“Till Eyes and Tears Be the Same Things”

Marvell’s Spirituality and the Senses of History

In: Explorations in Renaissance Culture
Brendan Prawdzik Penn State University,

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This article describes a Marvellian spirituality that remains generally continuous despite an evolving theological outlook. It contends that Marvell’s poetry dramatizes the persistence of Original Sin within vulnerable and impermanent green enclosures; thus, the subject must always return to an inexorable history and materiality in which spirituality is grounded. The article considers Marvell’s skepticism and unusual conception of eschatological time, these being informed by the Book of Ecclesiastes. For Marvell, meditation on history remains bound up not only with spirituality but also with sensory perception — in particular, with the optical and tactile senses of water. The article concludes with a comparative analysis, of Marvell’s “Eyes and Tears” and Richard Crashaw’s “The Weeper,” that redefines Marvell as a deliberately anti-metaphysical poet.

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