Title: IMAGING SOCIAL LANGUAGES IN MARVELL'S THE LAST INSTRUCTIONS ,  By: Jaeckle, Daniel P., Style, 00394238, Fall96, Vol. 30, Issue 3
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While the political themes and the painterly genre of Marvell's The Last Instructions to a Painter have been well understood by attentive critics, the question of the poem's style still lingers.[1] I hope to add another dimension to considerations of its style by suggesting that in The Last Instructions Marvell frequently exposes the faults of the powerful of his society not only through direct satire, but also through indirect satire by creating images of the various languages that they speak. To the extent that these linguistic images absorb his interest, Marvell's poem may be approached by means of the analytical methods that Bakhtin has developed for the novel.[2] In this essay, I shall first adopt Bakhtinian discourse categories to investigate the techniques that Marvell uses to create linguistic images. I shall then speculate on the importance of imaging languages for an assessment of Marvell's achievement in the poem.

Two Bakhtinian ideas provide the foundation for this investigation. First, Bakhtin broadens the definition of "language" to include

social dialects, characteristic group behavior, professional jargons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of the authorities, of various circles and of passing fashions, languages that serve the specific sociopolitical purposes of the day, even of the hour. (262-63)

As we shall see, in The Last Instructions Marvell demonstrates an acute ear. At various points throughout the poem he conveys professional jargons, generic languages, languages of various circles, and even languages of the hour. He incorporates so many languages into the work, in fact, that perhaps its most impressive feature is their pleasing co-existence.

But simply to include many languages in a literary work is not to image them. The second idea to be drawn from Bakhtin is that for a language to receive an image it must confront another language so that its own strengths and weaknesses may be revealed. To organize this confrontation, an author must work with two languages within the same passage. Usually, both languages are clearly visible in the text, though occasionally the imaging language remains hidden and merely accents the imaged language from the outside. Moreover, the two languages must be attributable to two different linguistic consciousnesses, two voices holding different ideological positions. The incorporation of these two voices can take multiple forms: the persona can include the words of others within his or her own descriptions; the persona can be placed sufficiently far from the author so that his or her language can confront that of the author; the quoted words of characters can play off against each other and against the words of the persona; or the characteristic languages of inserted genres can interact either with each other or with the contemporary language of the persona. However such images are constructed, at stake is not only a double-voiced, double-languaged style, but also a contest between the ideologies that these social languages carry.

In The Last Instructions Marvell almost never permits the voice of his persona to disappear: that is, with a handful of minor exceptions, he never directly quotes a character nor uses a generic language without letting the persona give it his own accent. Furthermore, the speaker of the poem--the persona--does not stray from Marvell's own ideological position. Consequently, all of the linguistic images in The Last Instructions mix two languages within the persona's own utterances. Bakhtin has identified five ways in which this type of mixing can be done: hybridization, parodic stylization, parody, stylization, and variation.[3] My first goal is to explore Marvell's construction of the ideological conflicts of his time in terms of these categories.


According to Bakhtin, hybridization involves the intersection of two voices--that of the persona and that of a character or a group in society-within one utterance.[4] It is as if the persona imports without completely assimilating the words of others into his or her own speech. As a result, though the two voices and languages share the same sentences and even the same words, their ideologies conflict one with the other.

An example of hybridization in The Last Instructions is to be found in the passage in which Clarendon plots with his fellow courtiers on the timing of Parliament's recall and the signing of a peace treaty with the Dutch. We pick up the narrative at the point at which Clarendon is awaiting word from Henry Coventry, the ambassador to Holland:

Hyde saith he hourly waits for a Dispatch;
Harry came Post just as he shew'd his Watch.
All to agree the Articles were clear,
The Holland Fleet and Parliament so near.
Yet Harry must job back and all mature,
Binding, e're th' Houses meet, the Treaty sure.
And 'twixt Necessity and Spight, till then,
Let them come up so to go down agen.[5]

Throughout this passage we get an insider's view of court ministers conspiring about that most crucial of political realities, timing. If only the treaty can be concluded on time, Parliament will be disarmed and can be dismissed. The language describing Clarendon and his cronies is that of Realpolitik, which treats the conscious weighing of interests in light of emerging events. To make this insider's perspective come alive, Marvell not only introduces indirect discourse--"Hyde saith"--but also ends with words that could echo those of Clarendon verbatim: "Let them come up so to go down agen." Yet within this insider's perspective the persona betrays his own slant in the words "'twixt Necessity and Spight." Here the poet inserts a phrase wholly his own to unmask the true motivation behind this language of Realpolitik and thereby allows the reader to judge how the court and especially the chief minister think of Parliament. Although he would not say so, Hyde's ultimate joy would be to beat off necessity and spite his opposition.[6] By means of this hybrid style, Marvell exposes Clarendon's source of joy as a form of antagonism toward a mixed government. The last thing Hyde wishes is to hear the voice of the people as represented in Parliament.

Among the more memorable instances of hybridization in the poem is the section on Peter Pett, the man chosen by the court to assume blame for the naval disasters of the Second Dutch War. Pett, the officer in charge of the dockyard at Chatham, had been brought before the Privy Council to answer charges of negligence (Patterson 158). It was inevitable, then, that he would also be asked tough questions by the parliamentary committee investigating the naval fiasco. Marvell was personally interested in Pett's plight: on October 31, 1667, he spoke from the floor of the Commons against sending Pett to the Tower (Milward 108). And we know that responsibility for the woes of the navy remained on the poet's mind because four months later in the Commons he spoke on the profit Arlington had reaped from his role in naval affairs (Milward 185). In his concern to assign blame accurately, Marvell was not alone. In the Second through Fifth Advice poems, several of the charges leveled against Pert in The Last Instructions were made against ministers of Charles.[7] This accusatory language of the day, then, was already at work in the Privy Council and in opposition poetry, and was soon to appear in a parliamentary committee. Marvell's genius is to cascade the charges down on Pett alone in order to make his name the sole signifier of blame. This conversion of the name "Pett" into an incantatory language of blame results from its repetition as the answer to every question of the inquiry:

After this loss, to rellish discontent,
Some one must be accus'd by Punishment.
All our miscarriages on Pert must fall:
His Name alone seems fit to answer all.
Whose Counsel first did this mad War beget?
Who all Commands sold thro' the Navy? Pert.
Who would not follow when the Dutch were bet?
Who treated out the time at Bergen? Pett.
Who the Dutch Fleet with Storms disabled met,
And rifling Prizes, them neglected? Pett.
Who with false News prevented the Gazette?
The Fleet divided? Writ for Rupert? Pett.
Who all our Seamen cheated of their Debt?
And all our Prizes who did swallow? Pett.
Who did advise no Navy out to set?
And who the Forts left unrepair'd? Pett.
Who to supply with Powder, did forget
Languard, Sheerness, Gravesend, and Upnor? Pett.
Who all our Ships expos'd in Chathams Net?
Who should it be but the Phanatick Pett.
(11. 765-84)

Although the persona is speaking here, again the passage rests on the border between a social language and the persona's own. The refrain of "Pett," so exaggerated by Marvell, is the language of the court as it seeks a scapegoat. Indeed, some of the questions--for example, "who the Forts left unrepair'd?" or "Who all our Ships expos'd in Chathams Net?"--could be those of the Privy Council itself as it conducts its inquiry into Pett's culpability. Other questions, however, could never have been asked by the court, and these reveal the poet's sympathy with opposition ideology. For example, the lines "Whose Counsel first did this mad War beget?" and "Who with false News prevented the Gazette?" seem to attack the court directly. Moreover, in the course of exposing the scapegoating language of the government, Marvell provides his own analysis of the war's failure. Four times greed surfaces as the cause of the naval disaster: it twice takes the form of rifling prizes but also includes selling commands and pocketing money intended to pay sailors.[8] When greed is not the cause of the naval defeat, stupidity is; only stupidity would have counseled a mad war, failed to pursue a Dutch fleet on the run, and advised that the navy not be sent out in 1667. By listing so many instances of greed and stupidity in such a small space, Marvell presents a convincing case against the government. In constructing the Pert passage, then, Marvell combines in one set of words two utterances, a version of the official inquiry indicting Pert and the persona's own indictment of court actions over the three years of the war.[9]

Not much different from hybridization is the technique that Bakhtin calls parodic stylization, in which an already established and elevated language is imaged by a more common one. The two languages, the first belonging to a character or group of characters and the second to the persona, do not usually fuse in the same words, but their frequent juxtaposition within the passage explodes the hypocrisy of those using the high language under attack. Indeed, Bakhtin goes so far as to suggest that the purpose of such images is both to represent and to destroy the targeted language (364).

A clear example of parodic stylization appears in the narration of one episode from the lovelife of Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine and long-time mistress of the king. The passage alternates between the language of courtly love and a frank language of physical sexuality that undermines the ideology of high romance:

She through her Lacquies Drawers as he ran,
Discern'd Love's Cause, and a new Flame began.
Her wonted joys thenceforth and Court she shuns,
And still within her mind the Footman runs:
His brazen Calves, his brawny Thighs, (the Face
She slights) his Feet shapt for a smoother race.
Poring within her Glass she re-adjusts
Her looks, and oft-try'd Beauty now distrusts:
Fears lest he scorn a Woman once assay'd,
And now first, wisht she e're had been a Maid.
Great Love, how dost thou triumph, and how reign,
That to a Groom couldst humble her disdain!
Stript to her Skin, see how she stooping stands,
Nor scorns to rub him down with those fair Hands;
And washing (lest the scent her Crime disclose)
His sweaty Hooves, tickles him 'twixt the Toes.
But envious Fame, too soon, begun to note
More gold in's Fob, more Lace upon his Coat
And he, unwary, and of Tongue too fleet,
No longer could conceal his Fortune sweet.
Justly the Rogue was whipt in Porter's Den:
And Jermyn straight has leave to come agen.

The narrative begins in the language of the streets--"her Lacquies Drawers"--but soon introduces the counterpoint language of courtly love-"Discern'd Love's Cause." The physical language of calves and thighs returns us to the street until we come to the inquiry about her beauty in the mirror, in which courtly romance briefly reappears. And so it goes. The high and low languages play off each other until this play climaxes in the contrast between the address to "Great Love" and the reference to "sweaty Hooves."

Although the parodic nature of this linguistic imaging is obvious enough, what is not so clear is the identity of the speaker of the courtly love language. The difficulty results from the poet's failure to provide markers to indicate shifting between the two languages. But Castlemaine's efforts in front of the mirror and her worries about her fading beauty and lack of virginity suggest that she is romanticizing even this sordid affair to the extent that she can. The language of courtly love thus reveals her attempt to elevate the low sexual habits that she has acquired. From the persona's point of view, though, any attempts to ennoble this kind of lust are doomed to failure. Consequently, he adopts a bodily language to characterize both this woman's behavior and the corruption of the court that it epitomizes. When love's cause is redefined in terms of a bulge in a servant's drawers, the reader must conclude that high language obscures low morals.

The destructive power of parodic stylization is even more apparent in the passage on governmental finance. The primary satiric purpose here is to expose Clarendon's manipulation of the financial loop of the government, the bankers, and the tax farmers:

This done, he [Hyde] Pens a Proclamation stout,
In rescue of the Banquiers Banquerout:
His minion Imps that, in his secret part,
Lye nuzz'ling at the Sacramental wart;
Horse-leeches circling at the Hem'roid Vein;
He sucks the King, they him, he them again.
The Kingdoms Farm he lets to them bid least:
Greater the Bribe, and that's at Interest.
Here Men induc'd by Safety, Gain, and Ease,
Their Money lodge; confiscate when he please.
These can, at need, at instant, with a scrip,
(This lik'd him best) his Cash beyond Sea whip.
(11. 493-504)

Although this description has moments of obscurity,[10] still the general idea is clear. In June of 1667 the court issued a proclamation to support credit and save the bankers. Because the bankers in another role were also the tax farmers (Margoliouth 366), by means of this proclamation Clarendon rescued his financier friends. In return, they paid him bribes and assured him that his money could be sent overseas if he were to fall (as he soon did).

The power of the passage, though, lies less in its knowledge of financial collusion than in the effective interplay of the two languages it contains. Even before beginning to image the language of finance, Marvell accords it official authorization by means of the double weightiness of the phrase "Proclamation stout." In the next line, the words "Banquiers Banquerout" call attention to the financial language they introduce by means of their repetitious sound and grammatical ambiguity. After this impressive beginning, the description continues with a series of financial terms more casually used, including "Farm," "bid," "Interest," "confiscate," "scrip," and "Cash." Together these words from the world of money suggest the language by means of which the government talks with its financial partners. But this authorized language is undermined throughout by the bodily language that images it. The repeated use of "sucking" to characterize the behavior both of the bankers and of Clarendon himself implicitly redefines words like "Farm" and "Interest" in terms of pulling another's blood into one's mouth. After one imagines the financiers nuzzling at a wart or circling a hemorrhoid vein, it is no longer possible to read the language of finance as patriotic or even as honest. The language has instead been exposed as a way of talking that obscures the selfish motives and scandalous behavior of people interested in their own selfaggrandizement.

In a work that not only joins a parade of parodies of Waller's Instructions to a Painter but also frequently employs parodic stylization, it is not surprising that Marvell turns to parody proper for local satiric purposes. The most powerful of these parodic episodes tells the story of the mock-heroic battle in Parliament over the excise.[11] Here the persona takes responsibility for both languages, the high language of war and the deflating language of more direct satiric statement. Because the section is long, Marvell can sometimes afford to emphasize overt satire over heroic language. This excerpt from the mustering of court supporters in the Commons is a case in point:

Carteret the rich did the Accomptants guide,
And in ill English all the World defy'd.
The Papists, but of those the House had none:
Else Talbot offer'd to have led them on.
Bold Duncombe next, of the Projectors chief:
And old Fitz-Harding of the Eaters Beef.
(11. 203-08)

In the first couplet, the ill English of the target is more memorable than the fact that Carteret is the leader of the accountants. The joke about there being no papists in the Commons controls the second couplet. And the new phrase "Eaters Beef" fittingly closes the third.[12] Nevertheless, even in these lines words like "guide," "led," and "Bold" remind us that a battle is forming. In contrast, military terminology dominates other passages:

The Van and Battel, though retiring, falls
Without disorder in their Intervals:
Then closing, all in equal Front fall on,
Led by great Garrway, and great Littleton.
Lee, equal to obey or to command,
Adjutant-General was still at hand.
The martial Standard Sands displaying, shows
St. Dunstan in it. tweaking Satan's Nose.
(11. 295-302)

The word "tweaking" suggests that even when the terms of war are foregrounded, a more colloquial language cannot be completely excluded. The narrative of the excise battle thus works in the traditional way of mock-heroic, moving deftly back and forth between a high language and a lower one that more directly characterizes the Members of Parliament. The satiric point, of course, is that real war against the Dutch should have been the business of the nation. But given this king and his supporters, issues of money took precedence over foreign wars: late in the Second Dutch War the sole battle in which the English actually participated was fought among themselves.

The most interesting feature of the mock-heroic section involves Marvell's treatment of the anti-excise forces. At first he includes them within the parody;[13] for example, Temple has only "faint sweat" (1. 278) trickle down his brows from his efforts. And when Strangeways is forced to retreat due to fatigue, his rest gets reduced to breathing "a while Toback" (1. 280). But just before the decisive moment of the conflict, Marvell introduces a different kind of anti-excise group, "A Gross of English Gentry, nobly born" (1. 287), whom he believes to be the true heroes in Parliament. About these men the poet has only positive things to say, and he does so in straightforward heroic language. The problem with adding this new group, however, is that, as in William Fairfax's attack against the nuns in Upon Appleton House, in which he earned "Small Honour" (1.233), the gentry can receive only modest credit for defeating such weak and corrupt opponents as the pro-excise crowd. After all, even the moment of victory is presented in belittling terms: "See sudden chance of War! To Paint or Write,/Is longer Work, and harder than to fight" (11. 303-04). As a result, these altogether praiseworthy gentry in one sense rise above the parody to symbolize true English values and yet have to descend into the parodic world to defeat their enemies. Perhaps Marvell deliberately uses the group to indicate that in such an immoral society the people championing the causes he himself favors are reduced in stature merely by having to fight unworthy opponents. If such is his intention, he could hardly have made a more poignant ideological point.

In The Last Instructions the poet also employs the technique that Bakhtin calls stylization. This device is different from all the others in that it openly uses only one language, while the imaging language "remains outside the utterance" (362). But a dialogic interaction still occurs because the author incorporates the style of an already well-established poetic tradition in such a way that it is colored by the hidden contemporary language of the stylizing persona. That is, the stylized language receives new accents by the omission of some of its features and the highlighting of others. The resultant doublevoicing reveals an ideological conflict between the imaged style and the refashioning that it receives.

The elegy on Douglas is the poem's best example of stylization. This elegy, the work's only sustained instance of panegyric, at first appears to be a set piece of genuinely heroic verse. Indeed, in context it serves foremost as a counterpart to the section on an officer named Daniel immediately preceding it. The descriptive languages of the two passages are complementary: in contrast to Daniel, a "Man of might" (1. 631) who is tall, big boned, and fierce looking but who is also ultimately terrified by the Dutch, Douglas is described in androgynous terms as so lovely that virgins "hope he is a Male" (1. 652). The cowardly Daniel is first shamed into trying to protect the ships, but when the going gets tough he does not hesitate to flee. There is irony in his name, for he is no Daniel in the lion's den. Douglas, on the contrary, by remaining fixed is transformed: "as on Angels Heads their Glories shine,/His burning Locks adorn his Face Divine" (11. 683-84). Douglas becomes the true Daniel, unafraid of death if a worthy cause demands it. If in this period of British history God does not miraculously save the faithful, nevertheless the martyrdom of Douglas itself becomes a commentary on the cowardice of his times, exposing not just Daniel but all the English who cannot bravely face the enemy.

But in order to highlight the contrast between Douglas and Daniel, Marvell must reaccent the language of heroic praise and tamper with truth itself. For example, although the historical Douglas was married, Marvell makes him a virgin and quite young. No doubt the poet stresses his sexual innocence to heighten the contrast with the carnality of other characters in the poem. But so prominent is the image of Douglas's vulnerable innocence that this heroic passage sounds at moments more like Ovid than Virgil:

Oft has he in chill Eske or Seine, by night,
Harden'd and cool'd his Limbs, so soft, so white,
Among the Reeds, to be espy'd by him,
The Nymphs would rustle; he would forward swim.
They sigh'd and said, Fond Boy, why so untame,
That fly'st Love Fires, reserv'd for other Flame?
(11. 655-60)

The cost of such a description is high. For if sexual purity and youth define Douglas against virtually everyone else in the poem, they also make him a naive hero, one who cannot understand why the English flee in a lost cause and who refuses to swim for it when his own life is certain to be lost. He is, moreover, an ineffective and finally a passive hero. He waves his sword against the Dutch, although they have sent a fireship toward him and so have neither the need nor the intention of closing with him. And when the flames begin to melt his form, he lays down on the deck "[a]s one that's warm'd himself and gone to Bed" (1. 690). Joseph Messina may be correct in his thesis that, given the world of the poem, heroism has to be redefined in terms of the lone valorous individual incapable of effective action. But if so, panegyric has fallen on hard times. When the character of the hero who dies young must contain elements of naivete and impotent courage, then things will go hard for society. In this reaccenting of the stylized language of panegyric, which serves as a striking contrast to what is predominantly a satire, Marvell creates a passage that seems eerily unreal in a world comprised of "Drunkards, Pimps, and Fools" (1. 12).

The last technique of linguistic imaging to be found in The Last Instructions, what Bakhtin calls variation, is stylization into which the author deliberately inserts alien linguistic material in order to test the stylized language in new situations. In Marvell's hands, the technique results in a disturbing ideological contradiction. One haunting example of variation in the poem describes the Dutch navy's cruise up the Thames and Medway.[14] The narrative begins in the language of pastoral idyll. Sailing up the English rivers, de Ruyter, the Dutch admiral,

Survey'd their Crystal Streams, and Banks so green,
And Beauties e're this never naked seen.
Through the vain sedge the bashful Nymphs he ey'd;
Bosomes, and all which from themselves they hide.
The Sun much brighter, and the Skies more clear,
He finds the Air, and all things, sweeter here.
(11. 525-30)

In context, of course, this pastoral scene must be read ironically; it is, after all, the enemy who finds the native rivers so peaceful and the native nymphs so beautiful in their modesty. But for this irony to be successful, the Dutch must differ radically from the English, and Marvell therefore employs pastoral language to represent their attack in terms diametrically opposed to most of the images in the poem. Initially, at least, he does not trouble this stylized language by inserting alien material.

But the poet soon complicates the narrative by adding a second language to describe de Ruyter as a court dandy who spruces himself up to impress the nymphs he has been eyeing:

The sudden change, and such a tempting sight,
Swells his old Veins with fresh Blood, fresh Delight.
Like am'rous Victors he begins to shave,
And his new Face looks in the English Wave.
(11. 531-34)

It is difficult to assess the effect that such lines have on the idyll. On the one hand, the pastoral language of the passage presents a calm and beauty remarkable in a poem filled with bustle and moral ugliness. It is as if the Dutch are blessed to live in a world unlike that which characterizes fallen English society. But on the other hand, the transformation of de Ruyter into a voyeur and gallant, and especially the physical language of his old veins swelling, mark the Dutch admiral as a man cut from the same cloth as St. Albans, who is depicted earlier in the poem as an older man still famous for his virility. Although de Ruyter's carnality is portrayed in a more muted fashion than that of St. Albans, he too is tainted by the language of aging lechery. The result is that though the Dutch leader brings to the pristine beauty of the British countryside a corruption similar to that which defines English high society, he does so, as it were, in a minor key.


Now that we have seen the various ways in which Marvell images languages in The Last Instructions, we might consider their implications in assessing his achievement in the poem. It may be best to begin by acknowledging that linguistic imaging does not occur in every passage. The poem offers nonsatirical single-voiced moments, such as the final envoy to the king, in which Marvell concludes by recommending that true Englishmen should be appointed ministers. The work also includes satirical sections that do not rely on such imaging techniques. The fine satire on the embassy to the Dutch, for example, plays with the language of international statesmanship but does not image it:

Two Letters next unto Breda are sent,
In Cipher one to Harry Excellent.
The first instructs our (Verse the Name abhors)
Plenipotentiary Ambassadors,
To prove by Scripture, Treaty does imply
Cessation, as the look Adultery.
And that by Law of Arms, in Martial strife,
Who yields his Sword has Title to his Life.
Presbyter Hollis the first point should clear;
The second Coventry the Cavalier.
But. would they not be argu'd back from Sea,
Then to return home straight infecta re.
But Harry's Order, if they won't recal
Their Fleet, to threaten, we will give them all.
(11. 449-62)

This passage is particularly instructive because it contains words from the language of diplomacy, including the unpoetic phrase "Plenipotentiary Ambassadors." The appearance of such phrases should not surprise us. According to Bakhtin (354), all rhetorical genres, on the borders of which I would locate traditional poetic satire, are adept at incorporating social languages other than that of the author. But to incorporate a social language is not necessarily to image it. Linguistic imaging also requires the use, whether overtly or covertly, of a representing language. But there is no second language here. Rather, Marvell turns the language of diplomacy against itself by showing in a final witty sentence that if all else fails these ambassadors will give away the store. The embassy passage is brilliant satire; but it works without the advantage of imaging the language it attacks.

I consider linguistic imaging an advantage because it cuts more deeply than do even witty turns into the world of the satiric target. What accounts for this depth is that through linguistic imaging the poet can expose not just the corrupt actions and immoral characters of the people he attacks, but also their habitual ways of deluding themselves and others by speaking of their actions in elevated terms. Thus, as we have seen, in presenting Castlemaine's affair with a lackey Marvell not only shows the base behavior of the duchess, but by imaging the language of courtly love he also reveals both the underlying ideology through which she tries to justify her actions and the inappropriateness of that ideology in this affair. The same is true of the financial section: those in the loop sustain it by talking in an authorized language so that they never have to see the process as blood-sucking. But by the time Marvell finishes with the financiers, the reader is able to do what they never do: analyze their language to discover the truths it hides. As Bakhtin argues (353-57), the key difference between incorporating the words of others and imaging languages is that the former leads only to superficial analysis, one already rigged in the favor of the writer, while the latter permits the reader to see how others construct their lives and justify their actions on the basis of an ideology contained in their language. The good linguistic image shows the effectiveness of the language for those who use it and its weaknesses and untruths for those who take the time to analyze it. Thus, when Marvell employs linguistic imaging for satiric ends, he reveals both the means by which those in power structure their values and actions and the mystification and self-delusion inherent in their use of language.

Linguistic imaging also serves a second function in the poem: it suggests the evils of the time by showing that traditional ways of describing laudatory values and behavior no longer work as they once did. The pastoral idyll of the Dutch cruise up English rivers is troubled by the voyeurism and gallantry of de Ruyter. The noble gentry in Parliament seem out of place within their mock-heroic context. And the elegy on Douglas shows that the language of praise for a fallen hero must undergo changes in a world in which heroism is futile and ultimately only symbolic. Virility and aggressiveness have been so tarnished by society's corruption that panegyric can no longer include them. In such a society, even positive languages must be redefined in light of its complete moral decay.

Some critics have suggested that The Last Instructions, whatever else it may be, is not great poetry, that something went artistically wrong when Marvell turned to social action in the Restoration.[15] From a Bakhtinian perspective, this charge is a half-truth. If with Bakhtin we define traditional poetry as intentionally single-voiced and single-languaged, dependent on figures of speech and thought as the means of creating a unified vision, then The Last Instructions is not great poetry, maybe not even poetry at all. But the poem is not therefore an artistic failure. Its success comes, at least in large part, from the incorporation of social languages into the panoramic view of its times. By putting these languages into conflict in the poem, Marvell renders the ideological struggles of his society in an artistically organized way. His linguistic images put several of the languages of his society on display so that the reader may consider the various points of view on the world that they generate and sustain. The result is a telling critique of the party in power.

It may be true that the period of the Second Dutch War and its aftermath is not the traditional poet's time. But if Marvell saw his task as employing all of his powers of language to create a vision of a world, then his movement toward a form of poetry in which he could exercise his remarkable abilities to represent and expose the languages of his world has to be seen as a significant artistic triumph. Certainly no one else of the time found a way to use those same abilities to provide such a clear, panoramic view of a society desperately in need of a linguistic analyst.


1 Among many fine analyses of the politics of the poem, see John M. Wallace (145-83), Warren L. Chernaik (63-87, 197-205), Steven N. Zwicker ("Lines" 230-70 and Lines 90-129), Margarita Stocker (165-72), and Michael G. Ketcham (117-32). On the painterly genre, again among others, see Mary Tom Osborne for the full context, Annabel M. Patterson (111-74), Earl Miner (165-74), James Quivey (75-91), A. B. Chambers (85-175), and Michael Gearin-Tosh ("Structure" 48-57). For additional insights on the organization and style of the poem, see David Farley-Hills (72-98), Denise E. Lynch (82-92), and Alan S. Fisher (223-38).

2 By now, Bakhtin means many things to many people. This essay draws exclusively on his long essay "Discourse in the Novel" from The Dialogic Imagination (259-422), and I try to limit the technical vocabulary to the stylistic techniques under direct discussion.

3 Bakhtin's definitions of these techniques appear in a dense passage (358-65). Fortunately, he gives some useful examples earlier in the essay (301-08). A word of caution is in order, however: in practice the lines between these techniques are often blurred, as Bakhtin himself admits.

4 The difference between hybridization and stylization is problematized by an error in the paragraph distinguishing them (Bakhtin 362). In the sentence "[i]n the former case there is no direct mixing of two languages within the boundaries of a single utterance," the word "former" should read "latter," in reference to stylization, not hybridization.

5 H. M. Margoliouth (168). All subsequent quotations of the poem, by line numbers, are taken from this edition.

6 Zwicker (Lines 107-19) has convincingly argued that the poem ties sexual indulgence to political ruin. But such passages as this one indicate that the corruption of British society is by no means limited to or entirely dependent on sexual immorality.

7 George deF. Lord has published the Second through Fifth Advices with The Last Instructions and related poems (I. 20-167).

8 See Lord's note to lines 25-40 of the Second Advice (I. 37) suggesting that everyone who could sold offices.

9 In addition to the hybridization of the Pert passage, Marvell also includes a moment of parody by alluding to the recently published Paradise Lost in the description of Pett's shipbuilding:

Pett, the Sea Architect, in making Ships, Was the first cause of all these Naval slips: Had he not built, none of these faults had bin; If no Creation, there had been no Sin. (11. 785-88)

It is as if, after the unadorned language of inquiry, Marvell feels the need for a literary allusion before he describes Pett's actual culpability: "one Boat away he sent" (I. 789).

  • 10 Both the part of speech of "Banquerout" and the sense of "Sacramental" are problematic (Margoliouth 365). On the role of "Banquerout," see Gearin-Tosh ("Textual Errors" 310-11).
  • 11 The battle is actually first seen as a game of trick track, but that game is then imaged in military terms.
  • 12 Margoliouth (358) notes that this is the earliest known literary reference to the Beef-eaters, evidence that Marvell was attuned to the languages of his day.
  • 13 On this complication of mock-heroic, see Fisher (231) and Joseph Messina (299-300).
  • 14 In addition to several critics listed in note 1 above, Harold E. Toliver (20413) has helpful comments on the role of pastoral in this poem.
  • 15 Although it may be unfair to name only one such critic, I recall Lawrence W. Hyman's comment that in The Last Instructions Marvell is "no longer functioning as a poet in the best sense of that word" (111).

Works Cited

Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.

Chambers, A. B. Andrew Marvell and Edmund Waller: Seventeenth-Century Praise and Restoration Satire. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1991.

Chernaik, Warren L. The Poet's Time: Politics and Religion in the Work of Andrew Marvell. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983.

Farley-Hills, David. The Benevolence of Laughter: Comic Poetry of the Commonwealth and Restoration. Totowa: Rowman, 1974.

Fisher, Alan S. "The Augustan Marvell: The Last Instructions to a Painter." ELH 38 (1971): 223-38.

Gearin-Tosh, Michael. "Marvell's 'Last Instructions': Textual Errors and their Poetic Significance." Studia Neophilologica 42 (1970): 309-18.

(underbar). "The Structure of Marvell's 'Last Instructions to a Painter.'" EIC 22 (1972): 48-57.

Hyman, Lawrence W. Andrew Marvell. New York: Twayne, 1964.

Ketcham, Michael G. "Myth and Anti-Myth and the Poetics of Political Events in Two Restoration Poems." Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 13 (1984): 117-32.

Lord, George deF., ed. Poems on Affairs of State: Augustan Satirical Verse, 1660-1714. Volume I: 1660-1678. New Haven: Yale UP. 1963.

Lynch, Denise E. "Politics, Nature, and Structure in Marvell's The Last Instructions to a Painter." Restoration 16 (1994): 82-92.

Margoliouth, H. M., ed. The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell. Volume I: Poems. 3rd ed. Rev. Pierre Legouis, with the collaboration of E. E. DuncanJones. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

Messina, Joseph. "The Heroic Image in The Last Instructions to a Painter." Tercentenary Essays in Honor of Andrew Marvell. Ed. Kenneth Friedenreich. Hamden: Archon, 1977. 297-310.

Milward, John. The Diary of John Milward, Esq.: Member of Parliament for Derbyshire, September, 1666, to May, 1668. Ed. Caroline Robbins. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1938.

Miner, Earl. "The 'Poetic Picture, Painted Poetry' of The Last Instructions to a Painter." Andrew Marvell: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. George deF. Lord. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 165-74.

Osborne, Mary Tom. Advice-to-a-Painter Poems 1633-1856. Austin: University of Texas, 1949.

Patterson, Annabel M. Marvell and the Civic Crown. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978.

Quivey, James. "Rhetoric and Frame: A Study of Method in Three Satires by Marvell." Tennessee Studies in Literature 18 (1973): 75-91.

Stocker, Margarita. Apocalyptic Marvell: The Second Coming in Seventeenth Century Poetry. Athens: Ohio UP, 1986.

Toliver, Harold E. Marvell's Ironic Vision. New Haven: Yale UP, 1965.

Wallace, John M. Destiny His Choice: The Loyalism of Andrew Marvell. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1968.

Zwicker, Steven N. Lines of Authority: Politics and English Literary Culture. 1649-1689. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993.

(underbar). "Lines of Authority: Politics and Literary Culture in the Restoration." Politics of Discourse: The Literature and History of Seventeenth-Century England. Ed. Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker. Berkeley: U of California P, 1987. 230-70.


By Daniel P. Jaeckle, University of Houston-Victoria