'Fleckno , An English Priest At Rome.' by Andrew Marvell

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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.
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,
Begins to exercise; as if I were
Possest; and sure the Devil brought me there.
But I, who now imagin'd my selfbrought
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:
And how I, silent, turn'd my burning Ear
Towards the Verse; and when that could n
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;
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.
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 been
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,
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 reflect
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.
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 here
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.
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,
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:
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 were
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.
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'd
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,
Did, as he threatned, ere 'twere long intend
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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome by Andrew Marvell

Are you a poetry enthusiast seeking a deep, intellectual read? Look no further than Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome by Andrew Marvell. This classic piece of literature is a must-read for anyone interested in the complexities of human nature and the relationship between religion and society.

The Story

The poem tells the story of Richard Fleckno, an English Catholic priest who has come to Rome to seek spiritual enlightenment. However, his time in Rome is marked by disillusionment and disappointment as he encounters corrupt officials and empty rituals.

The poem is divided into three parts, each focusing on a different aspect of Fleckno's journey. In the first part, we are introduced to Fleckno and his reason for coming to Rome. Marvell sets the stage for the rest of the poem by highlighting the tension between Fleckno's expectations and the reality he encounters.

Part Two sees Fleckno attending various ceremonies and interacting with the Roman clergy. Marvell's descriptions of these events are rich and vivid, immersing the reader in the sensory experience of Fleckno's surroundings.

The final part of the poem sees Fleckno reflecting on his experiences in Rome and coming to a realization about the nature of religion and spirituality.

The Themes

At its core, Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome is a meditation on the nature of faith and the relationship between religion and society. Marvell uses Fleckno's experiences in Rome to explore the question of whether faith can exist outside of institutionalized religion.

Throughout the poem, Marvell highlights the corruption and hypocrisy present in the Roman church. Fleckno is repeatedly disillusioned by the actions of the clergy and the emptiness of the rituals he witnesses. This critique of the church reflects the broader societal critique of the time, as the 17th century saw a growing disillusionment with institutionalized religion.

However, Marvell is not simply advocating for a rejection of religion. Instead, he suggests that true faith must come from within. Fleckno's realization at the end of the poem that "The best religion is a Fear / And Love of God, which those may have / That want the means the Pope can have" (lines 153-155) emphasizes the need for a personal connection to faith, rather than reliance on external structures.

The Style

Marvell's poetic style is characterized by its wit and playfulness. The poem is full of puns and wordplay, adding a layer of humor to the serious subject matter.

Marvell also uses vivid and detailed descriptions to immerse the reader in the world of the poem. The sensory details of the Roman ceremonies and Fleckno's surroundings paint a rich picture of the setting.

Additionally, Marvell's use of rhyme and meter give the poem a musical quality that adds to its overall beauty.


Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome is a powerful meditation on faith, society, and the human experience. Marvell's witty and vivid style draws the reader in, while the complex themes of the poem leave a lasting impact.

Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply interested in exploring the complexities of human nature, Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Andrew Marvell’s “Poetry Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome” is a satirical poem that mocks the works of Richard Fleckno, an English poet who lived in Rome during the 17th century. The poem is a witty and humorous critique of Fleckno’s poetry, which Marvell portrays as lacking in substance and style. Through his use of irony, sarcasm, and parody, Marvell exposes the flaws in Fleckno’s writing and highlights the importance of good poetry.

The poem begins with a description of Fleckno, who is portrayed as a mediocre poet with no real talent. Marvell writes, “Fleckno, an English priest at Rome, / Quibbles away his time, to no purpose or end; / But leaves his readers still as much in the dark, / As if they ne’er had seen the way to the park.” This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is filled with clever wordplay and biting criticism.

Marvell goes on to describe Fleckno’s poetry as “a heap of words, and a mist of sense,” suggesting that his writing is full of meaningless phrases and lacks any real substance. He also mocks Fleckno’s attempts at humor, writing, “His jests are flat, his passions such, / As can alone make one hate much.” This line is particularly effective in its use of irony, as Marvell is essentially saying that Fleckno’s attempts at humor are so bad that they actually make people angry.

Throughout the poem, Marvell uses a variety of literary devices to highlight the flaws in Fleckno’s writing. For example, he uses parody to mock Fleckno’s style, writing, “His style’s the same in prose and verse, / And both to one dull level curse.” This line is a parody of Fleckno’s own writing, which Marvell suggests is repetitive and lacking in variety.

Marvell also uses sarcasm to criticize Fleckno’s poetry, writing, “His works are, like his person, weak, / And with a passive dullness speak.” This line is particularly effective in its use of sarcasm, as Marvell is essentially saying that Fleckno’s poetry is so bad that it is almost passive in its dullness.

Another important aspect of the poem is its use of imagery. Marvell uses vivid and colorful imagery to describe Fleckno’s writing, writing, “His brain’s a fritter, and his heart / A lump of lead, that’s never smart.” This imagery is effective in conveying the idea that Fleckno’s writing is dull and lifeless.

Overall, “Poetry Fleckno, An English Priest At Rome” is a clever and humorous critique of Richard Fleckno’s poetry. Through his use of irony, sarcasm, parody, and imagery, Marvell exposes the flaws in Fleckno’s writing and highlights the importance of good poetry. The poem is a testament to Marvell’s own skill as a poet, and serves as a reminder of the importance of quality writing in the literary world.

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