Andrew Marvell – (The Bermudas)

[“”Where the remote Bermudas ride..”]

AG: Now Marvell is really a marvel. Andrew Marvell is really a great lyricist, and in some of the poems that we’ll pick up on now he’s written perhaps some of the best  (some) of the best lines in the English language (including Shakespeare, or up with Shakespeare). There are a couple of crystal jewel perfect-resonating, good-sounding philosophically piercing statements. Also with a kind of spectral visionary visual quality. Also with an amazing ear. So, just to taste his ear to begin with, this little thing called “The Bermudas” which is purely an imaginary Walt Disney-like poem about he’s imagining The Garden of Eden in the newly-discovered, newly-explored Bermudas (remember this is 1621 – when did the Pilgrims come here? 1612?

Student: (16)07 they (came) to Jamestown

AG: 1607, okay. And then who came in 1612? the Mayflower?

Student: 1620

AG: 1620 0kay, Anyway, in 1621. So by this time a couple of boats have gone back when he’s ten years old and he’s heard about the Newfoundland and the Bermudas and the Carib...   (page) 366 –   “..Bermudas” – “Where the remote Bermudas ride..”

“Where the remote Bermudas ride/ In th’ ocean’s bosom unespy’d,/ From a small boat, that row’d along,/ The list’ning winds receiv’d this song/. What should we do but sing his praise/That led us through the wat’ry maze/ Unto an isle so long unknown,/ And yet far kinder than our own?/ Where he the huge sea-monsters wracks,/ That lift the deep upon their backs,/ He lands us on a grassy stage,/ Safe from the storm’s and prelates’ rage./ He gave us this eternal spring/  Which here enamels everything,/  And sends the fowls to us in care,/ On daily visits through the air./He hangs in shades the orange bright,/ Like golden lamps in a green night;/ And does in the pomegranates close /Jewels more rich than Ormus shows/.  He makes the figs our mouths to meet/ And throws the melons at our feet,/ But apples plants of such a price,/No tree could ever bear them twice./With cedars, chosen by his hand,/ From Lebanon, he stores the land,/ And makes the hollow seas that roar/ Proclaim the ambergris on shore./ He cast (of which we rather boast) /The Gospel’s pearl upon our coast, /And in these rocks for us did frame /A temple, where to sound his name./ Oh let our voice his praise exalt,/ Till it arrive at heaven’s vault; /Which thence (perhaps) rebounding, may/ Echo beyond the Mexic Bay./  Thus sung they in the English boat/An holy and a cheerful note,/ And all the way, to guide their chime,/With falling oars they kept the time.”

It’s really pretty. Particularly with – “And all the way, to guide their chime,/ With falling oars they kept the time.” You don’t get anything as pretty as that, till (William) Blake again, later, a hundred years. But that “He hangs in shades the orange bright/Like golden lamps in a green night”, for color, it’s very strange in poetry to get bright pastel colors, or it’s.. to get a flash on the mind’s eye of an actual bright color as Marvell has done here (and as he has done, later, in several other poems)  He’s one of few poets whose use of words of color actually does seem to flash it forth in the imagination and make a 3-D picture in the imagination. It’s very rare to get color used well.  In other words, you have sight, you have all the senses, and you have sight and you have pictures in the mind’s eye, but rarely does a poet conjour up this.. a sort of a… what is that new thing they’ve got, that three-dimensional picture?

Student: Hologram

AG: Hologram. This… “He hangs in shades the orange bright,/ Like golden lamps in a green night” is like a mental hologram of some sort. (Maybe it’s the first time this modern comparison has been noted but that’s what it is).

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-two minutes in and concluding approximately fifty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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