My mind was once the true survey

Today’s poem is from Andrew Marvell, from the seventeenth century, a very clever and accomplished poet, who could tackle multiple subjects and themes with great skill and impact. In this poem, Marvell develops a metaphor for love based on mowing grass in a meadow. The poet’s love, Juliana in this poem, cuts down the poet just as he cuts down the grass in the meadow. Cleverly done, I think.

The Mower’s Song
BY ANDREW MARVELL

My mind was once the true survey
Of all these meadows fresh and gay,
And in the greenness of the grass
Did see its hopes as in a glass;
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

But these, while I with sorrow pine,
Grew more luxuriant still and fine,
That not one blade of grass you spy’d
But had a flower on either side;
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

Unthankful meadows, could you so
A fellowship so true forgo?
And in your gaudy May-games meet
While I lay trodden under feet?
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

But what you in compassion ought,
Shall now by my revenge be wrought;
And flow’rs, and grass, and I and all,
Will in one common ruin fall.
For Juliana comes, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

And thus, ye meadows, which have been
Companions of my thoughts more green,
Shall now the heraldry become
With which I shall adorn my tomb;
For Juliana comes, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me

From <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173952&gt;

The poem has a kind of narrative flow, proceeding from the poet’s state in the first stanza, when he has total mastery of his task of cutting grass, right to the end of the poem where he must die under the despair of being in love and the grass will adorn his tomb. The intervening stanzas recount the growing pain and suffering of being in love with the said Juliana, such that the poet and the meadow he is cutting fall into ruin. The two repeated lines at the end of each stanza hammer home the notion of love as a destructive force, upsetting the wellbeing of the poet and the world around him.

The Poetry Dude

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