from Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax

By Andrew Marvell 1621–1678 Andrew Marvell
Within this sober frame expect
Work of no foreign architect;
That unto caves the quarries drew,
And forests did to pastures hew;
Who of his great design in pain
Did for a model vault his brain;
Whose columns should so high be rais’d
To arch the brows that on them gaz’d.

Why should of all things man unrul’d
Such unproportion’d dwellings build?
The beasts are by their dens exprest,
And birds contrive an equal nest;
The low roof’d tortoises do dwell
In cases fit of tortoise-shell;
No creature loves an empty space;
Their bodies measure out their place.

But he, superfluously spread,
Demands more room alive than dead;
And in his hollow palace goes
Where winds as he themselves may lose.
What need of all this marble crust
T’impark the wanton mote of dust,
That thinks by breadth the world t’unite
Though the first builders fail’d in height?

But all things are composed here
Like nature, orderly and near;
In which we the dimensions find
Of that more sober age and mind,
When larger sized men did stoop
To enter at a narrow loop;
As practising, in doors so straight,
To strain themselves through Heaven’s gate.

And surely when the after age
Shall hither come in pilgrimage,
These sacred places to adore,
By Vere and Fairfax trod before,
Men will dispute how their extent
Within such dwarfish confines went;
And some will smile at this, as well
As Romulus his bee-like cell.

Humility alone designs
Those short but admirable lines,
By which, ungirt and unconstrain’d,
Things greater are in less contain’d.
Let others vainly strive t’immure
The circle in the quadrature!
These holy mathematics can
In ev’ry figure equal man.

Yet thus the laden house does sweat,
And scarce endures the master great,
But where he comes the swelling hall
Stirs, and the square grows spherical;
More by his magnitude distress’d,
Then he is by its straightness press’d,
And too officiously it slights
That in itself which him delights.

So honour better lowness bears,
Than that unwonted greatness wears;
Height with a certain grace does bend,
But low things clownishly ascend.
And yet what needs there here excuse,
Where ev’ry thing does answer use?
Where neatness nothing can condemn,
Nor pride invent what to contemn?

A stately frontispiece of poor
Adorns without the open door;
Nor less the rooms within commends
Daily new furniture of friends.
The house was built upon the place
Only as for a mark of grace;
And for an inn to entertain
Its lord a while, but not remain.

Him Bishops-Hill, or Denton may,
Or Billbrough, better hold than they;
But nature here hath been so free
As if she said leave this to me.
Art would more neatly have defac’d
What she had laid so sweetly waste;
In fragrant gardens, shady woods,
Deep meadows, and transparent floods.

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Poet Andrew Marvell 1621–1678


SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Subjects Architecture & Design, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Couplet

 Andrew  Marvell


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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Architecture & Design, Arts & Sciences


SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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