Andrew Marvell - Biography and Works

Andrew Marvell was a British politician who also belongs to the Metaphysical school of poets; but he was not known like Donne, as a poet during his lifetime. Marvell also belongs to a later age when the classical type of poetry had begun to be written, but he wrote romantic poems of personal experience and feelings.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

He was well read in the classical languages and literature (of Latin and Greek). Marvell was a strange type of man and poet-who was not regarded as a major poet until the twentieth century. He was a politician but he wrote poetry supporting pastoral life, loneliness and spirituality; he was a strictly religious person but he wrote sexual poems like 'To His Coy Mistress'; he mixed up the unconventional metaphysical poetry with classical conventions; and he is also at the same time one of the earliest ‘romantic’ poets in one sense.

Marvell was perhaps the finest of England’s metaphysical poet of the mid - 1600’s. In addition to the influence of John Donne, Marvell also showed the influence of the English classical poet Ben Johnson. Marvell’s verse blends argumentative vigor with classical smoothness and control, a blend that critic and poet T. S. Eliot described as “a tough reasonableness beneath the slight lyric grace". Marvell’s best poems are a series of lyrics written about 1650. They include 'The Garden' and 'To His Coy Mistress'. 

His best poetry combines true metaphysical wit with perfect classical grace and poise to a greater degree than any other poet of the century. His best and most characteristic poems are those in which an adventurous wit is perfectly subdued to the quiet texture of his verse to produce a poetry, at once comtemplative and exciting, gravely formal and mysteriously suggestive. His poetry possesses the quality of a precise and loving observation of nature, an ethical gravity, and ability to put intellectural play to serious usage. The wit is intergral to his poems and bound up both with its accuracy of observation and its moral feeling.

Marvell was born near Hall in Yorkshire. During the Puritan revolution, he supported Oliver Cromwell and assisted John Milton when Milton was a high government official. Like Milton, Marvall was a Christian Humanist and unlike him, Marvell could never commit himself wholeheartedly to the commonwealth cause. In his best poetry as in his character, he combined the best of Cavalier wit and courtesy with the quiet gravity of humane Puritan. But his combination was too individual and too subtle to provide a pattern for future poets. Marvell served in Parliament from 1659 until his death. During his later years, he wrote political satire against the king and court.