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Andrew Marvell registers this logic of domination in his Epigramma in Duos Montes Amosclivum et Bilboreum.Fairfacio as he constructs Fairfax's dominion over the two mountains of the title using the categories of women and nature.
It is through these interweavings that Marvell considers Fairfax's identity as a heroic masculine subject while he both affirms and contests the patriarchal imperatives of these poems: their commitment to heterosexual norms and, in relation to Upon Appleton House, the continuation of the Fairfax line through the marriage of Mary Fairfax.
Thus, the Fairfax poems use the natural world to consolidate the identity of Thomas Fairfax, but also to interrogate the validity of those patriarchal consolidations through a variety of engagements with nature, especially in figures like the poet-narrator and Mary Fairfax in Upon Appleton House who simultaneously underwrite but also query the masculine values inherent in relationships of patronage and paternity.
Writing about Upon Appleton House, To My Lord Fairfax, Diane Mc Colley suggests that Marvell "sought a kind of multiply connective language that is ecological," one that "questions human dominion over nature with other hierarchies and makes the act of perceiving produce value from nature quite apart from its value as either economic or emblematic commodity" (16, 17).
Mc Colley further states that Upon Appleton House is "not about power" and that it "unsettles conventional binary, categorical, idealizing, and mastering ways of seeing and valuing" (17).
This is why a poem like Marvell’s is appealing: it suggests that a life separate from the “uncessant labours” and “busy companies of men” is feasible, if only temporarily.
“The Garden” fetishizes solitude, an attitude that’s comforting for young people seeking validation in poetry: “Society is all but rude, / To this delicious solitude.” It’s a beautiful, layered poem, not only about renunciation and retreat, but about the sensual pleasures of getting lost in nature: (“Stumbling on melons as I pass, / Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass”).
Shakespearean forests, pastoral glens, country houses. I knew that poetry about nature was removed and esoteric, but it was also the poetry I often loved most.
There are myriad reasons, of course, that poets choose nature as their subject.
In Marvell’s poem the speaker is ensnared and protected by nature; in Rich’s, the speaker is the protector.
Perhaps it is “necessary / to talk about trees” because the trees themselves are at risk in a literal way (climate change, deforestation); they are emblematic of the human “wrongdoing” Brecht laments in “To Those Who Follow In Our Wake.” Brecht’s poem can be read in response to poems like Marvell’s; Rich’s poem directly complicates the dichotomy between political poetry and pastoral imagery that Brecht raises.