I have added to the list of Literature texts for A level H1 & H2 Literature that I tutor – all the Renaissance poetry. Most delightful of the Renaissance poets is none other than the writer of “To His Coy Mistress” – Andrew Marvell. This is his most successful and most famous poem. I have read the poem way before I have heard of Andrew Marvell and I am sure many of us here have heard of the poem at one time or the other. It is quite a feat to enjoy his other poems because they cover both politics and religion and are usually metaphysical in nature. Marvell’s poems are often described as pastorals, but they contain a lot more energy revealing him to be a satirist and a critic and also a pragmatist and a realist. He lived during an extremely eventful even turbulent times – the long disturbance of civil war and political revolution that culminated in the execution of King Charles I, the strengthening of parliamentary system in England despite the restoration of the monarchy. His poetry does not allow us to forget the disturbing conditions that left their mark on his imaginative outlook.
Marvell was an avid traveller, a politician, a poet and tutor. His poems made him the spokesman of a civilised tradition. His poems are well defined by a a tightly disciplined organisation of the octosyllabic line. “To His Coy Mistress” combines three contrasting moods – lazy frivolity, terror and aggressive resolution in a highly compressed poem. His other famous poem – “An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return From Ireland” where despite being an earlier Royalist, acknowledges Cromwell as a man of destiny whose monumental destiny is to lead England into another era -“To ruin the great work of Time\And cast the Kingdom old\Into another mould”.
Thomas Middleton’s “Women Beware Women” like Marvell and the other Renaissance writers such as Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson bring us back into an era that continues to resonate with the times and it is no wonder their appeal is timeless.