Andrew Marvell – The Garden – 1

Section of late 16th Century English embroidery, “The Garden of Eden”, currently in the collectionof the Metropolitan Museum in NewYork

Allen Ginsberg on Andrew Marvell continuing from here 

AG: Okay, move on now to “The Garden”, on page three seven four. .And “The Garden” is considered by many people to be the greatest lyric poem in the English language, on account of it has great sound, it has great picture, it has great intellectual capacity and significance, it is transcendent intellectually in that it goes of into a sphere of mind-awareness that is beyond anything so far displayed in English poetry, except maybe occasional flashes of Shakespeare, which is to say the conception of a.. multitudinous universes, of like an Einstein-ian relativism, in which it is the mind itself which has created the universe and there may be many minds, there may be many universes, some that we don’t know. So it’s almost the first of the psychedelic poems in the English language, in the sense that it’s fitting and appropriate for an acid trip, the notion of alternative universes . So there is entering into… Andy.. Andrew Marvell, some element of Gnostic theory – theories.. as the theories of Basilides that there are 365 universes, or 380, or that there are multiple universes, or some multiple simultaneous universes. So some element of science-fiction comes in. It’s the result’s a by-product of a Neoplatonic philosophy that Marvell was familiar with. So he had one of the most refined minds of all the poets, one of the best ears, one of the best literary backgrounds (being the best Latin poet of his generation).He was also a practical politician (having to be part of a great Revolution) . And he wrote this poem called “The Garden”, which I suppose is after leaving..leaving politics.

But before we go…there’s one or two things you might take a look at “palm, oak and bays” because it begins.. The palm – the palm is for Olympic athletic victory. The oak is the..the oak is the oak crown (the palm crown, usually you get a palm crown if you’re a athlete). The oak is for governmnt..government and civics. And the laurel…(well, the oak is for war too, I (should) mention)..and the laurel is for poetry. So the crowns of honor is what he’s talking about in the second line.

So, let’s see now is there anything else? – Well, there would be other things, but we can skip it.

But this is one poem that I would like to examine from the point of view of understanding what he’s talking about, as well as the sound. Because what it’s talking about is so beautiful that its affected almost every major poet since Marvell.

And, if any of you are familiar with my own work, The Gates Of Wrath, you’ll notice that I have a little imitation of that, done when I was twenty-two (“How vainly lovers labor all/ To win a body, mind and soul” was the beginning of mine).

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approxinately sixty-seven minutes in and continuing until seventy-and-three-quarter minutes in]

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