Andrew Marvell (31 March 1621 – 16 August 1678) was an English metaphysical poet and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1659 and 1678. As a metaphysical poet, he is associated with John Donne and George Herbert. He was a colleague and friend of John Milton.
On going down from Cambridge, Marvell probably took up private tuition, his pupils including the daughter of Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax, subsequently Duchess of Buckingham. His best poetry was written at this time. He entered the service of the Protectorate in 1657, defeating the republican Sir Henry Vane at Hull at the general election of 1659, and retaining the seat till his death.
Marvell used his political status to free Milton, who was jailed during the Restoration, and quite possibly saved the elder poet's life. In the early years of his tenure, Marvell made two extraordinary diplomatic journeys: to Holland (1662-11163) and to Russia, Sweden, and Denmark (1663-1665).
He contracted an ague in the course of a hurried visit to his constituency during the recess, and was ‘killed, strictly in accordance with the rules of medicine, by an old-fashioned physician’. He died in Thompson’s former lodgings in Great Russell Street on 16 Aug., and was buried at St. Giles in the Fields.
In an era that makes a better claim than most upon the familiar term transitional, Andrew Marvell is surely the single most compelling embodiment of the change that came over English society and letters in the course of the seventeenth century. Author of a varied array of exquisite lyrics that blend Cavalier grace with Metaphysical wit and complexity, Marvell turned, first, into a panegyrist for the Lord Protector and his regime and then into an increasingly bitter satirist and polemicist, attacking the royal court and the established church in both prose and verse.
"Nothing in Marvell's 'To his Coy Mistress' has received more attention that the phrase 'vegetable love.' Influenced, perhaps, by T.S. Eliot's stress on the visual imagery in the poem, critics at one time evoked pictures of turnips or of 'sequoia trees and other giant forms of plant life.'
"Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain."
"When <i>An Horation Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland</i> was written in 1650, its readers were puzzled by the praise given to King Charles I. And readers ever since have been puzzled by Marvell's ability to deal with the burning issues of the Civil War without making his political position clear."
The forward youth that would appear
Must now forsake his Muses dear,
Nor in the shadows sing
His numbers languishing.
’Tis time to leave the books in dust,
And oil th’ unused armour’s rust,
Removing from the wall
The corslet of the hall.
So restless Cromwell could not cease
In the inglorious arts of peace,
But thorough advent’rous war
Urged his active star.
At age twelve Marvell began his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge. Four years later two of Marvell's poems, one in Latin and one in Greek, were published in an anthology of Cambridge poets. After receiving his B.A. in 1639, Marvell stayed on at Trinity, apparently to complete an M.A. degree. In 1641, however, his father drowned in the Hull estuary and Marvell abandoned his studies.
Andrew Marvell is best known today as the author of a handful of exquisite lyrics and provocative political poems. In his own time, however, Marvell was famous for his brilliant prose interventions in the major issues of the Restoration, religious toleration, and what he called “arbitrary” as distinct from parliamentary government.