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Marvell's musical dialogues.


MARVELL'S POETIC DIALOGUES are, with the relatively recent exception of that between the soul and the body, not among his more highly regarded productions. (1) They tend to be considered imperfect essays at effects he achieved more successfully elsewhere. The seminal statement of this view is that of J. B. Leishman, who includes three dialogues (those between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure, Clorinda and Damon, and Thyrsis and Dorinda) among nine instances of poems which stand apart, on account of their anonymous traditionalism, from the "maturity, security, ... [and] unmistakable Marvellianism" of the poet's best work (30-31). Despite providing evidence for dating "The Resolved Soul" to after 1667, Leishman treats all three poems as early works--a treatment which confuses chronology with poetic achievement. (2) Thus, although "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" might not be early in a strictly chronological sense, it is still (in Leishman's view) earlier, in the sense of less distinctively realized, than "A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body." Many scholars have followed Leishman's lead; some have echoed his confusions. Elizabeth Story Donno points up formal linkages between "Thyrsis and Dorinda," "Clorinda and Damon," "Ametas and Thestylis," and "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" and prints them together at the opening of her chronologically ordered and widely-used Penguin edition. (She separates from this group "A Dialogue between the Body and the Soul," printing it with the mature lyrics, while noting the formal link with the other dialogues and the possibility that it may date from the same period, an arrangement that confuses qualitative judgment with questions of dating and genre [221-24, 259].) In their generically arranged edition, Ormerod and Wortham print all five dialogues thus mentioned in a single section, dismissing them as "primitive," without quite making an explicit claim that they are all early (1).

Recent scholarship does not support an account of the dialogues as a discrete group of early works. While the earliest version of "Thyrsis and Dorinda" was evidently very early (appearing in an Oxford anthology of the late 1630s), the revised version (if it is indeed Marvell's) appears to have been considerably later; Nigel Smith dates it c. 1646-54. Evidence for the remaining dialogues is inconclusive. The two other pastoral dialogues, "Clorinda and Damon" and "Ametas and Thestylis," may be early; but there are some fragments of internal evidence--none of them very strong--for tentatively dating them, as Smith does, to the Nun Appleton period of c. 1650-52 (Smith 59, 146). The two allegorical dialogues may both be later. That between the body and soul cannot predate the appearance in 1652 of James Howells The Vision, on which it draws heavily, and those who accept Leishman's identification in "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" of borrowings from Paradise Lost must date it to 1667 or after (Smith 33, 61). Finally, that Marvell also wrote two pastoral dialogues for the Cromwell-Fauconberg wedding in November 1657 must stand against the notion that his essays in this mode were exclusively early ones. (3) We cannot account for Marvell's dialogues as early works.

We need an approach to these texts that separates questions of quality from questions of chronology. Such an approach was, in fact, suggested by Leishman himself. In his account of the three dialogues he deemed unsatisfactory, Leishman offered the valuable insight that they were almost certainly all written to be set to music. They are, he writes, "agreeable and not specially characteristic essays in that popular musical form the dialogue, or, as we should call it, the duet" (31). Drawing an unfavorable contrast between "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" and "The Soul and the Body" Leishman approaches, without quite articulating, the view that the absence of a distinctly Marvellian poetic idiom in the former may derive from the restrictions and conventions of the musical dialogue form rather than the poet's lack of maturity. "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" is not, he claims, "like the presumably later and essentially unlyrical and unsingable Dialogue Between the Soul and the Body, which was certainly not written for music, distinctly and unmistakably Marvellian" (32). There is no necessary connection between Leishman's formal and chronological arguments here; the key distinction between the two poems is not whether one is earlier and the other later, but whether or not they were written to be set to music.

This article picks up on Leishman's hint--which has surfaced repeatedly in Marvell scholarship, without being fully explored--that Marvell's dialogues should be approached through the contemporary fashion for musical dialogues. (4) A brief sketch of the history and conventions of the musical dialogue contextualizes the argument that Marvell was familiar with the genre, suggesting that an approach to his dialogues as libretti permits a more sympathetic engagement than does the consideration of them as purely literary products. Rather than lamenting their shortcomings as freestanding verbal artifacts by invoking criteria they were not designed to meet, we should assess them as scripts for semi-dramatic, musical performance. While the absence of musical scores for all but one of them is a serious impediment, we may nonetheless read Marvell's dialogues with the assumption that potentially crucial dimensions are lost to us. A better understanding of the tradition and conventions of the dialogue will help both in a general assessment of these works and with several particular cruxes within them.


That Marvell was interested in and familiar with contemporary developments in musical theory and practice--that, in particular, he was both witness to and participant in that gradual subordination of music to text which occurred over the long seventeenth century--has been elegantly demonstrated by Donald M. Friedman ("Marvells Musicks"; see also Hollander 299-315). The argument here is a narrower one: Marvell was familiar with the musical dialogue and several of his poems are texts written for setting as such.

The musical dialogue originated in Italy and flourished there. It was a product of the "new" musicians' rejection, in the last years of the sixteenth century, of polyphony in favor of monody, declamation, and (eventually) recitative. It emerged in the teens and flourished throughout the century, particularly during its middle years. It was closely linked with the rise of both secular opera and sacred oratorio, by which it was eventually absorbed and supplanted. The key structural features of the Italian musical dialogue were the division of roles between soloists, usually a bass and a treble. The parts were written either in rhymed couplets with irregular alterations between singers or in stanzas. A concluding chorus saw the two voices combine, not necessarily still in role, and sometimes with the addition of other voices (Noske 3-31; Smither 91-117; Lefkowitz 168-69). The matter of dialogues was either sacred or secular. The material of secular dialogues was primarily pastoral or mythological. Sacred dialogues were written in both Latin and the vernacular on key moments in biblical history, on saints' lives, and on general moral topics. Most sacred vernacular compositions were non-biblical, employing allegorical figures like Death, Life, Body, and Soul to advance spiritually uplifting arguments (Smither 93). Typical is Paolo Quagliati's 1617 dialogue between a soul (tenor) and an angel (soprano), in which the latter urges the former to flee his earthly prison (Smither 96-97). He needs little convincing. The conflict between heaven and earth was the usual topic of the non-biblical Latin secular dialogues which flourished in northern Italy in the mid-seventeenth century (Noske 110). That conflict is invariably resolved by the conversion of the erring human or soul, thus allowing both singers to join in a harmonious climax (Noske 115).

The seventeenth-century English fashion for musical dialogues in the new Italian manner is clearly indebted to musicians with Italian contacts or training. (5) The earliest gestures towards this kind of production occur in the court masques of the late teens, such as Lovers Made Men (1617), in which Nicholas Lanier, the court musician, and Ben Jonson designed the entire text to be sung, in what the latter termed "stylo recitativo." (6) Freestanding dialogues were being composed by the end of the 1620s, and it is of particular interest to students of Marvell that an important--probably the first--center of dialogue composition was Trinity College, Cambridge. Two Trinity-based composers stand out as being responsible for the earliest datable English dialogues: John Hilton and Robert Ramsey. The former was a student at Trinity from 1616 until 1626; in 1628 he was appointed organist of St. Margarets, Westminster; the latter was organist and master of the college choristers during the 1630s; his long association with Trinity ended with his death in 1644. (7) Timothy Gaylard, a student of the dialogue, has praised both men for their skillful development of the dramatic potential of a text (176, 232-46, 294-95, 296-97, 309-24). While some dispute which of the two should be given priority, what is certain is that by 1630 Ramsey was composing mythological, pastoral, and biblical dialogues and that in doing so he drew on texts provided Cambridge men. One of them, an amatory dialogue, is assigned in its manuscript to "Mr Rily," who has been plausibly identified as Thomas Riley, a student at Trinity between 1626-30 and later a fellow there (Spink, English Song 49; Jorgens 12: 355-56, 549; Cutts 425). A number were provided by another Cambridge-educated poet, Robert Herrick (Smallman 143-44; Jorgens 12: 382, 431). (8) Herrick wrote over half a dozen dialogue libretti. His pastoral dialogue on the birth of Charles II in May 1630 was set by Lanier. His mythological dialogue on the death of Henry, Lord Hastings, which appeared, along with Marvell's elegy, in LachrymaeMusarum (1649), was set by Henry Lawes (Herrick 85, 159, 183, 243, 248, 416, 421). Scholars have suggested that there may have been a tradition of dramatic student performance of dialogues at Trinity during this period (Gaylard 175; Smallman 145).

But Herrick and Ramsey were only two of those involved with what, in the 1630s, was a widespread fashion for dialogues. This flourished at court and at the universities, was fueled by manuscript circulation, and peaked in the publication of numerous Caroline-era dialogues in the musical collections issued by the enterprising publisher John Playford and musician Henry Lawes during the 1650s. (9) Among the poets who produced dialogue libretti during the 1630s were Thomas Randolph--another Trinity man (d.1635; Randolph 84-86), Thomas Carew (42-44, 45-46, 59-60), Richard Lovelace (160-62), James Shirley (6, 34), and Aurelian Townshend (43; Spink, "English Seventeenth-Century Dialogues" 159). The dialogue song flourished in the masques and courtly dramas, for which leading composers were the Lawes brothers, William and Henry. William, for instance, composed the music for the pastoral dialogue featured in Shirley's 1641 play, The Cardinal (Jorgens 12: 319, 392). On the basis of frequency of occurrence of a dozen or so settings in the printed editions, William Lawes has been acclaimed the most popular composer of dialogues of the century; others were not far behind: the manuscripts record numerous contributions by John Wilson. (10) While the fashion for musical dialogues faded somewhat after 1660 as opera took hold, the pastoral dialogue still attracted the attention of leading composers. Locke, Blow, and Purcell all produced works in this kind (Spink, "English Seventeenth-Century Dialogues" 162-63). The dialogue had life well into the Restoration. (11)

In form and content, the English dialogue differed little from its Italian models. Structurally, dialogues were either regular--which is to say, strophic, with alternating verses of similar length but different music and a recurring chorus (Spink, "English Seventeenth-Century Dialogues" 162), or, increasingly, irregular--which is to say, through-composed, usually in rhymed couplets of various lengths, with interruptions often occurring mid-line (Gaylard). Like the Italian, the English dialogue concerned itself with biblical, mythological, pastoral, and moral materials; the pastoral was the most popular and the moral the least frequently encountered (Gaylard 39-59). Among surviving moral dialogues are Townshend's "Dialogue betwixt Time and a Pilgrime," set by Henry Lawes, and the anonymous tripartite dialogue between a dying man, an angel, and the devil, set by John Wilson, which concludes with the latter's triumphant defeat, celebrated in a chorus of man and angel (Townshend 43; Jorgens 12: 341-42, 512; Cutts 341-42). There is also an anonymous short exchange between hope and joy (Jorgens 12: 330; Cutts 204).


Marvell was certainly familiar with this tradition of dialogue song. He was at Trinity during Robert Ramseys tenure there, and he knew at least one of the biblical dialogues set by Ramsey. In The Rehearsal Transpros'd (1672) he quotes a couplet from the anonymous paraphrase of 1 Samuel 28:8-20 Ramsey had set as "The Witch of Endor" ("In guilty night and hid in false disguise"). (12) Were Bays to summon the ghost of Bishop Bramhall to comment on his "Ecclesiastical Policy," "I doubt," Marvell's persona suggests, "You had no better Answer than in the Song:/Art thou forlorn of God, and com'st to me?/What can I tell thee then but miserie?' (Dzelzainis et al. 1:80). We do not know for certain when Marvell heard Ramsey's work. It could have been during his time at Trinity in the 1630s; but it could also have been much later, in London: the work was still circulating in manuscript in the latter part of the century (Dzelzainis et al. 1: 80 n. 239; Smallman 140-42). The off-hand way in which the speaker introduces the quotation--"the Song"--suggests that it was well-known, although we cannot rule out the possibility that the satiric persona had his own reasons for adopting such a stance. Basil Smallman has suggested that there may have been dramatic presentations of the dialogue by students at Trinity, whence it entered the repertory of London musicians, inspiring composers like Purcell to develop alternate settings (145). Some such scenario would account for the rather off-hand character of Marvell's allusion.

There is another possible link between Ramsey and Marvell in that the earliest version of "Thyrsis and Dorinda" is assigned to H[enry]: Ramsey, plausibly identified as the young man of that name who matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, in June 1635 (Smith 243; Chernaik 207-08). The matriculation records give Ramsey's father as Robert, a gentleman, of London (Foster). It may seem on the face of it unlikely that this could be the Robert Ramsey of Trinity College, Cambridge, but there is a possible link: The Ramsay family provided a succession of trumpeters to the early Stuart monarchs; a Robert Ramsay served in the King's Music (Ashbee et al.). It is hard not to draw the conclusion that these various musical and poetic Ramseys or Ramsays were in some way related.

There is, finally, some rather less strong evidence for thinking that Marvell knew Laniers setting of a pastoral dialogue taken from Bartholomew Yonge's translation of Montemayor's Diana, since the conclusion of the revised version of "Thyrsis and Dorinda" ends with the two lovers leaving their flocks under the care of the otherwise obscure shepherd, "Carillo." As Leishman has noted, this is very close to Lanier's version of Yonge's song, which opens with a shepherdess asking Carillo to tend her sheep for her (Leishman 106; Jorgens 12:328). That Yonge's original reference is to "kine" (i.e., cattle) rather than sheep supports the case that Lanier's setting was Marvell's immediate source (Macdonald 87).

The European tradition of the moralized musical dialogue provides a valuable general context for Marvell's spiritual dialogues. Leishman and others point to literary and theological contexts for these works, suggesting that they are part of a medieval debate tradition which reappears "suddenly and inexplicably" in the seventeen century (Leishman 210; Bossy; Osmond). While we must recognize the thematic and topical debts of Marvell's spiritual dialogues to contemporary works like Hermann Hugo's emblems and James Howell's The Vision, they are also, formally speaking, indebted to the seventeenth-century moral musical dialogues between heaven and earth, with their bodies and souls, their angels and devils. The musical dialogue tradition affords a more satisfactory immediate context for Marvell's spiritual dialogues than the obsure medieval manuscripts adduced by modern scholars in their quest for sources.

While the moral dialogue was not as popular in England as the pastoral or biblical varieties, such dialogues were in evidence. And they were composed across Europe throughout the century. One of several works with a claim to have been the first opera--a work also often regarded as a dialogue--was Emilio de' Cavalieri's Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo, which appeared in 1600 (Smither 89). The Roman devotional tradition featured dialogues between the Soul and Death and between the Soul and an Angel. (13) As late as the 1670s the French composer Henry Du Mont produced a Dialogus de Anima (Kirkendale 256 n. 113), Marvell may have encountered continental versions of the "soul" dialogue on his European tour in the mid- to late-1640s. Given the prominence of such dialogues in the Roman devotional tradition, Marvell's association at Rome in c. 1646-47 with another English librettist, Richard Flecknoe, is particularly suggestive. On Marvell's fictional visit to the would-be bard in his Roman garret, Flecknoe both recites his appalling poetry and plays dreadfully on his lute ("Flecknoe, an English Priest at Rome" 19-44).


Marvell composed dialogues in both modes: strophic, as in "The Resolved Soul," and irregular, as in "Clorinda and Damon." To read such texts as libretti is a frustrating experience, given the absence of settings for all of them but the disputed "Thyrsis and Dorinda," for which we possess settings by William Lawes, John Gamble, and Matthew Locke. (14) Of these settings, Locke's in particular has been praised for its use of musical emphasis to bring out the dramatic force of the text (Spink, English Song 170-71; Gaylard 360-61, 362-63). While no direct evidence establishes that Marvell worked with any of these composers, circumstantial evidence connects him with Lawes and with Gamble. Nicholas McDowell has recently argued strongly for Marvells involvement in the later 1640s with the literary circle of Thomas Stanley, in which pastoral dialogues flourished. Stanley, probably prior to 1647, gave a large collection of his poems for setting to Gamble (McDowell 45-46; Stanley xxxii). McDowell associates Herrick with this group, Several of Herrick's poems, including the dialogue "Charon and Philomel," were set before the summer of 1645 by William Lawes (Lefkowitz 160); in 1649 William's brother, Henry, set Herrick's elegiac dialogue on Lord Hastings. McDowell proposes that the enigma of the versions of "Thyrsis and Dorinda" could be resolved by imagining Marvell rewriting an earlier lyric by Henry Ramsey within the competitive environment that thrived in the Stanley circle, introducing the notion of the suicide pact, which had also appeared in Herrick's "Charon and Philomel." The suggestion of a link between Herrick and the expanded "Thyrsis and Dorinda" finds circumstantial support in Duncan-Jones's notice of verbal echoes of Herrick's "The Country life, to the honoured M. End. Porter" in the revised version of the dialogue (Legouis and Duncan-Jones 1: 248-49). While none of this is absolutely conclusive as evidence of Marvell's direct involvement with composers in the setting of his dialogues, it is suggestive. Nor, on the other hand, does the absence of extant settings for Marvell's other dialogues necessarily mean that they were not so written. In short, we may reasonably speculate about the ways Marvell's texts might have functioned within a musical context.

Even in an age which saw musicians becoming increasingly interested in shaping music to the particular intellectual and emotional movements of a text, a work designed for musical performance nevertheless involves collaboration between poet and composer. However sympathetic a musician might be, the nature of such a collaboration is such that a poet must forgo some independence, leaving the composer a degree of authority with regard to characterization, mood-setting, and the pointing up of dramatic action--otherwise the music risks being supernumerary or distracting. The poet must, as Eugene Haun has pointed out in his valuable but neglected study of the libretti of Restoration opera, "be willing to forgo complete authority over the sounds of the words in favor of a blend of words and music, and to forgo subtlety of expression for directness and simplicity" (69; cf. Pinnock and Wood 271-72). According to Haun, the unfairly maligned Flecknoe first properly understood the need to envisage an effective libretto not as a species of literary composition with music bolted on but as a radical new compound (35-36). The objection to Marvell's dialogues established by Leishman is that, considered as poems, they are insufficiently individualized. But for practical reasons, as well as considerations of decorum, a dialogue designed to be sung by two voices cannot be expected to exhibit the distinctively Marvellian quirkiness, the witty obscurity of an "Appleton House." The text must be clear and syntactically straightforward, accessible to the ear on a single hearing. Nor is it the sole bearer of argument and characterization.

It follows from such general considerations that if we are fully to grasp the way in which the libretto functioned within the work as a whole, the available evidence, both internal and external, must be scrutinized for the information it furnishes about the movement and structure of the work at large. Valuable information may be provided by extra-textual details. In "Thyrsis and Dorinda," the shepherdess's sudden and enthusiastic embrace of the idea of Elysium is often and reasonably felt to be rather sudden and inadequately justified by Thyrsis's argumentation, fairly dismissed as "insipid" (Legouis, Marvell 40-41; Leishman 298; cf. Friedman, Marvell's Pastoral Art 58). But the conjecture that music may have played a part in bringing about her conversion can help us here. A bland and insignificant allusion to pastoral oaten pipes in the shorter version (see Smith 243) is expanded in the longer version into an allusion to the music of the spheres and rendered structurally pivotal, becoming a break-point in the argument (25-26), prompting Dorinda's ecstatic apostrophic conversion: "Oh sweet! Oh sweet!" (27). (15) In the revised version, music plays a dramatic role in generating the action of the dialogue. In the 1663 printing, marginal notes call for "music" at the conclusion of three of Thyrsis's speeches (Smith 243): speeches in which Dorinda is invited to contemplate first the skies (12), next the heavens (18), and finally the music of the spheres (26), after which she breaks out in her ecstatic apostrophe (27). A manuscript text among the papers of Bulstrode Whitelocke at Longleat House is even more precise, numbering the same three occasions "2d Symph," "3d Symph," and "4th Symph."16 The term "symphony" registers an instrumental interlude in a primarily vocal composition (OED 5. Mus. a). The numbering implies that a "first symphony" must have introduced the dialogue. What is called for in each case is a pause in the vocal line and the insertion of some kind of ravishing instrumental music. In performance, such an addition would buttress Thyrsis's argumentation, providing an additional rationale for Dorinda's ecstasy. Indeed, her apostrophe, "Oh sweet!," may function as a comment on the music she and the audience actually hear rather than merely on her imagining of the bliss to come. The implied presence of music as a structural component is one of the main features distinguishing the revised from the earlier version of the dialogue.

A similar reliance on music as part of the argument of a dialogue is suggested by the text of "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure." Here, the tempter Pleasure works his way through the traditional "banquet of senses" but with a difference; the climax is not (as usual) sight, but sound. The "charming airs" offered by Pleasure represent the only temptation to which Soul devotes any serious attention: a fact registered by Soul's concession that, had she world enough and time she would dispose it all on music. There is, in the soul's rejection of such temptations a surprising lack of intellectual refutation. It is, as Margoliouth and Leishman have observed, "rather thin": "it lacks the hyperbole, the dialectical ingenuity, and the exquisite pictorialism which in other poems Marvell has so inimitably combined" (Leishman 208). As Robert Wilcher has more recently noted, rather than being refuted, "temptations are triumphantly thrust aside" (222). Leishman commented of the poem's thinness: "It is difficult not to suppose that Marvell intended it to be set to music and that he therefore deliberately imposed certain limitations upon himself and exerted himself to supply such, and only such, material as a musician could most rewardingly exploit" (208). Music may have provided the missing pressure. Souls call to Pleasure to "Cease," with its witty musical pun on "sweet chordage," could be dramatically effective, closing the first part of the temptation and offering both an audible rationale for the change of tune implied in the ensuing chorus, which ends with a decasyllabic couplet and announces the sounding of new charges, and a generous concession to the composers art and the performers' skill. Those new charges themselves appear to be dramatized by way of increased tempo: Pleasure's subsequent injunctions are written in alternating lines of seven-syllable trochaic and iambic trimeter as opposed to the tetrameter couplets of the earlier stanzas (Smith 244). Perhaps, therefore, a good part of the drama of this dialogue lay in contrasts of tune and tempo which are largely lost to us. And our frustration with the poem for its lack of conflict where we expect it, in the sphere of intellectual engagement, derives from a misunderstanding of the way in which the work as a whole was designed to function.

A second important aspect to consider when examining these texts as libretti is the dialogue convention of having performers harmonize voices for the concluding chorus. (17) Marvell was clearly aware of this convention because he alludes to it in introducing the concluding chorus of "Clorinda and Damon": "Who would not in Pan's praises meet?" enquires Clorinda. As Donald M. Friedman has noted, "meet" is "the technical term for a concord of voices" (Marvell's Pastoral Art 55). Friedman seems to find the pun rather unforgiveable; in performance, however, it could be functional, serving to introduce the harmonized chorus which Clorinda and Damon will now perform. Although the text does not specify singers (it is billed simply as "Chorus"), the implication that both will perform it seems clear. The Longleat text of "Thrysis and Dorinda" explicitly assigns its concluding "Chorus" to both singers: "D. T." (18) Seen solely as a verbal artifact, that chorus might appear rather flat--especially when it is assigned, as it is in the 1681 edition--followed by Smith, and by Ormerod and Wortham (19) --to a single speaker, Dorinda:

   Then let us give Carillo charge o'th sheep,
   And thou and I'll pick poppies and them steep
   In wine, and drink on't even till we weep,
   So shall we smoothly pass away in sleep. (45-48)

That problem is radically reduced if we see the lines as a chorus performed in duet by both Thyrsis and Dorinda. In that case at least half of the argument is carried by each of the speakers. Rather than Dorinda lecturing Thyrsis, the lovers engage together in a mutual suicide pact. The lines are, in fact, presented as a chorus in two early manuscript miscellanies (British Library, Additional MS 29921, and Bodleian Library, MS Rawl. poet. 81), and the designation is rightly followed in the editions of Margoliouth (Legouis and Duncan-Jones 1:21) Donno (23), and others. The dramatic intensity of the interaction is brought out in Lockes setting of the chorus, which uses variation of pitch between Thyrsis's low and Dorinda's high and emphatic "I'll" (46), and contrasting rhythmic syncopation between the two parts ("So shall we smoothly," 48) to emphasize the emotional dynamism and urgency of Dorinda's urging of the suicide pact (Fig. I). (19)

Marvells familiarity with the convention of the shared chorus raises the possibility of a new understanding of the conclusions of his spiritual dialogues. It is certainly possible, in the case of the "Dialogue between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure," that the initial "Charge" along with the medial and concluding choruses were sung by a third voice. If, however, the usual practice was followed, and the two voices which sang the main parts (typically a treble and bass) harmonized to do so, the effect on the final chorus would be to suggest Pleasures eventual acquiescence in Soul's triumph. The metrical form of that chorus follows that of Soul's speeches, underscoring the latter's dominance. The phrasing of the chorus is broad enough to allow it to imply also a concession by the defeated world--that larger entity of which Created Pleasure is the particular manifestation:

   Triumph, triumph, victorious Soul;
   The world has not one pleasure more:
   The rest does lie beyond the pole,
   And is thine everlasting store. (75-78)

An understanding of this convention might also help us with a famous crux at the close of the "Dialogue between the Soul and the Body." The Soul-Body dialogue has usually been distinguished from the other dialogues we have been considering, and it isn't hard to see why. Leishman argued that it differed by not being designed for musical setting, being "unlyrical and unsingable" (203). He has a point. It would be difficult for a singer to articulate a line like "Where whatsoever it complain" (23). On the other hand, its metrical form is identical to that of Carew's dialogue "of Iealousie," which was performed as a chorus at a play in 1633; and its strophic structure is comparable to that of Carew's dialogue--the final paragraph being, at fourteen lines, the same length as that at the end of Carew's (Carew 59-60). Even if the poem were not actually set, the convention of the concluding chorus may furnish a context for that troubling shift in perspective that has been so frequently noticed in the final couplet--a couplet that has the potential to play in favor of either soul or body. (20) While such a solution does not help us with the two preceding lines, which make sense only if uttered by the body ("What but a soul could have the wit/To build me up for sin so fit?"; 41-42), the notion that Marvell was alluding to, if not actually employing, the convention of having the two singers in a dialogue harmonize in a concluding chorus might explain the ambiguity of the poem's last two lines--equally applicable to both parties: "So architects do square and hew/Green trees that in the forest grew" (43-44). Perhaps what we have in the "additional" four lines--those that have been struck through in the Bodleian copy, along with the admonitory "desunt multa"--is an essay towards a final speech by the body, along with a gesture towards a concluding chorus. (21) Even if the poem were not designed to be sung, the final couplet might have been designed to be read as a poetic version of a concluding chorus: an imaginative harmonizing of the two viewpoints that have until this point been at loggerheads, while ironically revealing throughout their mutual dependence. A final recognition of that interdependence is not out of the question.


Evidence supports the suggestion raised long ago by Moore-Smith and by Leishman and repeated often enough but never seriously pursued, that most, if not all, of Marvell's poetical dialogues were written to be set to music. Among those that seem to have been so composed are "A Dialogue, Between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure," "Chlorinda and Damon," "Ametas and Thestylis Making Hay-Ropes," "A Dialogue between Thyrsis and Dorinda," and, of course, the two pastoral songs written for the Cromwell-Fauconberg wedding. Although there has never been any dispute about the two last, the four other texts should be regarded as related to them and approached as libretti rather than as free-standing poems. About the status of "A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body" we have reason to remain agnostic. A good case may be made on either side. A student with a strong background in musical performance might be able to build a case for or against its performability. Finally, a similar question should be raised about the status of "Music's Empire." While the work is clearly not a dialogue, at least two scholars have independently suggested that it bears signs of having been written for musical setting. (22) Two features at the opening of the final stanza point strongly in this direction: "Victorious sounds! Yet here your homage do / Unto a gentler conqueror than you" (21-22). First, the introductory exclamation ("Victorious sounds!") gestures towards a music that must be imagined if it were not, in fact, performed. Second, that music is invited to pay homage to a gentler conqueror": a figure identified either with Fairfax (with the poem thus dating from the Nun Appleton period) or Cromwell (with the poem dating from the protectoral period, and thus being linked to Marvell's presentation of him as the musical city-builder Amphion in The First Anniversary). In either case, the first line's "here" calls for music and points to performance on a specific occasion, in the presence of the conqueror himself. In sum, sufficient evidence warrants the suggestion that not only do most of Marvell's dialogues form a discrete group of texts designed for musical setting, but that other works may also be considered under this category. Marvell has long been celebrated as a writer of exquisite lyric poems; it may be time to begin assessing his achievement as a composer of lyrics for music.


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A version of this essay was presented at the South-Central Renaissance Conference meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas in March 2009. I thank my audience--all, I think, members of the Andrew Marvell Society--for their helpful comments and suggestions, and my colleagues in the English Department, Carleton College, for their support. Three anonymous reviewers for EIRC gave me valuable criticisms and suggestions, for which I am most grateful. All quotations from Marvell's poetry are taken from Nigel Smith's edition, referenced by line number.

(1) For the relatively recent critical approval of "A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body," see Craze 285. An early positive comment on "The Resolved Soul" is noted by von Maltzahn (274).

(2) Leishman offers two apparent allusions to Paradise Lost as evidence for dating "The Resolved Soul" after 1667 (31 n.l).

(3) On the wedding festivities and the place of these dialogues within them, see Holberton 143-62. For interesting speculations on their settings, see Friedman, "Marvell's Musicks" 18-27.

(4) In making this suggestion, Leishman had been preempted by Moore-Smith, who suggested in a footnote to his review of Legouis's Andre Marvell that the pastoral dialogues with the addition of both "A Dialogue between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" and probably "Ametas and Thestylis" and "Music's Empire," as well as the two Fauconberg-Cromwell marriage songs, had been written for musical setting (Moore-Smith 79 n. 1; cited in Legouis and Duncan-Jones 1: 247). For the view that "The Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure" in particular may have been written to be set, see Reeves and Seymour-Smith 161; Legouis and Duncan-Jones, 1: 242; Kelliher 50 (Kelliher offers an interesting speculation about the absence, from the only known manuscript text, of a distinctively Marvellian but metrically irregular couplet); Kermode and Walker 281. For the claim that all the pastoral dialogues may have been written to be sung, see Kermode and Walker 296; Summers 188 n. 3. For the claim that all five dialogues were so written, see Ormerod and Wortham 2.

(5) Gaylard provides a full and authoritative account of the tradition, with a useful "Catalogue of Dialogues," listing 195 extant examples (570-613).

(6) Spink makes the point that this description did not appear in the 1617 edition but was first added to the 1640 edition of Jonson's works (English Song 46).

(7) Payne; Gaylard 174-76, 179-80; Spink, "Hilton"; Walls 86-93; Spink, English Song 46-53; Thompson, "English Biblical Dialogues"; Smallman; Thompson, "Robert Ramsey"; Spink, "English Seventeenth-Century Dialogues."

(8) Ramsey also set some of Herrick's solo songs: seejorgens 12:416, 519.

(9) Spink, "English Seventeenth-Century Dialogues" 159-62; Jorgens helpfully collects the libretti for the dialogues from the manuscript collections of the period (12: 303-57); see also Cutts.

(10) Lefkowitz 169. The collected edition of Lawes's music prints fourteen dialogues; cf. Jorgens 12: 303--57.

(11) Friedmans suggestion ("Marvell's Musicks" 19) that in using the pastoral dialogue for the Cromwell-Fauconberg wedding Marvell was "making anachronism his choice" is thus too strong.

(12) For the full text of the libretto, see Jorgens 12: 329-30, 448; Cutts 198-99.

(13) Kirkendale 256 n. 113. For the text of the latter (by Agostino Manni), see Anerio xxxi--xxxiii.

(14) For the settings, see Legouis and Duncan-Jones 1: 247; Smith 242-43. William Lawes's setting of one of the early versions of the text was issued by the Consort of Musicke in 1979: Lawes, Dialogues.

(15) See the discussion by Rees 61-62.

(16) The text is referenced, but these details are not noted in Smith. I am most grateful to Professor Nicholas von Maltzahn for drawing them to my attention.

(17) See the interesting dramatization of the convention in Lovelace's dialogue between Lute and Voice 160-61.

(18) Smith follows the 1681 version, noting its misattribution of the chorus to Dorinda (435).

(19) Gaylard notes the convention of using a high pitch to register heightened emotional awareness (369).

(20) See the excellent discussion of the passage by Rees 70-71.

(21) The deletion is reproduced in facsimile in Marvell, Miscellaneous Poems (1681), Appendix, 14.

(22) The suggestion was first raised by Moore-Smith (see above, n. 4). It was again proposed at a meeting of the Andrew Marvell Society in 2009 by Gabriella Gruder-Poni.
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