Andrew Marvell – “Upon Appleton House” (ctd.)

The poet depicts himself as becoming a part of the forest. All he needs to become a bird is  pair of wings, or if you turn him upside down, you’ll see he’s an inverted tree. (The Not So Helpful Footnote explains the “man as inverted tree” metaphor goes back to the ancients and was very popular in the Renaissance, but I actually had to search online to find what it meant. I wish they put this sort of thing in the footnotes, not explaining who Narcissus was.) He can speak birds’ language and birds listen to him as attentively as if they were in a trap. He weaves prophecies out of the scattered leaves and plumes, like the ones used for creating art in pre-Columbian Mexico (imagine Marvell knowing about that!) He himself becomes a kind of tree, covered with leaves and ivy. Now he throws himself on velvet moss and the zephyr cools his forehead and winnows his thoughts from the chaff in his head. In the forest he feels secure, no darts of love or shots of the world can hit him. He asks the woodbines and brambles to tie him down so that he may never leave this place – or maybe stake him down to a spot near the river surrounding the meadow with its smooth folds and providing a mirror into which the whole world and the sun can gaze for its reflection, like Narcissus.


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