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Andrew Marvell

Coronet - Crown

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) is an English poet and satirist, one of the metaphysical poets. He was born in Winestead, Yorkshire, and educated at the University of Cambridge. While tutor to the daughter of Lord Thomas Fairfax, he wrote the well-known lyric works The Garden, To His Coy Mistress, The Definition of Love, and Bermudas. Marvell's works often weigh conflicting values, such as introspection (self-examination) versus action, or nature versus society. As assistant to John Milton (who was serving as Latin secretary for the common wealth) from 1657 to 1659, he wrote many poems in praise of the lord protector of England, Oliver Cromwell, notably "Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland”, considered by some to be one of the great political poems. From 1659 until his death, Marvell served in Parliament; his letters to constituents reveal much about his times.

Marvell's prose satire, little read today, was once considered wittier than his verse. His bitter verses against the corruption of the monarchy include Last Instructions to a Painter (1667), Britannia and Raleigh and poem on the Statue in the Stocks Market (1672). In his own day, Marvell was virtually unknown as a lyrics poet but renowned as a satirist and patriot. His reputation has grown as critics have discovered Marvell's intellectually rigorous and finely balanced lyrics verse.


  • The Coronet reflects the poet’s struggle to use his poetic talent for God instead of using it to gain fame for himself.  (A coronet is a little crown. Marvell symbolizes writing a poem as weaving together a coronet of flowers.)
  • The poem deals with the eroding values of spiritualism in reformation time. Moreover, it highlights human crave for mundane prosperity and lust. Here serpent (worldly things) lures Eve (modern women) who ignores the sacrifice of god for their mutable pleasure. Consequently we have no faith in Him but in the flower entwined with snake (self glory, narcissism).
  • Marvell mentions about the evil influence during the reformation in 16th century. During this period true doctrines were despised by some interest groups who were compared to Serpent and they were adding filthy and unwanted ideology of their own apart from biblical truth. Which resulted the birth of false doctrines or beliefs. According to Marvell God will dispose them those who tried to dispose truth and wanted to gain headship over Him/ word of God.
  • In coronate Marvell shows his deep religious concern that in the secular world, ravaged by the greed of materialism and other factors, he wants to redress the wound of his Savior by replacing it with garland. The serpent reminds the readers of the Biblical serpent and his temptation to modern people is like the allurement to Eve.


For a long time—too long—I have taken thorns
And, causing many piercing wounds,
I crowned my Savior’s head with them.
To make up for that, I seek to replace the thorns with flowers.
Hunting through every garden, every meadow,
I gather flowers (flowers are all I can produce)
I even take apart those crowns of flowers
That I used to give to my lover, for her to wear
And now, when I take stock of every flower I’ve collected
Thinking (although I deceive myself)
To weave a crown of flowers so rich
That the King of Glory, God himself, never wore a better one,
Alas!  I find that the devil himself, that old serpent,
Camouflaged with his speckled breast, has entwined
Himself all around the flowers
With his own wreaths of self-glorification and self-interest.
Ah, it would be a foolish man who would corrupt and ruin
A crown intended for God by weaving in a desire for glory
for himself!
Only you, God, could conquer the serpent
Either untie all his slippery knots
And disentangle him from my crown
Or shatter my crown and the serpent along with it
Let the flowers wither, if that’s what it takes to kill the serpent
Even though the flowers were carefully chosen and placed.
Crush them and the serpent under your foot;
I could not crown Your head, but at least the ruins of my
flowers can adorn Your feet.

The speaker in "The Coronet" is a shepherd. He begins by stating that the crown of thorns on his “Saviour’s head” has been worn too long, and he seeks to “redress that wrong” through his verse. He goes about gathering flowers from “every garden” and dismantles the “fragrant tow’rs” that his mistress shepherdess once wore, all to fashion a new crown to glorify his savior, Jesus Christ. But once the speaker collects “all [his] store” and begins to weave the new crown, he finds that the “serpent old” has deceitfully hidden himself within the flowers, forming “wreaths of fame and interest.”

The speaker suddenly realizes that his task is “foolish” because he is attempting to use earthly means to construct his coronet, which can therefore only “debase” the glory of “Heaven’s diadem.” He then appeals to Christ, the only figure who “could’st the serpent tame,” asking his Savior either to undo the coronet’s “slipp’ry knots” or to destroy its “curious frame.” The poem concludes with the speaker suggesting that if Christ were to destroy the serpent’s power over the coronet, he could tread over the spoils of the serpent and coronet alike, which would “crown [Christ's] feet” since they are unfit to “crown thy head.”

In this poem, Andrew Marvell shows the concern of maintaining faith god in a secular (worldly) world with temptation and war. He alludes (adverts) to the thorn that Christ wore at the time of crucifixion. He wants to correct that unfair action replacing it by the garlands. He wants to make garlands gathering flowers through every garden and every dismantling all the fragrant towers. He wants to make such a ground, which is very rich, and no king has yet worn.

Nevertheless, he finds that an old serpent has patronized the beautiful flowers disguising them with fame and interest and foolish men are running of the heaven's crown. Those who are tempted by the serpent will know one day how dangerous it is. The speaker, by offering this poem, he wants to make such a crown, which will be better that anything else will.


The poem’s speaker is a shepherd who aims to rectify the Crucifixion by writing a poem that will serve as a new crown, or coronet of glory for Jesus Christ. Slowly the shepherd comes to realize that the poem he is composing is an attempt to repent for the crucifixion is actually only embellishing (decorating) the shepherd's own image. Traditionally, shepherds appear in poetry as symbols of the pastoral genre, speaking simply and directly. The shepherds' language is usually a direct contrast to the deceitful language of political intrigue (scheme) and trickery. However, the language, imagery, and style of The Coronet are not at all simple and direct. Therefore, Marvell’s poem reworks traditional poetic conventions to emphasize the theme of Christian humility (humbleness: lack of false pride).

The versification of the poem is also complicated. Marvell embeds (plants) sonnets of different forms (Shakespearean, Petrarchan) within a larger rhyme scheme and utilizes several different meters (including iambic pentameter, tetrameters, and trimester). The complexity of the verse is an artful counterweight to the speaker's professed (confessed) simplicity and the fact that he is a shepherd. At the beginning of the poem, the shepherd turns to his natural surroundings, gathering materials to weave (interlace by or as if by weaving) a new crown. He takes flowers from the garden and even “dismantles” the “fragrant tow’rs” that his shepherdess once wore. His willingness to take from the shepherdess may at first imply his generosity towards Christ, but this moment can also be interpreted as an act of thievery (theft).

When the shepherd has gathered his materials and begins to consider how to weave them into a “rich chaplet,” he realizes that upon “Thinking (so I myself deceive).” In other words, even the shepherd’s thought process is affected by the deceitful serpent, or Satan, whom the speaker finds disguised among the flowers. Satan’s hidden presence suggests that no matter how well intended the shepherd’s efforts may be, he cannot create a symbol of Christian praise that without making it a work of self-aggrandizement (the act of increasing the wealth, prestige, power or scope of something).

This predicament (plight) explains why the speaker suddenly realizes that his efforts can only “debase” God’s glory and “Heaven’s diadem,” or crown. It also reveals the depth of Marvell’s elaborate conceit. The poem that the shepherd is “writing” is the crown or coronet of flowers, and just as the shepherd realizes that his efforts are inherently tainted by mortal sin, Marvell acknowledges that the art of poetry contains seeds of pride and self-valorization that complicate the work of any devout Christian poet.

This is why the concluding image of the poem is an appeal to Christ. The shepherd, upon recognizing the futility of his efforts, asks Christ to come and undo the serpent's nefarious work – represented as “slipp’ry knots” and a “winding snare.” These images call upon Christ to shatter and annihilate the fruits of sin, which the speaker describes as “my curious frame,” referring at once to the coronet he has begun to make, to the poem itself, and even to his own body. The final two lines imagine Christ triumphant, standing on the “spoils” of his victory over sin.

"The Coronet" is a religious poem that examines the problems of the maintaining faith in the God on a secular worlds filled with temptation and war. It opens with the speaker alluding to the wrath of thorn that Christ wore upon his head as he was crucified on the cross. The speaker reveals that he, too, seeks to know the pain of the thorns, as he feels crucified by the worlds too.

The poem belongs to devotional literature upon Christ's passion and the contrast between his earthly and heavenly crimes. It is common to poems within the tradition that their rhyme scheme, sound, imagery and syntax should suggest the woven crown of thorns.

The speaker begins the poem by believing that he can make redress to Christ for the sufferings. He ends the poems in humidity, now revealing that his own pretenses (pretexts) were sinful. Man needed Christ's sacrifice as atonement for Adam's fall:  God has crowned The Savoir with mere glory then man can ever give.

As a meditation upon Christ's crown of Thorns, 'The coronet' is curious. Although the poem begins by alluding to the wounds on the savior's head and lads with a petition, it does not depict Christ's life. His sufferings of even this heavenly glory. Such motifs are alluded to in passing and the reader is expected to feel their full import from the symbols or biblical echoes present in the poem. The usual subject matter of 'crown of thorns' poetry present almost as a background,  the full significance of which does not become apparent until the last line where we find that the poem is indeed a devotion on Christ's glory. The shift in focus is essential to the meaning and act of the coronet.

One theme of the poem is the purpose of devotional art, as far that matter of the devotion on general. Art, study and contemplation can be misused if nit approached with humility. The speaker in this poem feels temptations. His art is a temptation to pride and to desire for worldly fame. Such temptations are inherent in anything done by fallen humankind.  Only thought humility is it possible to overcome the temptation to misuse one's life for self-glorification.

The poem is pastoral one about the difficulty of writing religious or devotion poetry. The 'coronet' of the title is a woven crown of flowers, typically given for instance to the queen of the May. Marvell's religious pastoralism (relating to shepherd) is suggesting that as a religious poet, his endeavor (effort) will be to replace Christ's crown of thorns, given to him by the mocking soldiers at his crucifixion, with a crown of flowers. Symbolically that means he will give poetry to the Christ, which is more appropriate to crowning him, the poetry of the worlds, which typically makes fun of him.

Temptation to steal the Glory

Even poet is guilty of worldly poetry. He has first to dismantle 'all the fragrant Towers' made for his 'shepherdesses head' that is, his love poetry. So he is going to re-use the' flowers' – beautiful language and fine phrases – from that for his sacred crown, as well as using others freshly picked. But ……, and as Herbert found, there is always a bit – 'I find the serpent old', a reference to the first pastoral of the Garden of Eden and the serpent that tempted Eve. The temptation the serpent represents to the poet is 'Fame and Interest', ('interest here means 'self-interest' or 'self-advantage') - he wants people to notice him rather than God.


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