Andrew Marvell & Ben Jonson

jonson

Andrew Marvell’s Biography

1621–78, one of the English metaphysical poets. Educated at Cambridge, he worked as a clerk, traveled abroad, and returned to serve as tutor to Lord Fairfax's daughter in Yorkshire. In 1657 he was appointed John Milton's assistant in the Latin secretaryship, and in 1659 he was elected to Parliament, where he served until his death. He was one of the chief wits and satirists of his time as well as being a Puritan and a public defender of individual liberty. Today, however, he is known chiefly for his brilliant lyric poetry, which includes “The Garden,” “The Definition of Love,” “Bermudas,” and “To His Coy Mistress,” and for his “Horatian Ode” to Cromwell.

Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Discussion Questions for ”To His Coy Mistress”

1) According to line 1 of "To His Coy Mistress," under what conditions would the lady's coyness not be a crime?
2) In lines 3-7, what would the lady and the speaker each do, separately and together?
3) Starting at the end of line 7 and continuing to line 20, how does the speaker express his love?
4) In lines 21-24, what does the speaker hear at his back, and what lies before him and the lady?
5) In what place does the action described in lines 25-32 occur?
6) In lines 33-40, why does the speaker urge the lady to act "now"?
7) In conclusion (lines 41-46), what does the speaker say that he and the lady should do?
8) If you had to state the speaker's objections to the lady's resistance in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
9) Since time is central to the poem, how is it expressed? Point to the word pictures or images and to the cortiparisons or metaphors that stand for and represent time.

Marvell's "The Picture of Little T.C.
in a Prospect of Flowers"

See with what simplicity
This Nimph begins her golden daies!
In the green Grass she loves to lie,
And there with her fair Aspect tames
The Wilder flow'rs, and gives them names:
But only with the Roses playes;
And them does tell
What Colour best becomes them, and what Smell.
Who can foretel for what high cause
This Darling of the Gods was born!
Yet this is She whose chaster Laws
The wanton Love shall one day fear,
And, under her command severe,
See his Bow broke and Ensigns torn.
Happy, who can
Appease this virtuous Enemy of Man!
O then let me in time compound,
And parly with those conquering Eyes;
Ere they have try'd their force to wound,
Ere, with their glancing wheels, they drive
In Triumph over Hearts that strive,
And them that yield but more despise.
Let me be laid,
Where I may see thy Glories from some Shade.
Mean time, whilst every verdant thing
It self does at thy Beauty charm,
Reform the errours of the Spring;
Make that the Tulips may have share
Of sweetness, seeing they are fair;
And Roses of their thorns disarm:
But most procure
That Violets may a longer Age endure.
But O young beauty of the Woods,
Whom Nature courts with fruits and flow'rs,
Gather the Flow'rs, but spare the Buds;
Lest Flora angry at thy crime,
To kill her Infants in their prime,
Do quickly make th' Example Yours;
And, ere we see,
Nip in the blossome all our hopes and Thee.

Discussion Questions for ”The Picture
of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers”

1) What is the nymph doing in stanza 1?
2) In stanza 2, what will Love fear?
3) Why does the speaker, in stanza 3, want to converse with "those conquering eyes"? 4) To whom are stanzas 4 and 5 addressed?
5) What is asked for in the fourth stanza?
6) Of what is the "young beauty" warned in the last stanza?
7) Nymphs are pretty young nature goddesses from classical mythology. They were often depicted in art and literature as rejecting ardent lovers, many of whom were gods.What details in the poem identify little T.C. with a wood nymph?
8) The speaker at first addresses directly little T.C. Where in the poem does this shift occur? What word signals the shift?

Ben Jonson’s Biography
1572–1637, English dramatist and poet, b. Westminster, London. The high-spirited buoyancy of Jonson's plays and the brilliance of his language have earned him a reputation as one of the great playwrights in English literature. After a brief term at bricklaying, his stepfather's trade, and after military service in Flanders, he began working for Philip Henslowe as an actor and playwright. In 1598 he was tried for killing another actor in a duel but escaped execution by claiming right of clergy (that he could read and write).
His first important play, Every Man in His Humour, was produced in 1598, with Shakespeare in the cast. In 1599 its companion piece, Every Man out of His Humour, was produced. In The Poetaster (1601) Jonson satirized several of his fellow playwrights, particularly Dekker and Marston, who were writing at that time for a rival company of child actors. He collaborated with Chapman and Marston on the comedy Eastward Ho! (1604). A passage in the play, derogatory to the Scots, offended James I, and the three playwrights spent a brief time in prison. Jonson's great period, both artistically and financially, began in 1606 with the production of Volpone. Jonson's good fortune declined rapidly. His final plays were failures, and with the accession of Charles I in 1625 his value at court was less appreciated.
His plays, written along classical lines, are marked by a pungent and uncompromising satire, by a liveliness of action, and by numerous humor characters, whose single passion or oddity overshadows all their other traits. He was a moralist who sought to improve the ways of men by portraying human foibles and passions through exaggeration and distortion. Jonson's nondramatic poetry includes Epigrams (1616); The Forrest (1616), notable for the two beautiful songs: “Drink to me only with thine eyes” and “Come, my Celia, let us prove”; and Underwoods (1640). Jonson exerted a strong influence over his contemporaries. Although arrogant and contentious, he was a boon companion, and his followers, sometimes called the “sons of Ben,” loved to gather with him in the London taverns.

Jonson's "On My First Son"

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
Seven years tho' wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon 'scap'd world's and flesh's rage,
And if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask'd, say, "Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry."
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,
As what he loves may never like too much.

Discussion Questions for ”On My First Son”

1) What is the epitaph Jonson has composed for his son in lines 9-12? What vow does Jonson make as part of the epitaph?
2) How would you rephrase the "sin" Jonson attributes to himself in line 2? What details in the poem support this reading?
3. Why does Jonson say in line 6 that his son's death is enviable?

Jonson's "Song: to Celia"

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

Discussion Questions for ”Song., To Celia”

1. What does the speaker ask for in the first four lines of "Song: To Celia"?
2. In the next four lines, what does the speaker say the soul requires and what substitutes does it desire?
3) Why, according to lines 11-12, did the speaker send the "rosy wreath" to Celia? In lines 14-16, what does the speaker say happened to the wreathe?
4) The speaker says a number of times that he prefers expressions of love to drink, whether wine or nectar. What does love give him that drink cannot? In which lines does he say this?

Jonson's "To the Memory of My Beloved Master
William Shakespeare"

To draw no envy, SHAKSPEARE, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame ;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither Man nor Muse can praise too much.
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise ;
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right ;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance ;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin where it seemed to raise.
These are, as some infamous bawd or whore
Should praise a matron ; what could hurt her more ?
But thou art proof against them, and, indeed,
Above the ill fortune of them, or the need.
I therefore will begin: Soul of the age!
The applause ! delight ! the wonder of our stage!
My SHAKSPEARE rise ! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room :
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so my brain excuses,
I mean with great, but disproportioned Muses :
For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line.
And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
For names : but call forth thund'ring Aeschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To life again, to hear thy buskin tread
And shake a stage : or when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show
To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time !
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm !
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines !
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please ;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all ; thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion : and, that he
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses' anvil ; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame ;
Or for the laurel he may gain a scorn ;
For a good poet's made, as well as born.
And such wert thou ! Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well torned and true filed lines;
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandisht at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James !
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced, and made a constellation there !
Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with rage
Or influence, chide or cheer the drooping stage,
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.

Discussion Questions for ”To the Memory of My Beloved
Master, William Shakespeare”

1) According to lines 1-12 what are the wrong reasons for praising Shakespeare?
2) According to the final two lines, how has the stage reacted since Shakespeare's death?
3) What does Jonson mean when he comments that Shakespeare was "not of an age, but for all time"?
4) What is the meaning of the metaphor in lines 57-59?
5) What does this poem reveal about Jonson's attitude toward Shakespeare? What does it reveal about his attitudes concerning the art of writing?
6) How does your awareness of the meaning of the allusions contribute to your overall understanding of Jonson's poem? How does Jonson's use of allusions help to give you a sense of Shakespeare's place in literary history?
7) How do Jonson's allusions reflect his interest in classical Greek and Roman literature?

Jonson's "Still to be Neat"

Still to be neat, still to be dressed,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed:
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.

Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.

Discussion Questions for ”Still to Be Neat”

1) To whom is the first stanza of "Still to Be Neat" addressed?
2) In stanza 1, what is the speaker saying about I the Lady's appearance?
3) What does the speaker ask for in the second stanza?
4) The speaker's tone in the first stanza is one of complaint and criticism. What words convey this tone?
5) Where does the speaker say that art raises questions about the good and the true?
6) Essentially, the poem says that art is false, and that naturalness is both more truthful and more appealing. What statements in the poem support this theme or main idea?