Recently in my 10th grade British Literature class at school, we've been studying poems and different poets. We each had to pick a different poem to write a literary analysis on. I chose "The Coronet" by Andrew Marvell. I actually really enjoy poetry, though I know not everyone does, I find it fascinating. So below is the poem and then my brief literary analysis discussing the theme. Yes, I know it is short and written terribly but I had fun writing it so I thought it was worth sharing. Its the thought that counts, right? Let me know what you think!
by Andrew Marvell
WHEN for the thorns with which I long, too long,
With many a piercing wound,
My Saviour's head have crowned,
I seek with garlands to redress that wrong,
Through every garden, every mead,
I gather flowers (my fruits are only flowers),
Dismantling all the fragrant towers
That once adorned my shepherdess's head:
And now, when I have summed up all my store,
Thinking (so I my self deceive)
So rich a chaplet thence to weave
As never yet the King of Glory wore,
Alas ! I find the Serpent old,
That, twining in his speckled breast,
About the flowers disguised, does fold
With wreaths of fame and interest.
Ah, foolish man, that wouldst debase with them,
And mortal glory, Heaven's diadem!
But thou who only couldst the Serpent tame,
Either his slippery knots at once untie,
And disentangle all his winding snare,
Or shatter too with him my curious frame,
And let these wither—so that he may die—
Though set with skill, and chosen out with care;
That they, while thou on both their spoils dost tread,
May crown Thy feet, that could not crown Thy head.
A Coronation Of Glory
By Margaret Sensenig
In “The Coronet,” Andrew Marvell discusses the object of his poems and where their focus lies. Marvell talks about how he used to write poems for pure joy and pleasure, but now he wants to write to bring glory only to God. Marvell uses an extended metaphor and at least two biblical references to develop his theme that we should not receive the glory for our work, but God should get all the praise.
Marvell uses an extended metaphor in “The Coronet” as a way to bring together his theme. The extended metaphor that Marvell uses is a comparison between his poems and flowers: “I gather flowers (my fruits are only flowers).” The fruits are the products of his labor, his poems, which are similar to flowers. Flowers are nice to look at, but that is really their only purpose. They have very little meaning to them or value. His poems are only flowers; they are nice in the moment, but they do not hold any lasting value or worth and serve very little purpose other than pleasure. He is saying how he used to only write about things of little worth and that had no eternal meaning: things of the flesh. However, now he wants to turn around and write poetry that brings glory and honor to God. He believes that his talent should be used to create something that has eternal value, which is praising and honoring God. Marvell uses an extended metaphor to help portray his theme to the reader.
Marvell also uses at least two biblical references, or parallels, to support and develop his theme. One of the Biblical ties that he makes is with the story in John 12 where Mary anoints and washes Jesus’ feet. The last line of the poem reads, “May crown thy feet, that could not crown thy head.” Though he knows this to be false, the speaker has an idea that his writings are good enough to bring God such honor and glory like He has never seen before. He believes that his poems are good enough to crown God. However, Marvell sees the fault in this and is humbled. Line twenty-six says that if his work cannot crown God’s head then he will crown his feet, like Mary did. John 12:3 says, “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” This is the verse that Marvell makes a reference to when he mentions crowning His feet instead of His head. It is a humbling thing and an act of worship to God. Marvell will write his poetry for God, though he knows it is not worthy, but it is the best offering he can give Him. The Biblical parallel of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet is another way that Marvell conveys this theme.
Marvell makes references to more than just one Biblical idea or story to aid in the building of the theme. Another Biblical reference that Marvell makes is with the Gospel story. Within the first couple lines of his piece, Marvell briefly describes the scene of the crucifixion, focusing on the crown of thorns. This reference goes along with Matthew 17:29, which says, “and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” In the lines one through four, which say, “When for the thorns with which I long, too long/With many a piercing wound/My Saviour’s head have crowned/I seek with garlands to redress that wrong,” Marvell is revealing how he has done wrong and for his sin, Jesus had to die. In response to this knowledge he tries to “redress that wrong”; cover up his sins. He searches for different things that will make him right with God. He searches “through every garden, every mead,” to find his righteousness in God (line 5). Then the outcome of this all is that he collects together all his flowers (his poems) and sees that they are worthless. This correlates to the Gospel in that God is the only way to gain eternal life. After realizing this, Marvell seeks to bring God all the glory with his work. It is obvious that Marvell gains support through Biblical references to reveal his theme.
“The Coronet” discusses how all the glory and honor should go to God out of our works and not to us. Marvell uses an extended metaphor between his poems and flowers to bring forth the idea of his message. At least the two Biblical references of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet and the Gospel are used to convey his theme. It is clear that Marvell is eager for his readers to feel the same enthusiasm to bring God glory with our work as he is.