It’s the time of the year when, either in pleasure or platitude, we are naturally drawn to reflect upon companionship (or the absence of it). And though I’m rather at a loss after an already tribulation-filled February, it almost goes without saying that the good poet finds such a beautiful way of coming to terms with this absence.
It feels like the final chapter of my thesis, on Andrew Marvell’s ‘Poetics of Privacy’, has been a traumatic experience. Not simply because writing by day and by night on different subjects is gruelling, but because the private internal negotiations that Marvell constantly faced and the impossibility of choice he so often found himself with leave a man permanently trapped in a life that offers so little solace and almost nothing except a desperate rush towards the end.
New material on Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode’ excites me more than any other subject, I would wager. It is one of the iconic poems upon which every Marvellian faces his or her own judgement day.
The Fairfax 400 Conference took place at the Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester, on June 30th and July 1st, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Thomas, Lord Fairfax (1612-1671).
The problem with Marvell is that he tests the limit of our modern standards of biography. Writing this particular life – much like Marvell’s own work, ironically – ends up just as wary of the literary mechanics of the exercise as the exercise itself.
By the time Andrew Marvell turned 28 (as I recently did) in March 1649, Charles I had been executed. The regicide inspired one of the best political poems ever written, and ended up shaping a history that would define Marvell’s fascinating future career.
How much can you put yourself into the mind of another individual? My work on Marvell and Private Lives has been a wonderful introspective process because the way I’ve symbiotically linked our biographies together has given me license to think as deeply and darkly as I please.
What is said, matters. How it is said, matters. To whom it is said, matters. When it is said, matters. The little nuances of our communication are more intricate and powerful than we often care to believe.
Every so often, we hit those defining moments where we ask ourselves the all-important questions. What has made us who we are? Why do we do what we do? Why do we live the way we live? What do we value most in life?
Ekphrasis becomes a common feature of Marvell’s Interregnum writing, but before it served his Cromwellian verse, these perspective features – of viewing and reflection, of the viewer and beyond – combine in a remarkable way in Marvell’s Upon Appleton House.