Poems, by Andrew Marvell

Fleckno, an English Priest in Rome


Oblig’d by frequent visits of this man,

Whom as Priest, Poet, and Musician,

I for some branch of Melchizedeck took,

(Though he derives himself from my Lord Brooke)

I sought his Lodging; which is at the Sign

Of the sad Pelican; Subject divine

For Poetry: There three Stair Cases high,

Which signifies his triple property,

I found at last a Chamber, as ’twas said,

But seem’d a Coffin set on the Stairs head.10

Not higher then Seav’n, nor larger then three feet;

Only there was nor Seeling, nor a Sheet,

Save that th’ ingenious Door did as you come

Turn in, and shew to Wainscot half the Room.

Yet of his State no man could have complain’d;

There being no Bed where he entertain’d:

And though within one Cell so narrow pent,

He’d Stanza’s for a whole Appartement.

Straight without further information,

In hideous verse, he, and a dismal tone,20

Begins to exercise; as if I were

Possest; and sure the Devil brought me there.

But I, who now imagin’d my self brought

To my last Tryal, in a serious thought

Calm’d the disorders of my youthful Breast,

And to my Martyrdom prepared Rest.

Only this frail Ambition did remain,

The last distemper of the sober Brain,

That there had been some present to assure

The future Ages how I did indure:30

And how I, silent, turn’d my burning Ear

Towards the Verse; and when that could not hear

Held him the other; and unchanged yet,

Ask’d still for more, and pray’d him to repeat:

Till the Tyrant, weary to persecute,

Left off, and try’d t’allure me with his Lute.

Now as two Instruments, to the same key

Being tun’d by Art, if the one touched be

The other opposite as soon replies,

Mov’d by the Air and hidden Sympathies;40

So while he with his gouty Fingers craules

Over the Lute, his murmuring Belly calls,

Whose hungry Guts to the same streightness twin’d

In Echo to the trembling Strings repin’d.

I, that perceiv’d now what his Musick ment,

Ask’d civilly if he had eat this Lent.

He answered yes; with such, and such an one.

For he has this of gen’rous, that alone

He never feeds; save only when he tryes

With gristly Tongue to dart the passing Flyes.50

I ask’d if he eat flesh. And he, that was

So hungry that though ready to say Mass

Would break his fast before, said he was Sick,

And th’ Ordinance was only Politick.

Nor was I longer to invite him: Scant

Happy at once to make him Protestant,

And Silent. Nothing now Dinner stay’d

But till he had himself a Body made.

I mean till he were drest: for else so thin

He stands, as if he only fed had been60

With consecrated Wafers: and the Host

Hath sure more flesh and blood then he can boast.

This Basso Relievo of a Man,

Who as a Camel tall, yet easly can

The Needles Eye thread without any stich,

(His only impossible is to be rich)

Lest his too suttle Body, growing rare,

Should leave his Soul to wander in the Air,

He therefore circumscribes himself in rimes;

And swaddled in’s own papers seaven times,70

Wears a close Jacket of poetick Buff,

With which he doth his third Dimension Stuff.

Thus armed underneath, he over all

Does make a primitive Sotana fall;

And above that yet casts an antick Cloak,

Worn at the first Counsel of Antioch;

Which by the Jews long hid, and Disesteem’d,

He heard of by Tradition, and redeem’d.

But were he not in this black habit deck’t,

This half transparent Man would soon reflect80

Each colour that he past by; and be seen,

As the Chamelion, yellow, blew, or green.

He drest, and ready to disfurnish now

His Chamber, whose compactness did allow

No empty place for complementing doubt,

But who came last is forc’d first to go out;

I meet one on the Stairs who made me stand,

Stopping the passage, and did him demand:

I answer’d he is here Sir; but you see

You cannot pass to him but thorow me.90

He thought himself affronted; and reply’d,

I whom the Pallace never has deny’d

Will make the way here; I said Sir you’l do

Me a great favour, for I seek to go.

He gathring fury still made sign to draw;

But himself there clos’d in a Scabbard saw

As narrow as his Sword’s; and I, that was

Delightful, said there can no Body pass

Except by penetration hither, where

Two make a crowd, nor can three Persons here100

Consist but in one substance. Then, to fit

Our peace, the Priest said I too had some wit:

To prov’t, I said, the place doth us invite

But its own narrowness, Sir, to unite.

He ask’d me pardon; and to make me way

Went down, as I him follow’d to obey.

But the propitiatory Priest had straight

Oblig’d us, when below, to celebrate

Together our attonement: so increas’d

Betwixt us two the Dinner to a Feast.110

Let it suffice that we could eat in peace;

And that both Poems did and Quarrels cease

During the Table; though my new made Friend

Did, as he threatned, ere ’twere long intend

To be both witty and valiant: I loth,

Said ’twas too late, he was already both.

But now, Alas, my first Tormentor came,

Who satisfy’d with eating, but not tame

Turns to recite; though Judges most severe

After th’Assizes dinner mild appear,120

And on full stomach do condemn but few:

Yet he more strict my sentence doth renew;

And draws out of the black box of his Breast

Ten quire of paper in which he was drest.

Yet that which was a greater cruelty

Then Nero’s Poem he calls charity:

And so the Pelican at his door hung

Picks out the tender bosome to its young.

Of all his Poems there he stands ungirt

Save only two foul copies for his shirt:130

Yet these he promises as soon as clean.

But how I loath’d to see my Neighbour glean

Those papers, which he pilled from within

Like white fleaks rising from a Leaper’s skin!

More odious then those raggs which the French youth

At ordinaries after dinner show’th,

When they compare their Chancres and Poulains.

Yet he first kist them, and after takes pains

To read; and then, because he understood good.

Not one Word, thought and swore that they were140

But all his praises could not now appease

The provok’t Author, whom it did displease

To hear his Verses, by so just a curse,

That were ill made condemn’d to be read worse:

And how (impossible) he made yet more

Absurdityes in them then were before.

For he his untun’d voice did fall or raise

As a deaf Man upon a Viol playes,

Making the half points and the periods run

Confus’der then the atomes in the Sun.150

Thereat the Poet swell’d, with anger full,

And roar’d out, like Perillus in’s own Bull;

Sir you read false. That any one but you

Should know the contrary. Whereat, I, now

Made Mediator, in my room, said, Why?

To say that you read false Sir is no Lye.

Thereat the waxen Youth relented straight;

But saw with sad dispair that was too late.

For the disdainful Poet was retir’d

Home, his most furious Satyr to have fir’d160

Against the Rebel; who, at this struck dead

Wept bitterly as disinherited.

Who should commend his Mistress now? Or who

Praise him? both difficult indeed to do

With truth. I counsell’d him to go in time,

Ere the fierce Poets anger turn’d to rime.

He hasted; and I, finding my self free,

As one scap’t strangely from Captivity,

Have made the Chance be painted; and go now

To hang it in Saint Peter’s for a Vow.170


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58