Marvell and the poetics of creation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter locates Marvell’s verse, in particular ‘Upon Appleton House’, in the context of early modern poetry on the Creation. Du Bartas’s Sepmaine (1578) had depicted an Aristotelian world of living, qualitative matter on which God imposed his will by force. The seventeenth century, however, saw a range of new ideas about the Creation, including Descartes’ influential vision of an omnipotent and inscrutable God impelling lifeless matter into motion. It is this notion of Creation as a voluntaristic and arbitrary act, I suggest, that underlies William Davenant’s ekphrastic description of the Creation in Gondibert (1651) and is taken up in that same year by Marvell in ‘Appleton House’. A voluntarist, inscrutable Creation is reflected not only in the empirical modes of knowledge to which both poems are committed, but also in the baroque figuration of ‘Upon Appleton House’, in which the reality of the world is ceaselessly recreated by arbitrary poetic Fiat.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining Andrew Marvell at 400
EditorsMatthew C. Augustine, Giulio J. Pertile, Steven N. Zwicker
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780191986765
ISBN (Print)9780197267073
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the British Academy
ISSN (Print)0068-1202


  • Andrew Marvell
  • Guillaume du Bartas
  • René Descartes
  • Voluntarism
  • Poetics
  • Creation


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