184. (Andrew Marvell)

Not that the poems are about language, but they are about a mild yearning for something beyond or before civilization and the human existence that seems, to Marvell, to demand and aspire to the civilization that he would see around and through; language being a part of such an existence, and such a civilization, the poems cannot but also reflect on their own means or … Continue reading 184. (Andrew Marvell)

99. (William Empson)

Whatever else its relationship to genre, wit is a particular way of coping with the world’s fragility, its tendency to waste and isolation. Wit happens when the intelligence detaches itself from a situation in which that fragility is keenly felt and is able, by virtue of that detachment, not only to extract from it those dispersed and discordant elements that threaten to waste and isolate life, … Continue reading 99. (William Empson)

92. (Robert Lowell)

My mind is snared by wit, and Marvell’s wit in particular. The Greatness of that poet, once proclaimed, has burned out in critical conversation; but it was a real thought, mid-century, that he was very great indeed, and when Robert Lowell decided, in the 1960s, to ride the iambic tetrameter for many poems in Near the Ocean, he had the MP from Hull in mind. But … Continue reading 92. (Robert Lowell)

90. (Andrew Marvell)

Yesterday’s post on Andrew Marvell perhaps flew too high in abstraction; the thought that literature might be classified by tolerance of waste on the one hand and the abundance or scarcity of the world on the other could seem perversely arbitrary or narrow, even taking into consideration waste’s variety. But it can be defended. First from the guarded position that to claim these characteristics are … Continue reading 90. (Andrew Marvell)

89. (Andrew Marvell)

When T.S. Eliot, in his essay on Andrew Marvell, offered his incomparably confusing characterization of “wit,” what was he onto? That he was onto something is clear less from his strained reach of eloquence than from his sequence of instances; Eliot’s eye for exemplary passages and for juxtaposition of passages was among his gifts as a critic and they delineate more clearly than the words … Continue reading 89. (Andrew Marvell)

47. (Andrew Marvell)

Even Christopher Ricks, whose criticism is chary in its courtship of the political, feels that Marvell, in one of the crucial aspects of his style, responds to the strife disemboweling the nation in the time of Civil War. Ricks sets Marvell alongside a set of Ulster poets, no coterie themselves, so as to show that the self-reflexive simile is not only a matter of a … Continue reading 47. (Andrew Marvell)