Study Guide

The Garden Quotes

  • Man and the Natural World

    Society is all but rude,
    To this delicious solitude (15-16)

    By calling society rude or uncivilized, Marvell inverts what we normally think of as civilization. It creates a really interesting contrast between just how uncivilized people can be towards each other and how easily and peacefully nature seems to coexist.

    Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
    Cut in these trees their mistress' name.
    Little, alas, they know or heed,
    How far these beauties hers exceed! (19-22)

    What's the deal here? Does the speaker's comparison of the destructiveness of fire to love and romantic relationships mean that he sees all human relationships as being totally worthless? Or do the trees just make for better friends?

    Ripe apples drop about my head;
    The luscious clusters of the vine
    Upon my mouth do crush their wine (34-36)

    It's not explicit, but Marvell is bringing color back into the poem here. We at Shmoop are imagining big, red, juicy apples and dark purple grapes—all rich colors that contribute to the luxuriousness of the picture being painted in the stanza. The awesome thing about poetry, though, is that it lets you imagine things looking anyway you like.

    The nectarine and curious peach,
    Into my hands themselves do reach (37-38)

    Here's a great example of the pastoral imagery at work in Marvell's poem. The bounty of nature is almost forcing itself on the speaker. All he has to do is lie back, relax, and enjoy it.

    Here at the fountain's sliding foot
    Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root
    Casting the body's vest aside,
    My soul into the boughs does glide (49-52)

    Relaxation, it seems, is necessary if the speaker's soul is going to separate itself from the body. This passage communicates that the speaker is relaxed by describing him as propped up by the foot of a fountain or sitting at the base of a tree, but in what ways do the other stanzas communicate the same thing?

    How could such sweet and wholesome hours
    Be reckoned but with herbs and flow'rs! (71-72)

    We think the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz knew what Marvell meant.

  • Isolation

    And their uncessant labors see
    Crowned from some single herb or tree (3-4)

    Just like the speaker, the herbs and trees wither and die when they are removed from nature and brought into society.

    Fair Quiet, have I found thee here,
    And Innocence, thy sister dear!
    Mistaken long, I sought you then
    In busy companies of men ( 9-12)

    The speaker seems to believe that he can only find peace ("Fair Quiet") and innocence if cut off from the sins of society ("In busy companies").

    Society is all but rude
    To this delicious solitude (15-16)

    Interestingly enough, this isn't a thought Marvell came up with on his own. Cicero ("solitude is the best society") was way ahead of him. Even more interesting and totally ironic is the fact that seventeenth-century British society loved this phrase and used it all the time.

    Such was that happy garden-state
    When man there walked without a mate (57-58)

    That may be the opinion of the speaker, but the Bible pretty blatantly says otherwise. It slides by, though, because this is yet another example of Marvell taking a traditional story and twisting it around to meet his needs. He gets away with being unorthodox because he's going about it in a witty way (although it's still probably for the best that he was dead when this was published).

    Two Paradises t'were in one
    To live in Paradise alone (63-64)

    Two tickets to paradise? No thanks, Eddie Money. He'll just have the one.

  • Ambition

    How vainly men themselves amaze (1)

    Right off the bat, we see that Marvell thinks people's attempt to earn recognition in the public sphere is "vain" and misguided

    To win the palm, the oak, or bays (2)

    In classical times, crowns of palm, oak, and laurel were symbols of public recognition and respect

    Mistaken long, I sought you then
    In busy companies of men (11-12)

    It sounds like our speaker may have been striving for some recognition in the public sphere once a upon a time, too. Perhaps he's come to these realizations the hard way.

    And, till prepared for longer flight,
    Waves in its plumes the various light (55-56)

    Our speaker's ambitions are not gone, they have simply changed. Where once he might have wanted a crown of laurels, now he strives to prepare himself for "longer flight," a.k.a. death.

    Two Paradises 'twere in one
    To live in Paradise alone (63-64)

    A state of pure solitude is another one of our speaker's ambitions, but does he think such an escape is within his reach? Or is this more wishful thinking?

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: Metaphysics

    Meanwhile the mind, from pleasures less,
    Withdraws into its happiness (41-42)

    The speaker is clearly concerned with his metaphysical well-being; he doesn't want to just think about how the mind works, he wants the mind to be at its happiest and best

    The mind, that ocean where each kind
    Does straight its own resemblance find (43-44)

    Marvell is drawing on the idea of parallel images in the mind and parallel species in the ocean, but in what other ways might the mind and the ocean be similar? Would our speaker agree with your ideas?

    Yet it creates, transcending these,
    Far other worlds, and other seas (45-46)

    Ah, the power of imagination. The speaker seems to believe that the mind can not only create, but can do so on a massive scale. He isn't just talking about imagining individual objects or things, he's talking about creating entirely new worlds. We mean, you don't throw around the word "transcending" for something that's just mildly cool, ya know?

    Casting the body's vest aside
    My soul into the boughs does glide (51-52)

    Anytime skin is being set aside so that the soul can float around like a bird, it's a safe bet you're dealing with a metaphysical poet.

    How could such sweet and wholesome hours
    Be reckoned but with herbs and flow'rs! (71-72)

    There's a pun on "thyme" and "time" in here that really should have happened.