Xxiv

"Each night among us to your side Appoint a fresh and virgin bride; Whom if Our Lord at midnight find, Yet neither should be left behind. Where you may lie as chaste in bed, As pearls together billeted."

Marvell remains critical of the Catholic faith and rituals, characterizing the nuns as opportunists who take advantage of young virgins. He writes in stanza 32 of "the disjointed abbess" who "threads / The jingling chain-shot of her beads," adding of the nuns that "their loud'st cannon were their lungs; / And sharpest weapons were their tongues." Marvell employs the extended metaphor of battle throughout the poem, alluding to Fairfax's military career.

Stanzas 36 through 46 focus on the estate flowers with the use of personification: "Then flowers their drowsy eyelids raise, / Their silken ensigns each displays." They salute "their Governor" with "fragrant volleys" and resemble soldiers on parade presenting their colors. Military references continue, as in stanza 33 the speaker compares the gardener to a soldier who cares for his "gentle forts." Marvell writes of the estate meadows in stanzas 47 through 60, noting the tall "unfathomable grass" provides a home to grasshoppers, which he also personifies. The grass he describes as "green spires," suggesting a spiritual connotation. He features the mowers, as he does in his series The Mower Poems, comparing them to "Israelites," "Walking on foot through a green sea," continuing his biblical allusions. He also honors the estate woods in stanzas 61 through 81, with three verses focusing on the river. The speaker emphasizes the human connection with nature, sharing with his listeners in stanza 71:

Thus I, easy philosopher, Among the birds and trees confer: And little now to make me, wants or of the fowls, or of the plants. Give me but wings as they, and I Straight floating on the air shall fly: or turn me but, and you shall see I was but an inverted tree.

In his final stanzas Marvell turns to his young pupil, Mary, whom he greatly compliments by noting the importance of her presence to the natural beauties of the estate. She tends the gardens, and he characterizes her as a nymph, a classical nature creature, who gives order to her surroundings. She represents the entire Fairfax line, whose efforts have imbued new life on the estate. The speaker closes by inviting his listeners to go inside the house as the evening approaches.

This poem remains important for its country house connections but is not read as much as are Marvell's lyrics. While critics have occasionally attempted to see the poem as a political statement, the results have not proved convincing.

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