Critical Analysis of The Garden
As with many of his poems, Andrew Marvell wrote The Garden to put forward his point of view and then argue it logically. In The Definition of Love, for example, he writes about unrequited passions, insisting that Fate itself acts against true love; in The Garden he takes a similarly pessimistic viewpoint and takes it to its misanthropic limits, attempting to argue that being at one with nature and away from other people is the best way to live.
All poets have traits and habits that define their own style - some more so than others. Marvell
's style is particularly recognizable, as he commonly uses several easily identifiable techniques and images. Of the latter, The Garden features many of Marvell's staple ingredients. Central to the entire poem is the idea of pure nature, of a world without the intrusion of mankind: Marvell's own Eden. In his poetry, he takes every opportunity to extol the virtues of a type of hermitage, of being at peace with oneself and the universe as a whole; this can also be seen as central themes
in poems such as The Picture of little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers and Bermudas, to name but two. The Garden takes it to its extremes, however, and presents its case most fervently. The two-line epigram
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious Solitude.
summarizes his argument concisely - Marvell would much prefer a life of isolation to the hectic interaction with other people that is part of an ordinary life. Also, this seems to be very much Marvell's opinion: often in poetry it is unclear as to whether the poet shares the same views as the narrator; with Marvell's work, it always seems apparent that it contains his own views.
Another of Marvell's regular themes that is utilized in The Garden is that of classical and biblical references. The paradise he depicts if very much like the garden of Eden, and Greek and Latin references abound:
Apollo hunted Daphne so,
Only that She might Laurel grow.
And Pan did after Syrinx speed,
Not as a Nymph, but for a Reed.
In a similar vein, he often uses exotic references (for the time). "Stumbling on Melons• and mentioning "The Nectaren• would have greatly impressed people of Marvell's time; these fruits had only recently been discovered in the New World - it was indeed a time of discovery, and Marvell tries to show his knowledge of current events in any way he can.
The language used is also typically Marvellian. The very first line - "How vainly men themselves amaze• - uses a distorted syntax that is akin to having Marvell's signature on the poem (as with "And yet I quickly might arrive• in The Definition of Love
Structurally, the poem looks at the argument in a logical manner. Not relying on the reader's simple acceptance of his own ideas, Marvell continuously drives the point home that a misanthropic, peaceful existence is far preferable to the chaos and noise of society. He begins by laying down his main point, culminating in the aforementioned epigram, then argues that the trees are more beautiful than women; later he describes the luscious greenery of the garden in succulent detail, includes a few exotic and classical references to lend weight to his argument, and finishes with some philosophical discussion of how the soul is at home amongst the greenery. The comparison between the plants and women is something of a conceit; normally, one would not think of comparing the two - Marvell uses this technique in many of his poems to illustrate a point in an unusual and interesting way; probably to give his theories a different perspective.
Ultimately, The Garden is a poem that wears its Marvellian origins on its sleeve for all to see; the common writing techniques and themes that he uses are clear and undisguised.