most Superiour Angells, who seem to be, all in a fire; and he well might be of them, whome we call Seraphins; but as for me, they never tell me their names, or rankes… I saw, that he had a long Dart of gold in his hand; and at the end of the iron below, me thought, there was a ltitle fire; and I conceaved, that he thrust it, some severall times, through my verie Hart, after such a manner, as that it passed the verie inwards, of my Bowells; and when he drew it back, me thought, it carried away, as much, as it had touched within me; and left all that, which remained, wholly inflamed with a great love of Almightie God. [The Flaming Hart or the Life of the Glorious S. Teresa (Antwerp, 1642), pp. 419-20; the translation is attributed to Sir Toby Matthew.] (122)

All this, then, by way of approach to the problem of reading Crashaw. I believe that many of the difficulties that face us in dealing with his extravagant use of Baroque techniques will disappear if we seek out and grasp the means by which these Baroque aspirations are brought into focus and under control. [i.e. a theme…] (124)

Let me begin with an example which has often been regarded as one of Crashaw’s less successful poems: his poem entitled “The flaming Heart. Upon the booke and picture of Teresa. As she is usually expressed with a Seraphim beside her.” I have thought for many years that the key to this poem might well lie in discovering some particular painting of St. Teresa by Crashaw’s contemporary, the Antwerp artist Gerhard Seghers (see Frotispiece). This painting, now in the Museum of Fine Arts at Antwerp, was in Crashaw’s day displayed in the Church of the Discalced Carmelites in Antwerp, where Crashaw could have seen it in the 1640’s when we know that he was living in the Low Countries. There is another copy of the painting in the English Convent at Bruges, there attributed to Velasquez, and apparently deriving from the seventeenth century. The existence of this painting in two copies suggests that there may have been more copies and that perhaps this is why Crashaw thinks of the painting as representing the way in which “she is usually expressed,” that is, portrayed or presented. … And it is true that the figure of Teresa in this painting has none of the ecstatic intensity of Bernini’s great statue; she is a stiff and frosty figure, and the phrase “pace-fac’t purple” very well describes the coloration of her face. At the same time the poet’s reference to “that bright booke” seems to point to something in the painting itself, and indeed in the lower right-hand corner there is a bright book illuminated, as the shadow form the Cross indicates, by light that comes from the direction of the Saint’s face. … However this may be, the description of the Seraph fits exactly the quality and coloration that we see in the painting before us. (125-7)

As the poet continues, line after line, to repeat this paradox in various guises, we have an elaborate example of the difference between a Baroque conceit and a metaphysical conceit. The metaphysical conceit is based upon the philosophical doctrine of correspondences and it gives at its best the effect of truly exploring the nature of some metaphysical problem. But the Baroque conceit does not explore: it rather views the same paradox or symbol from various angles, reviewing and revising and restating and expanding the issue until some truth of emotion gradually grows out from all that glittering elaboration. Picking up the phrase fire-works from the above passage, one might say that the Baroque conceit develops like one of those seemingly unending sky-rockets which shoots out sparks of fire in a great shower, and then each spark blooms into a dozen further showers, and then all these bloom into further showers one after another after another until finally the whole display reaches its climax and the sparks fade away in the night sky. (128)

But one never knows when a Baroque work is likely to be finished. Crashaw looks again at the painting and decides to take it as it is and start a new movement of thought, a movement typographically indicated in the first (1648) printing of this poem, by having the following lines set off toward the middle of the page: … It is a characteristic technique of Baroque repetition, using the same images and phrases to begin a new approach to the central paradox of this painting. Thus he ends the second movement of the poem with lines that once again swell out from the tetrameter into long pentameter lines and conclude thus in the 1648 edition: /
O Heart! the equall Poise, of Love’s both Parts, … (129)

It is a natural conclusion, returning to the book from which the poem has drawn much of its inspiration, The Flaming Hart, that is, the autobiography of Saint Teresa. And yet the poem is not over, for when Crashaw’s poems were republished after his death, in 1652, we find a passage added, the richest fiery shower of Baroque imagery to be found anywhere in Crashaw’s poetry, the famous lines: / O sweet incendiary! Shew here thy art, … (130)

Thus the Baroque method of building, we might say, moves from the concrete to the abstract, moves from the picture before the poet’s eyes to the “draughts of intellectuall day.” The Baroque tries, by multiplication of sensory impressions, to exhaust the sensory and to suggest the presence of the spiritual. It does not analyze the image in Donne’s manner, but rather it piles image upon image upon image, in a way that sometimes defies and destroys the basic principles of poetical architecture. Crashaw’s poem “The Weeper,” for example, lacks the focus of “The flaming Heart” and thus becomes only a necklace of epigrams. “The flaming Heart,” howeve,r with its sharp focus on the book and picture, develops from its rather excessively clever opening, labors for a new start in the middle, and then at the end, in the passage added in 1652, flowers triumphantly into one of the greatest passages of poetry found anywhere in the seventeenth century. As this poem shows, the Baroque work tends to be an unstable and unsteady compound, requiring for its success, in some way, the sustaining or enclosing presence of an underlying control. Crashaw’s “The flaming Heart” is, I think, a barely successful work, but with the painting before our eyes it has the necessary focus and control. /
One of the ways in which such control may operate to produce a more successful poem we may find in Crashaw’s (presumably) earlier poem on Saint Teresa, first published in his volume of 1646. We find that control established in the first two lines of the poem, with their firm statement of the theme: /
Love thou art absolute sole Lord
Of life, and death, —
We can tell from the firmness of this opening that a mature, controlling, reasonable intelligence will be at work, dealing with the meaning of the Saint’s life, as the narrator recalls it and recounts it for us. [131-2]… But in all these ecstatic visions and fiery, frequently extravagant images, the control of the reasonable speaker runs throughout, as, in the midst of this vision of heaven, we hear the simple language and the terse Jonsonian couplet constantly affirming the presence of the rational mind [134] … So in this poem the rational presence of the speaker, with his tone of familiar conversation, controls the Baroque extravaganza and makes one of Crashaw’s perfect poems. (135)

One should add, however, that these perfect poems are rather rare in the body of Crashaw’s work, partly because of the very nature of the Baroque, which depends upon the daring cast of imagination for its most powerful effects, and also perhaps because Crashaw himself is living in a world of imagination that does not have its roots in England. The earlier poem on Saint Teresa achieves its success by a subtle blending of the art of Ben Jonson with the mystical fervor of Saint Teresa, but this kind of easy blending is almost unique in Crashaw’s work. There is indeed very little in previous English poetry which could have prepared Crashaw to handle the Baroque mode. Robert Southwell, at the end of the sixteenth century, ahd made a valiant attempt to bring the Italian mode to England, in a rudimentary form. But his example was lost, as the poetical art of the Counter Reformation failed to achieve its aims in England, except as those aims were modified at the hands of Anglican poets such as George Herbert. And Herbert’s modest, moderate wit creates his own version of the forms of the High Renaissance. He is not a Mannerist, he is not Baroque. (136)

…a poem which Crashaw wrote in the form of an irregular Ode—a form not yet established in English literature. It is the poem entitled, “An ode which was prefixed to a Prayer booke given to a young Gentle-woman.” [137] …At this point one may feel that Crashaw, with help of St. Teresa, has transcended the physical successfully. But alas, the poem is not over. Some forty lines remain, in which Crashaw proceeds to produces a Baroque disaster, as the building collapses around a faulty metaphor: /
Of all this store
Of blessings, and ten thousand more; [135]
It is not only that the imagery, so strongly reminiscent of Carew, leads to unfortunate associations; a more serious problem is that Crashaw is making a false effort to convey the struggle for a spiritual love in terms of the sort of rivalry that might occur between two females in their competition for an earthly lover, the sort of rivalry that Cleopatra expresses in Shakespeare’s play when she sees that her handmaiden has died first, and says that she must kill herself quickly lest Iras get there first and steal the kiss from Antony:/
If she first meete the Curled Antony
Hee’l make demanded of her, and spend that kisse
Which is my heaven to have. /
But in Christian love this argument rings false because, although earthly lovers may be so exclusively attached to one woman that they have no time or love for anyone else, the love of God is boundless, and the matter of spending God’s love can hardly arise. It seems a wholly unworthy argument, clever and courtly and flattering, but suggestive in a way that spoils the poem’s central movement, which seems to lie in proving that heavenly joys are superior to earthly joys and not in suggesting that God may not have enough love to go round. (140)

One may wonder what principle of art may have seemed to make it possible and acceptable to pour out such an extravaganza in honor of God. An answer may lie in a statement by Robert Southwell, who lived in Rome during the 1580’s and experienced the beginnings of Baroque art as they poured forth in architecture, painting, music, and poetry. Southwell gives us, in a work published in 1591, a statement of the central principle at work in Crashaw. It occurs in a popular prose treatise that he wrote on that favorite Baroque theme: Marie Magdalens Funeral Teares, where he says: /
Passions I allow, and loves I approve, onely I would wishe that me would alter their object and better their intent. For passions being sequels of our nature, and allotted unto us as the handmaides of reason: there can be no doubt, but that as their author is good, and their end godly: so ther use tempered in the meane, implieth no offence. /
Thus the figure of the Magdalen, who washed Christ’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair and kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment, provides a perfect symbol for the Baroque era. (141)

Thus in some Baroque churches the decoration cloys and basic structure is lost to sight; and without a basic underlying design no work of art can hope to function. In estimating Crashaw’s success, then, we must watch for the line of control. This may sometimes be found in his most extravagant odes, as, for example, in his long ode “On the name of Jesus,” which, as I have shown elsewhere, follows the divisions of an ancient scale of meditation, and thus proceeds by rational articulation of parts… (141)

One of Crashaw’s nearly perfect pieces: the poem “An Hymne of the Nativity, sung as by the Shepheards.” It is a poem that includes the imagery of the Cavalier love song along with the tradition of the pastoral dialogue, so often sung in the courtly airs and madrigals and masques. (142)

The true light no longer comes from the earthly sun; the central image is the light that comes from the eyes of the Son of Mary; … Baroque method of building, not by exploring images, not by analyzing them, but by piling them up one upon another until a unity, a oneness of impression is created. Here that oneness is represented in a stanza that comes near the middle of the poem: /
Proud world (said I) cease your contest,
And let the mighty Babe alone,
The Phaenix builds the Phaenix’ nest.
Love’s Architecture is all one. [144]…
Love’s Architecture is all one because all nature is God’s own and thus all physical nature may be included properly within the poem’s building. [144]
We may do all this because the Incarnation, in Crashaw’s view, has sanctified the physical, and made “all one,” … (145)

…Marvell’s poetry in many ways derives from the Mannerist art that we have seen in Carew and his fellow Cavaliers. … In many ways Marvell and Carew show the same inheritance of the European love-lyric, modified by an infusion of Donne’s argumentative wit, and by Jonson’s art of terse craftsmanship. (154)

That they, while Thou on both their Spoils dost tread,
May crown thy Feet, that could not crown thy Head. /
It is, for the most part, a powerful effort in the devotional mode of Herbert, and yet in the last few lines the gnarled and intricate evolution of thought, with a tortured vagueness in the pronouns, creates an effect quite different from the characteristic serenity of Herbert’s endings. We need to remember such conclusions in Herbert as these: /
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine. … [155]
Far from achieving the goal of humility that Herbert implies in those ending, Marvell ends with an intricate flourish of wit that shows the pride of an indomitable intellect, saying in effect, “I pray all this in order that my poems, while you, God, tread both on Satan and on my poetry, may crown your feet, since they could not succeed in crowning your head.” It is all too clever, and yet the whole ending functions in the poem to show that Marvell’s mannerist pride in his exquisite contrivance, his “curious frame,” is still a part of his being. (156)

It is a perfect spiritual exercise—yes—but may one say that it is almost too perfect, too coolly contrived to create a deep religious feeling? (162)

Thus let your Streams o’reflow your Springs,
Till Eyes and Tears be the same things:
And each the other’s difference bears;
These weeping Eyes, those seeing Tears. /
One may wonder whether this is a religious poem, or whether it is better called a witty Mannerist exercise on a religious theme, mingling cleverly the argued wit of Donne, the Baroque paradoxes of Crashaw, and the neat trim craftsman ship of Jonson. However this may be, the strict rational discipline of the poem seems ill suited to the far-flung nature of the imagery here, with the result that the images have an effect of being coolly contrived, nto growing out of some inevitable problem or passion, as in the better poems of Donne or Crashaw. (165)

Even the famous “To his Coy Mistress” has, in its own way, a quality of detachment about it, for all its apparent urgency. We may feel this quality with particular force if we compare the poem with Robert Herrick’s “Corinna’s Going A-Maying.” In Herrick’s poem human love is repreented as a part of the fruitful process of nature: love blooms and dies as nature dies, and the emphasis falls upon the beauty of the natural process. Herrick’s poem is in tune with nature, but Marvell’s poem is at war with nature; the speaker’s wit seems to resent the shortness of life, which Herrick’s poem sadly accepts. The speaker’s tone toward his reserved and respectable young Lady shifts within each of the poem’s three sections, moving form sly, humourous banter, to sardonic threats, and finally to something like a fierce desperation. … “We cannot make our Sun/Stand still,” like Joshua or like Zeus when he seduced Alcmene and produced Heracles, but we can at least eat up our time with devouring strife. But what kind of pleasure is this? Marvell has consumed all the natural beauty out of the experience of human love. Is he suggesting that perhaps the rosebud-philosophy is self-destructive, corrosive, and ultimately empty? Is this a love poem at all? Is it not rather a poem about man’s fear of Time? (169)

I hope my emphasis on Marvell’s detachment, his concern for style, his coolly crafted art, has not served to suggest that I think Marvell’s poems are themselves rather empty. This is the problem that one often faces in dealing with Mannerists art. Is the manner mere imitation, lacking any depth or real significance, or is the manner a way of guarding the mind’s uncertainty in its quest for ultimate values? Does the elegance of style stand as a mask before some inner tension? Or does it serve as a defense against the revelation of some intimate, impossible ideal? In asking this question I am moving away from the earlier and simple account of Mannerism that I used in discussing the poetry of Carew. I am moving away from John Shearman’s emphasis on style as the prime criterion, and moving on into the deeper and more inclusive account of Mannerism set forth in the splendid study of Arnold Hauser. The greatness of Hauser’s conception of Mannerism lies in the fact that he can include the spiritual, the intellectual, the playful, the poignant, and the elegant all within one compelling account of a great artistic movement, for which, I am convinced, Andrew Marvell has the qualities that Hauser finds at the heart of Mannerism. “A certain piquancy, a predilection for the subtle, the strange, the over-strained, [169] the abstruse and yet stimulating, the pungent, the bold, and the challenging, are characteristic of mannerist art in all its phases,” says Hauser. And he adds, “It is often this piquancy—a playful or compulsive deviation from the normal, an affected, frisky quality, or a tormented grimace—that first betrays the mannerist nature of a work. The virtuosity that is always displayed contributes greatly to this piquancy.” But underneath this playfulness or piquancy Hauser finds a quality that seems to me to lie at the very center of Marvell’s vision: an intellectualized view of existence that makes it possible to maintain all the conflicting elements of life within a flexible yet highly regulated vision [170]… Thus Marvell, in 1650, could write that great “Horatian Ode” in which he carefully weigh the virtue of the King and of Cromwell, seeing the poignancy of one and the power of the other, including both within an intellectual vision that is able to choose, at the end, the side of destiny, without ceasing to regret the necessity of the destruction of ancient institutions. And alongside the paradoxical vision of that Ode, Marvell could then place, perhaps only a few years later, his great poem “The Garden,” in which the joys of intellectual peace are praised as the center of existence. … And while the body enjoys that fortunate fall, the mind, withdrawing from these lesser (physical) pleasures, discovers and creates its own happiness: [171] … Less wholesome hours, no doubt, await the speaker in the outer world, but the mind’s happiness remains within, a sure retreat that underlies the varied explorations conveyed in all his other poems. (173)

As at the end of a long avenue, one catches a distant glimpse of the ideal in the poem that might be regarded as the most obviously Mannerist of all Marvell’s works, the one entitled “The Gallery,” which Jean Magstrum has suggested must be influenced by the famous volume of Marino’s poetry entitled La Galeria, where Marino bases his poetry upon imaginary portraits of his own. Following this mode of action Marvell here presents to us the art gallery of his soul, hung, he says, with various portraits of his Lady: (174)

It opens with the characteristic gesture of all Mannerist art: he urges the viewer to watch closely and to judge whether the work is well “contrived.” (174)

The meaning of this central quest of the mid-century may be suggested in Marvell’s small poem “Bermudas,” where the longing for the earthly Paradise represents a search for peace amidst the cruel controversies of the age, [175] … Puritan refugees from King Charles’s High Church policy, refugees who found peace in the remote Bermudas as others did in Massachusetts: … One should not that, as in Paradise Lost, the meaning of Paradise lies in the human response to nature and not in the beauties of nature itself. The physical imagery of nature’s beauty is meaningless unless man lives in a state of joyful harmony, with gratitude toward the Creator. Or rather one might say that outer nature has no beauty except as man receives it gratefully within the mind. (176-7)

The end of innocence, the destruction of the pastoral garden, and the search for their recovery in the mind—these are Marvell’s deepest themes. His abrasive political satires and his great political poems on Cromwell have all been made possible by the existence of the interior retreat which he describes in the latter half of his long pastoral poem, “Upon Appleton House.” (182)


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