'The Character Of Holland' by Andrew Marvell

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Holland, that scarce deserves the name of Land,
As but th'Off-scouring of the Brittish Sand;
And so much Earth as was contributed
By English Pilots when they heav'd the Lead;
Or what by th' Oceans slow alluvion fell,
Of shipwrackt Cockle and the Muscle-shell;
This indigested vomit of the Sea
Fell to the Dutch by just Propriety.
Glad then, as Miners that have found the Oar,
They with mad labour fish'd the Land to Shoar;
And div'd as desperately for each piece
Of Earth, as if't had been of Ambergreece;
Collecting anxiously small Loads of Clay,
Less then what building Swallows bear away;
Transfursing into them their Dunghil Soul.
How did they rivet, with Gigantick Piles,
Thorough the Center their new-catched Miles;
And to the stake a strugling Country bound,
Where barking Waves still bait the forced Ground;
Building their watry Babel far more high
To reach the Sea, then those to scale the Sky.
Yet still his claim the Injur'd Ocean laid,
And oft at Leap-frog ore their Steeples plaid:
As if on purpose it on Land had come
To shew them what's their Mare Liberum.
A daily deluge over them does boyl;
The Earth and Water play at Level-coyl;
The Fish oft-times the Burger dispossest,
And sat not as a Meat but as a Guest;
And oft the Tritons and the Sea-Nymphs saw
Whole sholes of Dutch serv'd up for Cabillan;
Or as they over the new Level rang'd
For pickled Herring, pickled Heeren chang'd.
Nature, it seem'd, asham'd of her mistake,
Would throw their land away at Duck and Drake.
Therefore Necessity, that first made Kings,
Something like Government among them brings.
For as with Pygmees who best kills the Crane,
Among the hungry he that treasures Grain,
Among the blind the one-ey'd blinkard reigns,
So rules among the drowned he that draines.
Not who first see the rising Sun commands,
But who could first discern the rising Lands.
Who best could know to pump an Earth so leak
Him they their Lord and Country's Father speak.
To make a Bank was a great Plot of State;
Invent a Shov'l and be a Magistrate.
Hence some small Dyke-grave unperceiv'd invades
The Pow'r, and grows as 'twere a King of Spades.
But for less envy some Joynt States endures,
Who look like a Commission of the Sewers.
For these Half-anders, half wet, and half dry,
Nor bear strict service, nor pure Liberty.
'Tis probable Religion after this
Came next in order; which they could not miss.
How could the Dutch but be converted, when
Th' Apostles were so many Fishermen?
Besides the Waters of themselves did rise,
And, as their Land, so them did re-baptise.
Though Herring for their God few voices mist,
And Poor-John to have been th' Evangelist.
Faith, that could never Twins conceive before,
Never so fertile, spawn'd upon this shore:
More pregnant then their Marg'ret, that laid down
For Hans-in-Kelder of a whole Hans-Town.
Sure when Religion did it self imbark,
And from the east would Westward steer its Ark,
It struck, and splitting on this unknown ground,
Each one thence pillag'd the first piece he found:
Hence Amsterdam, Turk-Christian-Pagan-Jew,
Staple of Sects and Mint of Schisme grew;
That Bank of Conscience, where not one so strange
Opinion but finds Credit, and Exchange.
In vain for Catholicks our selves we bear;
The Universal Church is onely there.
Nor can Civility there want for Tillage,
Where wisely for their Court they chose a Village.
How fit a Title clothes their Governours,
Themselves the Hogs as all their Subjects Bores
Let it suffice to give their Country Fame
That it had one Civilis call'd by Name,
Some Fifteen hundred and more years ago,
But surely never any that was so.
See but their Mairmaids with their Tails of Fish,
Reeking at Church over the Chafing-Dish.
A vestal Turf enshrin'd in Earthen Ware
Fumes through the loop-holes of wooden Square.
Each to the Temple with these Altars tend,
But still does place it at her Western End:
While the fat steam of Female Sacrifice
Fills the Priests Nostrils and puts out his Eyes.
Or what a Spectacle the Skipper gross,
A Water-Hercules Butter-Coloss,
Tunn'd up with all their sev'ral Towns of Beer;
When Stagg'ring upon some Land, Snick and Sneer,
They try, like Statuaries, if they can,
Cut out each others Athos to a Man:
And carve in their large Bodies, where they please,
The Armes of the United Provinces.
But when such Amity at home is show'd;
What then are their confederacies abroad?
Let this one court'sie witness all the rest;
When their hole Navy they together prest,
Not Christian Captives to redeem from Bands:
Or intercept the Western golden Sands:
No, but all ancient Rights and Leagues must vail,
Rather then to the English strike their sail;
to whom their weather-beaten Province ows
It self, when as some greater Vessal tows
A Cock-boat tost with the same wind and fate;
We buoy'd so often up their Sinking State.
Was this Jus Belli & Pacis; could this be
Cause why their Burgomaster of the Sea
Ram'd with Gun-powder, flaming with Brand wine,
Should raging hold his Linstock to the Mine?
While, with feign'd Treaties, they invade by stealth
Our sore new circumcised Common wealth.
Yet of his vain Attempt no more he sees
Then of Case-Butter shot and Bullet-Cheese.
And the torn Navy stagger'd with him home,
While the Sea laught it self into a foam,
'Tis true since that (as fortune kindly sports,)
A wholesome Danger drove us to our ports.
While half their banish'd keels the Tempest tost,
Half bound at home in Prison to the frost:
That ours mean time at leisure might careen,
In a calm Winter, under Skies Serene.
As the obsequious Air and waters rest,
Till the dear Halcyon hatch out all its nest.
The Common wealth doth by its losses grow;
And, like its own Seas, only Ebbs to flow.
Besides that very Agitation laves,
And purges out the corruptible waves.
And now again our armed Bucentore
Doth yearly their Sea-Nuptials restore.
And how the Hydra of seaven Provinces
Is strangled by our Infant Hercules.
Their Tortoise wants its vainly stretched neck;
Their Navy all our Conquest or our Wreck:
Or, what is left, their Carthage overcome
Would render fain unto our better Rome.
Unless our Senate, lest their Youth disuse,
The War, (but who would) Peace if begg'd refuse.
For now of nothing may our State despair,
Darling of Heaven, and of Men the Care;
Provided that they be what they have been,
Watchful abroad, and honest still within.
For while our Neptune doth a Trident shake, Blake,
Steel'd with those piercing Heads, Dean, Monck and
And while Jove governs in the highest Sphere,
Vainly in Hell let Pluto domineer.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Character Of Holland: A Masterpiece of Satirical Poetry

Have you ever thought about a place that is famous for its beauty, culture, and trade? A place that is considered as the shining star of Europe? Yes, you guessed it right: Holland. This small country has always been a center of attention for travelers, poets, and artists. Among those poets, one name stands out: Andrew Marvell. His poem "The Character of Holland" is a masterpiece of satirical poetry that not only highlights the beauty of Holland but also pokes fun at its flaws. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will examine Marvell's use of satire, imagery, and language to analyze his depiction of Holland.

Satire: A Powerful Tool for Criticism

Satire is a form of literature that uses humor, irony, and ridicule to criticize and expose the shortcomings of society. Marvell's "The Character of Holland" is a perfect example of this literary technique. The poem is a witty commentary on Holland's society, politics, and culture. From the very beginning, Marvell sets the tone by describing Holland as a "model" country that "all men approve." However, as the poem progresses, he starts to reveal the darker side of Holland's character.

Marvell's use of satire is evident in his depiction of the Dutch people. He describes them as "so dull and phlegmatick" and "so sottish and obstinately vain." These words may seem harsh, but they are meant to highlight the Dutch people's lack of imagination and their obsession with material possessions. He also criticizes their love for money and trade, describing Holland as the "Bourse of Christendom." Marvell's use of satire is not only entertaining but also effective in exposing the flaws of Holland's society.

Imagery: Painting a Picture of Holland

Imagery is a powerful tool in poetry that helps the reader to visualize the scenes and characters. In "The Character of Holland," Marvell uses vivid imagery to describe Holland's landscape and its people. He paints a picture of a country that is both beautiful and flawed. He describes how the country is "enclos'd with water" and how the "streams on either hand / Like arms stretch forth to grasp the land." This imagery not only creates a beautiful picture in the reader's mind but also highlights the Dutch people's struggle with water and their engineering skills.

Marvell's use of imagery is not limited to Holland's landscape. He also uses it to describe the Dutch people. He compares them to "butterflies" and "ants," highlighting their obsession with material possessions and their lack of imagination. He also describes how the Dutch people are "proud of their great Van Trumps and Tromps," referring to their famous naval heroes. This imagery not only creates a vivid picture of the Dutch people but also exposes their flaws.

Language: A Tool for Creating Tone and Atmosphere

Language is an essential tool in poetry that helps the writer to create a tone and atmosphere that suits the poem's theme. In "The Character of Holland," Marvell uses language to create a witty and ironic tone that suits the poem's satirical nature. He uses words like "dull" and "phlegmatick" to describe the Dutch people and their lack of imagination. He also uses words like "proud" and "vain" to highlight their obsession with material possessions.

Marvell's use of language is not limited to describing the Dutch people. He also uses it to create a tone of admiration for Holland's landscape and culture. He describes how Holland's landscape is "rich with nature's store," and how its culture is "sober, chaste, and strict." This language not only creates a tone of admiration but also highlights the positive aspects of Holland's character.

Conclusion: A Masterpiece of Satirical Poetry

In conclusion, Andrew Marvell's "The Character of Holland" is a masterpiece of satirical poetry that highlights the flaws and strengths of Holland's society, culture, and landscape. Marvell's use of satire, imagery, and language creates a witty and ironic tone that suits the poem's theme. His depiction of Holland's landscape and people not only creates a beautiful picture but also exposes the Dutch people's flaws. Overall, "The Character of Holland" is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry, satire, or Holland's culture.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Character of Holland: A Masterpiece of Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell, the 17th-century English poet, is known for his satirical and metaphysical poetry. Among his works, "The Character of Holland" is a masterpiece that showcases his wit, humor, and keen observation of the Dutch society. The poem, written in 1653, is a satirical portrayal of the Dutch culture, economy, and politics. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, highlighting its themes, literary devices, and historical context.

The poem is structured in three parts, each consisting of six stanzas. The first part describes the physical landscape of Holland, the second part focuses on its economy and trade, and the third part critiques its politics and religion. The poem is written in heroic couplets, a form of rhyming poetry that was popular in the 17th century. The rhyme scheme is AABBCC, and the meter is iambic pentameter, which means each line has ten syllables with a stress on every other syllable.

The first part of the poem begins with a description of Holland's geography. Marvell portrays Holland as a flat and low-lying country, with no hills or mountains. He uses hyperbole to emphasize the flatness of the land, saying that "the earth itself swells like the sea." He also notes the abundance of water in Holland, with its many canals, rivers, and lakes. He describes the Dutch people as "water-rats," who have learned to live with the constant threat of flooding. Marvell's description of Holland's geography sets the stage for his critique of its culture and society.

In the second part of the poem, Marvell focuses on Holland's economy and trade. He notes that Holland is a prosperous country, with a thriving trade in spices, textiles, and other goods. He describes the Dutch merchants as "busy ants," who are always working and trading. He also notes the Dutch love of money, saying that "gold is their god." Marvell's critique of Holland's economy is not entirely negative, as he acknowledges the country's wealth and success. However, he also suggests that the Dutch obsession with money has led to a lack of culture and refinement.

The third part of the poem is the most critical of Holland, as Marvell takes aim at its politics and religion. He notes that Holland is a republic, with no king or queen, and that its government is corrupt and inefficient. He describes the Dutch politicians as "bubbles," who are full of hot air and empty promises. He also criticizes Holland's religious tolerance, saying that it has led to a lack of faith and morality. Marvell's critique of Holland's politics and religion is harsh, but it is also a reflection of the political and religious tensions of the time.

One of the most striking features of "The Character of Holland" is Marvell's use of literary devices. He employs a range of techniques, including hyperbole, metaphor, irony, and allusion, to create a vivid and memorable portrait of Holland. For example, he uses hyperbole to describe Holland's flatness, saying that "the earth itself swells like the sea." He uses metaphor to describe the Dutch merchants as "busy ants," who are always working and trading. He uses irony to criticize Holland's religious tolerance, saying that it has led to a lack of faith and morality. He also uses allusion to reference classical literature, such as when he compares Holland to the "land of Lilliput," a fictional country in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Another important aspect of the poem is its historical context. Marvell wrote "The Character of Holland" during a time of political and religious upheaval in England. The poem was written during the Commonwealth period, when England was ruled by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. Marvell was a supporter of Cromwell and the Commonwealth, but he was also critical of their policies. "The Character of Holland" can be seen as a reflection of Marvell's ambivalent attitude towards the Dutch Republic, which was a rival of England at the time. The poem can also be seen as a commentary on the political and religious tensions of the time, as Marvell critiques Holland's republicanism and religious tolerance.

In conclusion, "The Character of Holland" is a masterpiece of Andrew Marvell's poetry. The poem is a satirical portrayal of the Dutch culture, economy, and politics, written in heroic couplets. Marvell uses a range of literary devices to create a vivid and memorable portrait of Holland, and he critiques its geography, economy, politics, and religion. The poem is also a reflection of the political and religious tensions of the time, as Marvell wrote it during the Commonwealth period in England. "The Character of Holland" is a timeless work of poetry that continues to be studied and admired today.

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