Printer Friendly

Andrew Marvell's 'The Coronet': doubleness, conversion, and meditation.

Awareness of the sacred recurs in many guises throughout Andrew Marvell's poems, yet few commentators have chosen to call even his religious poems devout. Robert Ellrodt observes that in the religious verse
   We have no sense of intimacy between the poet and his God. The
   lyrics have no doctrinal emphasis and, unlike the prose and the
   political poems, they are remarkably free from allusions to
   contemporary religious issues, apart from the glance at the
   "Prelat's rage" in "Bermudas" and the nunnery episode in the
   history of Nun Appleton. The other poems could have been written by
   any Christian. (1)

Not 'any Christian', surely, since no one could mistake Marvell's religious verse for that by John Donne, or George Herbert, or Richard Crashaw-and in it he alludes, if quite unequally, to all three. Otherwise, however, disagreement would be difficult. Marvell represents the numinous and the epiphanic in his poems, but they appear more strikingly in the secular than in the religious verse, concentrated upon figures such as the supra natural Oliver Cromwell and the incandescently transcendent Archibald Douglas. (2)

What one sees in the religious poems is, rather, a spiritual doubleness or self-division. I do not mean that those poems are pervaded by the defeated experience of contrary impulses to which Ovid's Medea and St Augustine famously refer, wherein good is recognised and desired but evil is nevertheless and often inexplicably pursued. This is the dividedness of spirit crystallised in St Paul's words, 'For the good that I would, I do not: but the euill which I would not, that I doe'. (3) Certainly that phenomenon is acknowledged in the religious poems, as for instance throughout 'A Dialogue between the Soul and Body', but it does not predominate. (4) Doubleness of another kind pervades them, related and yet distinct. Artistic self-consciousness and self-display at once communicate and conflict with celebration or exploration of the sacred: a will to authorial power is incongruously if perhaps not unexpectedly implicated with a will to reverence or, at least, due observance. Accompanying those interwoven, divergent inclinations in the poems moreover is a theology sometimes clear in its affinities while at others indistinct or reticent.

Here I want to consider how 'The Coronet' both evinces this second form of doubleness and, in articulating its contraries, implies that desire for their integration may produce not a synthesis of opposites but a harmony of contrasts (discordia concors). Marvell's speaker seems to wish for reconciliation between human art and the sacred, between poet and Logos, but he expresses that apparent desire through a display of virtuosity, a rivalrous assertion of virtU, and thereby an emulous positioning of himself in relation to authorities human and divine. What makes his doubleness more significant is that 'The Coronet', after its fashion, voices conversion. An authorial 'I' turns to, and finally announces the submission of his art to, a 'Thou' who is both victorious Redeemer and Logos. His doing so unfolds as three phases in the poem, and in its tripartite design, Marvell's lyric seems to recreate an Augustinian pattern of religious meditation, whereby the memory, understanding, and will converge in reflection on the sacred. (5)

Yet although the lyric is certainly a meditation that unfolds a process of conversion--whether or not the meditation's dynamic be consciously Augustinian--one could not of course describe the poem itself as linear, as tracing a straight and narrow path to Christ, because that is what Marvell's persona seems to hope for and understands that he cannot achieve by himself. The process of conversion is in fact subtly equivocal. Marked by the persona's own knowing doubleness, it suggests the intricacy, the convolution of the coronet about which he speaks. In each of the poem's phases the 'I' of Marvell's persona plays itself problematically against the 'Thou' who is Christ. It would be far too simple to propose merely that, throughout the first and second sections (1-8, 9-18), focus is on the speaking 'I' rather than on Christ and that, in the last section (19-26), Christ receives due primacy. The poem affirms--in the spirit if not quite the letter of Calvinist doctrine--the impossibility of a self and art able themselves to transcend the conditions within which they seek the divine, but it nonetheless ingeniously and consciously subverts that affirmation.

The poem begins:
   When for the thorns with which I long, too long,
      With many a piercing wound,
      My Saviour's head have crowned,
   I seek with garlands to redress that wrong:
      Through every garden, every mead,
   I gather flow'rs (my fruits are only flow'rs)
      Dismantling all the fragrant tow'rs
   That once adorned my shepherdess's head (1-8).

The speaker's initial moment of recollection and reflection performs what would have been called, in the religious culture of Marvell's time, an 'act of memory'. That moment is pervasively contrite and, early on at least, Christocentric in emphasis. It is also profoundly, calculatedly hubristic and therefore indeed marked by a knowing doubleness. True, the speaker acknowledges his long-recurrent sinfulness, figuring his sins as 'thorns' that 'have crowned'--that have continued to crown--'[his] Saviour's head'; true, in addition, that he aspires now 'to redress that wrong'. His aspiration 'to redress' expresses, according to his graceful imagery, the wish to replace a crown of thorns by a coronet: sin-inflicted suffering by reverential praise. It likewise clearly implies his ambition to make up for the pain he has caused his Redeemer, that is, to atone for the Atonement. (6) This is no small gesture of authorial worship, for all its apparent humility. Though oblique and restrained, it is overreaching as well--hubristic in its pious magnanimity. (7)

The temper of that overreaching aspiration is captured deftly in what follows. There, the speaker's elaborately rueful self-deprecation concedes the powerlessness of his art; and yet, at the same time, he displays his own artistic assurance. Marvell's persona lightly summons passages in scripture such as Matthew 3. 10, 7. 17-20, 12. 33-34 and 13. 23, along with Luke 3. 9 and 6. 43-44, when parenthetically indicating his secular art's spiritual unproductiveness, its limitations. His '(my fruits are only flowr's)' is a stylishly allusive as well as quiet aside. But his elegant intimation of powerlessness, which is self-contradictory insofar as it asserts his finesse, is countered by what accompanies it. The image of himself as unravelling his own intricate artifice--'Dismantling all the fragrant tow'rs | That once adorned my shepherdess's head'--implies not so much a repudiation of the pastoral and erotic as a confidently artful disordering, in which the discriminating creative intelligence retraces and redirects its involved procedures. More remarkable still is the understated, 'Through every garden, every mead, | I gather flow'rs'. The 'garlands' that Marvell's speaker seeks to make in 'redress' will be a collection of his own and 'other people's flowers' (in Montaigne's phrase): a judicious anthologia. (8) The opening movement of 'The Coronet' proceeds from the contrite to the inseparably contrite and hubristic, from affirmation to the affirmative implicated with the subversive, from the Christocentric to the self-consciously and inscrutably egocentric.

The speaker's ambivalences become more overt in the poem's second phase. If in the first he performs an 'act of memory', here he presents 'an act of understanding':
   And now when I have summed up all my store,
      Thinking (so I myself deceive)
      So rich a chaplet thence to weave
   As never yet the King of Glory wore:
      Alas I find the serpent old
      That, twining in his speckled breast,
      About the flow'rs disguised does fold,
      With wreaths of fame and interest.
   Ah, foolish man, that would'st debase with them,
   And mortal glory, Heaven's diadem! (9-18)

What the speaker understands, that is, what he chooses to reveal in the poem's central section, seems not so much to be his duplicity, or even his powerlessness to transcend it, but his need to acknowledge the doubleness of his own motives. At the very start he lays bare his self-deception--'(so I myself deceive)', he confesses. That softly damaging admission introduces an account of his duplicity's folly and scope. The 'King of Glory', he has not forgotten, wears 'Heaven's diadem'. The problem is therefore that the 'mortal glory' signified by the poet's intended coronet of praise will be superfluous. It is, moreover, already and inescapably tainted. The resources of the speaker, all his poetic gatherings and recoveries, are contaminated by 'the serpent old' (this line is virtually at the heart of both the poem's second phase and the poem as a whole). (9)

The speaker's works are inseparable, as he recognises, from the workings of 'that old serpent, which is the deuill and Satan'. (10) Without reticence or obliquity he concedes that his aspiration and all his works are touched by the fallen desire for self-glorification and by a fallen self-concern (16). They are in other words marred by concupiscentia, the innate corruption that characterises post-lapsarian humanity. And the speaker emphasises the near invisibility of the concupiscence that mars his ambition and artistic resources. The 'serpent', with 'his speckled breast', is adept at disguise. Twining almost imperceptibly round the flowers that will form the coronet, he simultaneously blights them and parodies what the speaker intends to design--for, as he twines and folds, he wreathes defilement (14-16). This is a comprehensive concession of duplicity, radical guilt, and failure: 'Ah, foolish man', the speaker remarks of himself.

His overt confession is at the same time, however, covertly and subtly iterative. The speaker's repeated imagery of intricate winding recalls, as commentary has not failed to notice, Herbert's imagery in 'A Wreath' and 'Jordan' (I). (11) The former begins:
   A wreathed garland of deserved praise,
   Of praise deserved, unto thee I give,
   I give to thee, who knowest all my ways,
   My crooked winding wayes, wherein I live,
   Wherein I die, not live: for life is straight. (12)

It closes with Herbert's persona praying for 'simplicitie', so that he may 'For this poore wreath'--artifice expressive of the crookedness deforming his life --instead give God a true, unmarred 'crown of praise'. (13) 'Jordan' (I) frames the query 'Is all good structure in a winding stair?' (14) when notionally abjuring an art that is suspect in its spiralling obliquity. One could add that Marvell's persona is probably alluding to a yet further poem by Herbert, namely, 'Sinnes round'. That poem develops circularly, doing so in order to exemplify its speaker's sense of endlessly recurrent and repetitive wrongdoing. It enacts his persistent regret and weariness at the cycle of sin that dominates his life. The poem opens in contrition: 'Sorrie I am, my God, sorrie I am, | That my offences course it in a ring.' (15) In contrition it ends:
   Yet ill deeds loyter not: for they supplie
   New thoughts of sinning: wherefore, to my shame,
   Sorrie I am, my God, sorrie I am. (16)

The confession of Marvell's speaker, then, affirms and finds affirmation in the confessions of Herbert's personae. There is a similarly portrayed unease and that disquiet runs to the same depths, as I shall illustrate presently. Nonetheless, as I shall argue subsequently, disrupting their profound accord is an implicit rivalry. Marvell's speaker engages with the voices fashioned by Herbert both sympathetically and agonistically. The second phase of 'The Coronet' in fact concludes by mingling self-humiliation and confession with self-assertion.

Marvell's speaker implies unmistakably that he shares the unease voiced by Herbert's personae at the tortuous obliquity marking the post-lapsarian self and hence the artifice through which it reaches out to the divine. He gives that mutual anxiety additional emphasis and another dimension in what follows. Soon after, in the final phase of the poem, Marvell's speaker cites Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella when he refers to the garland of verse that he is fashioning as 'my curious frame' (22)--'curious' signifies, among other things, 'elaborately wrought', 'subtle', and 'ingenious'. (17) The setting for the phrase lies as we know in Astrophil's injunction:
   You that with allegorie's curious frame,
   Of other's children changelings use to make,
   With me those paines for God's sake do not take:
   I list not dig so deepe for brasen fame. (18)

Astrophil's words juxtapose fear of being misread with at least the putative rejection of art that expresses overreaching ambition. Marvell's speaker applies the phrase indicative of generic sophistication to his own creative process. Thereby he does not only transfer the phrase itself from interpretation to the act of writing, which is to say, his act. Through the familiarity of its location, he connects awareness of his writing's entanglement with a desire for 'fame' and with '[self-]interest' to Astrophil's apparently emphatic distrust of those motives. He traces elements of his regret about the art that he would offer to Christ back to the suspicions that Astrophil raises about some art in particular but likewise art in general. Both what he shares with Sidney's persona and what more broadly he has in common with the personae of Herbert point ultimately, though not equally, in the same direction.

The disquiet he shares with Herbert's speakers at the obliquity characterising the fallen self and its art harmonises closely with Calvin's tendency to image the world--especially the aberrations of the fallen human mind--as labyrinthine. (19) For example, seizing on an ancient topos, Calvin at one point refers to 'the labyrinth of the world'. (20) He remarks of the Christian life in such a world: '[W]e share Christ's sufferings in order that as he has passed from a labyrinth of all evils into heavenly glory, we may in like manner be led through various tribulations to the same glory.' (21) He uses the image again to describe the fallen mind's capacity for presumptuousness and self-confusion. When people desire 'empty learning', Calvin observes of the intellectually presumptuous, they find that 'allurements readily seize the unwary and then they are drawn more and more deeply into the labyrinth' of futile, vainglorious speculation. (22) Thus: 'let it be remembered that men's minds, when they indulge their curiosity, enter into a labyrinth.' (23) Calvin's notion of the fallen mind as especially vulnerable to self-ensnarement and entanglement recurs in his commentary on Matthew 20. 20. There he writes, focusing on self-entanglement and wilful aberration in a way that also resonates with lines 13-16 of Marvell's poem:
   This narrative ... shows that proper and holy zeal is often
   accompanied by ambition, or some other vice of the flesh, so that
   they who follow Christ have a different object in view from what
   they ought to have. They who are not satisfied with himself alone,
   but seek this or the other thing apart from him and his promises,
   wander egregiously from the right path. (24)

Pertinent both to this line of thought and the final phase of 'The Coronet' is Calvin's admonition that we must necessarily accept 'our chastisement' from God because 'the roots of vices are too deep in us to be capable of being torn out in a single day'. (25) Relevant to the second as well as the last sections of Marvell's poem is this additional and congruent observation: '[W] e must not put any confidence in the righteousness of works, and we must not ascribe to works any glory.' (26) What Calvin describes as the labyrinthine convolutions, the inescapable limitations, of the fallen human mind in its self-centred overreaching illuminates Marvell's and Herbert's portrayals of the self-centred, overly ambitious, poetic consciousness. It provides at once a powerful and an apposite context for their scrutinising of the doubleness inherent in fallen aspirations to celebrate the sacred. Likewise, it accords with the suspicions of Sidney's Astrophil about the motivations of his verse and of poetic endeavour in general. Sidney, we know, had something to say elsewhere about the imperfections of the creative impulse. As he remarked in A Defence of Poetry, and as Marvell knew no less than did Herbert, above 'that maker' which is the poet stands the perfect, 'heavenly Maker of that maker'. However, he continues, although the poet has a divine original, 'our erected wit maketh us know what perfection is, and yet our infected will keepeth us from reaching unto it'. (27) Those words both resonate with Calvin's thought (albeit problematically) and capture the temper of much of Astrophil's soliloquising. (28) At the same time, moreover, they gesture ahead to the connections among Calvin, Herbert, and Marvell.

There is no doubt that Marvell's speaker in 'The Coronet' affirms and finds affirmation in various personae of Herbert's lyrics. It is clear too, as I have suggested above, that he indirectly traces elements of regret over his own art back to suspicions raised by Astrophil about the impulses generating poetry and defining its goals. (Just so, what Marvell's speaker, Herbert's personae, and Sidney's Astrophil have in common seems evidently to accord with the spirit of Calvin's reflections on the winding ways of the fallen mind.) Nevertheless, for all the commonality between Marvell's speaker in the second phase of 'The Coronet' and some of Herbert's personae, the former seems concerned rather with emulation than affirmation of his predecessors, more with rivalry than homage. In order to articulate the contrariety and complexity of his reaching out to the divine, Marvell's speaker subsumes or, better, incorporates his predecessors' voices. 'The Coronet', that is to say, seeks to acknowledge and metonymically embody its most closely related antecedents; and, in attempting that, it seeks to subordinate them. Marvell sympathetically reworks an issue diversely explored in Herbert's verse, developing it anew in what seems an Augustinian meditative pattern informed by a theology congruent, at least, with Calvin's.Yet he is not merely and in part repositioning the writings of a celebrated near contemporary. His incorporation of Herbert's verse into an elaborate, paradoxical concession of personal failure displays the connoisseurship with which he appropriates and reinvents it. We are asked to admire the virtuosity with which he translates the authority of Herbert as a religious poet into his own hands, with which he asserts literary authority while indicating humility. VirtU is simultaneously exercised, condemned, and legitimised by contrition as Marvell's speaker directs his meditation towards its resolution--one that, we can of course anticipate, will be anything but an echo of the request in Herbert's 'A Wreath' for 'simplicitie'.

Marvell's speaker concludes:
   But Thou who only coulds't the serpent tame,
   Either his slipp'ry knots at once untie,
   And disentangle all his winding snare:
   Or shatter too with him my curious frame:
   And let these wither, so that he may die,
   Though set with skill and chosen out with care.
   That they, while Thou on both their spoils dost tread,
   May crown thy feet, that could not crown thy head (19-26).

As the Augustinian pattern of meditation would have it, after exercise of the understanding comes finally a turning of the will in love to God. At the end of 'The Coronet', Marvell's speaker turns his authorial will to Christ in submission if not love. Moreover, turning to Christ, submitting his art to Christ, he shows that 'simplicitie' is far from his mind. Like Herbert's persona in 'A Wreath' he concludes, certainly, with a petition; but he designs that plea as a divisio. Perhaps Marvell's speaker does so because the Christ depicted as victorious through his Passion over the serpent (19), and therefore uniquely deserving of a victor's garland, is also the Logos. On the one hand, because Christ is both victor and Logos he can indeed remove from the coronet what Bacon called the 'winding, and crooked courses [which] are the Goings of the Serpent'. (29) He can redeem and thereby give new form to the speaker's weave of words (20-21). He can subject it to a sacred metamorphosis, conferring renovatio upon it. Marvell's speaker thus subordinates his virtU to that of the Messiah. The former can merely 'Dismantl[e] all the fragrant tow'rs | That once adorned [his] shepherdess's head', whereas the latter can 'disentangle' from the coronet 'all [the] winding snare' of the serpent itself. This is one solution to the difficulty of being an imperfect maker at work beneath the glory of, and seeking to approach, a perfect Maker (12)--a problem akin to that posited by Sidney as intrinsic to the poet's role, and which Marvell's speaker refigures by way of engaging with the poetry of Herbert. But Marvell's speaker chooses to focus at the last on another possibility.

The alternative considered finally by Marvell's speaker is not liberation of his art by Christ as victor and Logos, to be more specific, deliverance of his verse from the taint of concupiscence. It is that, as victor rather than Logos, the Messiah might altogether unmake the speaker's making and thereby otherwise metamorphose his art, remaking it in a quite different way if nevertheless with an identical consequence and to an antithetic but related end. If unmade by Christ, the coronet will undergo a variant transformation from which, too, will result renovatio though in another guise. The withered garland will then become--with the broken serpent--'spoils' to 'crown [Christs] feet'. Unworthy to adorn the head of 'the King of Glory', who wears 'Heaven's diadem' and therefore has no need of 'mortal glory' (12 and 18), it may yet decorously honour him if it is in effect refashioned by him. Its metamorphosis into spolia under Christ's feet, its renewal through ruin, will manifest its transformation into a sacrifice sanctified by the God to whom it was intended as an offering. (30) Marvell's speaker suggests that the submission of his authorial will to Christ may require not just humility but, more challenging, the acceptance of artistic self-negation: a form of the severe 'chastisement' that Calvin asserts is necessary given the deep 'roots of vices' within us.

Yet this is not an unequivocal submission, for all its apparent acceptance of the idea that artistic redemption may have to come at the price of art's overthrow. The speaker's lingering fondness for the artistry of his interwoven words, with their 'curious frame' and flores rhetoricae et carminis 'set with skill and chosen out with care' (22 and 24), has often been noted. Stronger and more striking than this residual authorial pride are, however, two other resistant and subversive elements of his conclusion. First, and more obvious, is the elaborate ingenuity with which Marvell's speaker presents the yielding of his will. An assertion of virtuosity, an exercise of artistic virtU performs submissiveness but puts itself forward while acknowledging the transcendent virtU of the Messiah. So a sequence of subtly as well as variously allusive tropes and the poem's climactic lines demonstrates. The 'slipp'ry knots' of the serpent (appositum, in 20) hint at his ability to make us slip and experience lapsus: a slide, or fall. Further, as Nigel Smith notes, 'winding snare' (translatio, 21) both suggests a trap and refigures the 'winding stair' of Herbert's 'Jordan' (I), line 3--while 'curious frame' (22), the stylishly unobtrusive anamnesis and transmutatio discussed above, links the disquiet of Marvell's speaker, along with that voiced by Herbert's persona, to the wariness of Sidney's Astrophil. (31) The cumulative brilliance of those successive tropes is, however, exceeded by the arresting wit of the poem's final couplet, effected by an epigrammatic convergence of catachrestic imagery and reversal (25-26). Nonetheless, there, Marvell's speaker does not merely shape audaciae into contentio that might almost be contrapposto. His conceit of 'spoils' that will crown the 'feet' instead of the'head' is appropriate to a Messiah whose Incarnation then Passion turned the world upside down, whose accommodatio was a revolutionary act. His conceit is a decorous overturning and violation of decorum. For all that, it derives from Marvell's speaker. He generates it, and he applies it to Christ. He, that is to say, does not so much represent as reinvent the virtU of the Messiah. His yielding is also self-assertion. Submission in powerlessness to the victorious Logos displays in fact his own power, his own authority as maker.

The second and less obviously dissonant element of the poem's third phase, where contrariety inflects exercise of the will, comes into focus if the reader explores two other tropes: 'shatter' and 'wither' (21 and 23). Those tropes indicate an unmaking that is at the same time a remaking, but a remaking into what? How might a shattered coronet, withered tropes of rhetoric and song, form a 'crown' for the 'feet' of Christ? An apparent answer is that if broken, desiccated, and purged by the Messiah, the garland and its flowers would then become art redeemed and hence beyond mere artifice. A related answer seems possible, too. When intricacy of design and nicety of judgement are negated, maybe after all 'simplicitie', in Herbert's phrase, remains. Perhaps, with an elegant indirectness quite at odds with the possibility he considers, Marvell's speaker is acknowledging that the plain style alone may be an acceptable mode for devout verse. Perhaps he is envisaging the religious plain style as a form of artistic self-negation that might prove necessary, which might be a chastisement to be endured. His art may have to wither into plainness.

If Marvell's speaker is indeed envisaging such a prospect, it is one that he entertains without enthusiasm. The possibility of descent into the plain style would seem to offer him no delight. In any event, his considering that possibility would illuminate further but not establish a crucial element of the poem, namely this: the meditative turning toward Christ by Marvell's speaker is at the same time a turning to reflection on his own authorial ambitions sub specie Christi--and hence on their boundaries. His is a meditation conscious of its own doubleness, and merging affirmation with subversion, resistance with hypothetical acquiescence. Doubleness marks even his competitiveness, as he moves from one phase of his meditation to the next, in the sense that he has two foci of contention. He engages emulously with a tradition of English Protestant disquiet over the nature of art's relation to the sacred, focusing on Herbert; he is agonistic in his ostensibly submissive dealings with the victorious Christ and Logos. 'The Coronet' is, then, no less a poem displaying virtU than it is a poem representing the quest for an art embodying sacred virtue. That harmonises with the poem's emphasis on singularity. It stresses no less the personal encounter between maker and Maker than it does the individual confrontation between creature and Creator, redeemed and Redeemer. What I have been calling the doubleness of 'The Coronet', its knowing self-division and subtle contrarieties would seem to make it a revealing window onto Marvell's three poems of religious dialogue, which are overtly structured in terms of differences and the difficulties of reconciliation or uncertainties of transcendence.

Macquarie University

(1) See his 'Marvell's Mind and Mystery', in Approaches to Marvell: The York Tercentenary Papers, ed. C. A. Patrides (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), pp. 216-33 (p. 219). See also, Louis L. Martz, 'Marvell and Herrick: The Masks of Mannerism', in ibid., pp. 194-215 (pp. 203-04); and Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, 'Marvell as Religious Poet', in ibid., pp. 251-79. For recent, though qualified, concurrence with Ellrodt see John Spurr, 'The Poet's Religion', in The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell, eds Derek Hirst and Steven N. Zwicker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) (hereafter Cambridge Companion), pp. 158-73. See further William Lamont, 'The Religion of Andrew Marvell: Locating the "Bloody Horse"', in The Political Identity of Andrew Marvell, eds Conal Condren and A. D. Cousins (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1990), pp. 135-56; Robert Ellrodt, Seven Metaphysical Poets: A Structural Study of the Unchanging Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 78-79; Joan Faust, Andrew Marvell's Liminal Lyrics: The Space Between (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2012), pp. 26-30.

(2) Reference to Marvell's verse is from The Poems of Andrew Marvell, ed. Nigel Smith, rev. edn (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2007). See, for example, 'An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland', pp. 11-28; 'The First Anniversary of the Government under His Highness the Lord Protector', pp. 7-14; 'The Loyal Scot', pp. 43-56. It should be added that Smith dates 'The Coronet' to 1642-43 or 1646, that is, prior to or just after Marvell's sojourn on the continent (p. 46). Nicholas von Maltzahn (An Andrew Marvell Chronology (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 29) dates it hesitantly to 1642. Line references to 'The Coronet', from the Smith edition, will be cited in text.

(3) Romans 6. 19. Reference to the Bible here and subsequently is from The Holy Bible: Quatercentenary Edition, intro. Gordon Campbell (Oxford and NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2010).

(4) Cf. John Donne's 'Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one', Holy Sonnet 19, in Donne, The Complete English Poems, ed. A. J. Smith (London: Allen Lane, 1971); and Satan's 'hateful siege | Of contraries', from Paradise Lost, 9. 121-22, in The Poems of John Milton, eds John Carey and Alastair Fowler (London: Longmans, 1968).

(5) For an overview of poetry focused on conversion in the more general sense, see Molly Murray, The Poetics of Conversion in Early Modern English Literature: Verse and Change from Donne to Dryden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). On poetry and Augustinian meditation, see Louis L. Martz, The Poetry of Meditation: A Study of English Religious Literature in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1954), pp. 112-13; Louis L. Martz, The Paradise Within: Studies in Vaughan, Traherne, and Milton (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964), pp. 17-35; A. D. Cousins, The Catholic Religious Poets from Southwell to Crashaw: A Critical History (London: Sheed and Ward, 1991), pp. 12-14, 30-34. With reference to all three, see St Augustine, On the Trinity, trans. Arthur West Haddan, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 3 (1887; repr. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), pp. 10, 12-20.

(6) For a related but also different reading of 'redress', see Robert H. Ray, An Andrew Marvell Companion (NewYork: Garland, 1998), pp. 42-43.

(7) Christine Rees (The Judgment of Marvell (London: Pinter, 1989), p. 32) also views the speaker as hubristic--though for a different reason.

(8) See Michel de Montaigne, 'Of Physiognomy', in Montaigne, The Complete Works, trans. Donald M. Frame (1943; repr. NewYork: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), p. 984: 'Even so someone might say of me that I have here only made a bunch of other people's flowers, having furnished nothing of my own but the thread to tie them.'

(9) Bruce King makes a similar point about placement of 'the serpent old' in the poem, but remarks that the serpent is positioned in 'the precise centre of the poem, a place where, knowing the Renaissance tradition of symbolic triumphal centres, we would expect "the King of Glory" crowned with the coronet'. The poem has twenty-six lines and therefore no 'precise centre'; and we might or might not expect to see Christ there. See his 'A Reading of Marvell's "The Coronet"', Modern Language Review, 68 (1973), 741-49 (p. 745).

(10) Revelation 20. 2.

(11) See, for example, Margaret Carpenter, 'From Herbert to Marvell: Poetics in "A Wreath" and "The Coronet"', Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 69 (1970), 50-62; RobertWilcher, Andrew Marvell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 68-70. Wilcher (p. 68) shrewdly notes the relevance of 'So did I weave my self into the sense', from 'Jordan' (II); Nigel Smith, Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), p. 44; Paul Davis, 'Marvell and the Literary Past', in Cambridge Companion, pp. 26-45 (pp. 29-31). Nicholas McDowell, in his Poetry and Allegiance in the English Civil Wars: Marvell and the Causes of Wit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), considers the possible relation of 'The Coronet' to verse by John Hall (pp. 47-48). Donne's 'La Corona' is often adduced in accounts of the poem, but Marvell seems not to engage with Donne as he does with Herbert and Sidney.

(12) Herbert, 'The Wreath', in The English Poems of George Herbert, ed. Helen Wilcox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 645, lines 1-5. On Herbert's 'A Wreath' and the 'Jordan' poems, see Cedric C. Brown and Maureen Boyd, 'The Homely Sense of Herbert's "Jordan"', Studies in Philology, 79 (1982), 147-61; Elizabeth Clarke, Theory and Theology in George Herbert's Poetry: 'Divinitie, and Poesie, Met' (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 35, 47-51, 160; Cristina Malcolmson, George Herbert: A Literary Life (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2004), pp. 7-13.

(13) Herbert, 'The Wreath', line 9; line 12.

(14) Herbert, 'Jordan' (I), in English Poems, ed. Wilcox, p. 200, line 3.

(15) Herbert, 'Sinnes round', in English Poems, ed. Wilcox, p. 430, lines 1-2.

(16) Herbert, 'Sinnes round', lines 16-18.

(17) On 'curious' see, senses II. 7, 10b, and 13, Oxford English Dictionary (online edition, 2014) <>.

(18) Sidney, Astrophil and Stella, in The Poems of Sir Philip Sidney, ed. William A. Ringler, Jr (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), 28. 1, lines 1-4

(19) For other and different accounts of how 'The Coronet' relates to Calvin's thought, see by way of example, Ann E. Berthoff, The Resolved Soul: A Study of Marvell's Major Poems (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 45-51; Annabel Patterson, 'Bermudas and The Coronet: Marvell's Protestant Poetics', ELH, 44 (1977), 478-99 (pp. 491, 496-97; Patterson alludes to Herbert throughout pp. 491-96); Rees, Judgment of Marvell, pp. 34-35; Takashi Yoshinaka, Marvell's Ambivalence: Religion and the Politics of Imagination in Mid-Seventeenth-Century England (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2011), pp. 88, 119, 212. See, in addition, Derek Hirst and Steven N. Zwicker, Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 157. On the topos of the world as a labyrinth, see especially Penelope Reed Doob, The Idea of the Labyrinth : From Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992).

(20) See John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, 2 vols (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 3. 6. 2. For the Latin original, see Joanne Calvino, Institutio Christianae religionis (London: Thomas Vautrollerius Typographus, 1576) (hereafter Institutio): 'per mundi labyrinthum.'

(21) Calvin, Institutes, 3. 8. 1 ; Institutio: '[N]os Christi passionibus communicare: ut quemadmodum ille a malorum omnium labyrintho in gloriam caelestem ingressus est, ita in eandem per varias tribulationes deducamur.'

(22) Calvin, Institutes, 3. 25. 11; Institutio: 'Sciscitantur vanae scientiae ieiuni homines'; 'Sed quia incautos statim captant: illecebrae, & labyrinthus deinde profundius trahunt'.

(23) Calvin, Institutes, 1. 13. 21; Institutio: 'meminerint Labyrinthum ingredi hominis mentes dum suae curiositati indulgent' (emphasis added).

(24) John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, trans. William Pringle, 3 vols (1845; rept. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), II, 417. For the original Latin, see Ioannis Calvini, In Novum Testamentum Commentarii, ed. A. Tholuck (Berolini, 1838), Pars Prima: 'Haec historia ... docet enim, recto pioque zelo ambitionem saepe esse implicitam, vel aliud carnis vitium, ut quisequuntur Christum alio respiciant, quam opportet. Porro a scopo perperam aberrant, qui uno ipso non contenti hoc vel illud quaerunt extra eum et eius promissiones.' Calvin, however, continues: 'Nor is it enough that, at the commencement, we sincerely apply our minds to Christ, if we do not steadfastly maintain the same purity; for frequently, in the midst of the course, there spring up sinful affections by which we are led astray.' Marvell's speaker recognises that corruption is intrinsic to his aspiration.

(25) John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, trans. William Pringle, 2 vols (1847; repr. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), I, 193, 194. For the original Latin see, Commentarius in Evangelium Ioannis, in Ioannis Calvini Opera Quae Sunt Omnia, eds Guilielmus Baum, Eduardus Cunitz, and Eduardus Reuss (Brunswick, 1892): 'sed totidem sunt castigatoriae ferulae' and 'et certe altiores sunt in nobis vitiorum radices quam ut die uno ... evelli queant'.

(26) Calvin, Institutes, 3. 14. 16; Institutio: '[N]equid in operum iustitia fiduciae ponat, nequid illis gloriae adscribat.'

(27) Sidney's A Defence of Poetry is cited from Brian Vickers, ed., English Renaissance Literary Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), p. 344.

(28) For links between Sidney 's words and Calvin, see Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry (or The Defence of Poesy), ed. Geoffrey Shepherd, rev. R. W Maslen, 3rd edn (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), p. 42. On Calvinist aspects of Astrophil and Stella, see for example, A. D. Cousins, Shakespeare's Sonnets and Narrative Poems (Harlow: Longman, 2000), pp. 120-21. See further Robert E. Stillman, Sir Philip Sidney and the Poetics of Renaissance Cosmopolitanism (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 141-46; Jane Kingsley-Smith, 'Cupid, Idolatry, and Iconoclasm in Sidney's Arcadia', Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 48 (2008), 65-91. In addition, see Carl R. Trueman, 'Calvin and Calvinism', in The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, ed. Donald K. McKim (2004; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 225-44 (esp. pp. 225-28).

(29) Francis Bacon, 'Of Truth', in Bacon, The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, ed. and intro. Michael Kiernan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 7-9 (p. 8).

(30) For a different view on the coronet as sacrifice, see Rees, Judgment of Marvell, p. 35.

(31) See Smith, The Chameleon, p. 49.
COPYRIGHT 2014 Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Cousins, A.D.
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2014
Previous Article:Albrecht Durer and the ideal city.
Next Article:Acheson, Katherine, Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters