Francis Bacon and Torture BY ajf2055 Academic Bio: Anthony J. Funari I am currently a doctoral student at Lehigh University and in May will have finished my dissertation, entitled Challenging the Scientific Mind: The Poetic Resistance to Bacon’s Grand Instauration. My thesis examines the poetry of John Donne, Andrew Marvell, and John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, as a site from which is launched a meaningful critique of Francis Bacon’s scientific program.
My research interests include depictions of the natural in seventeenth-century poetry and prose, the rise of the city in Jacobean drama, and ecofeminist criticism. Abstract: This article examines the relevance that Francis Bacon’s call for humanity to engage in a (re)productive relationship with Nature has for Andrew Marvell’s “The Mower’s Song. ” Rather than viewing Damon’s realization of his isolation from the meadows as solely due to his emerging sexual feeling for Juliana, this article complicates the Mower’s plight by arguing that Damon experiences a tropological shift in how he characterizes Nature.
While in “Damon, the Mower” sexuality appears alien to the natural world, Damon comes to recognize Nature as a sexual entity through his epiction of the grass’s growth as “luxuriant” and the meadows as a participant in a May-game festivity. The transition that Damon experience parallels that which Bacon demands for the sciences. For Bacon, the restoration of humanitys Edenic mastery begins with treating Nature as any woman subject to masculine domination. However, in perceiving Nature through Bacon’s terms, Marvell’s protagonist does not discover a path to back Paradise but reenacts the Fall.
On this basis, Marvell problematizes the tropological foundation on which Bacon rests the new science. Companions of My Thoughts More Green”: Damon’s Baconian Sexing of Nature In his essay “Of Youth and Age,” Bacon expresses anxiety over the youthful mind, which he finds to be impetuous, prone to flights of fancy, and possessing a vitality that must be checked: “And yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and as it were more divinely.
Natures that nave much neat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years. ” i The danger of the young ind, for Bacon, lies in its susceptibility to the imagination, which provokes the intellect into rashly latching onto its initial thoughts as opposed to subjecting them to sober scrutiny. Bacon appears much concerned over this period in one’s intellectual development: though energetic, without the proper guidance and temperance, the youthful mind may fail to act productively.
The intellect in this early stage will move hastily, supposing too much from its preliminary impressions: Young men, in conduct and [management] of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they an quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly… and, that which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them; like an unready horse that will neither stop nor turn. i Here the quintessential aspects of the young mind, as Bacon portrays it, are the lack of order in its thought processes and sense of egotism in its disregard for contrary evidence. Yet, as readers of Bacon’s Essays are aware, the essays themselves do not offer an unequivocal stance on a topic but rather emonstrate Bacon’s own unstructured mental explorations. Bacon goes as far as to contradict his opening assessment of the young mind; in citing Joel 2. 28 Wour young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. ), Bacon posits the notion that the youthful mind itself should be privileged in its being closer to God than the old. Consequently, the mature mind is corrupted through its trafficking in the world of human thought: “And certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth; and age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding than in the virtues of the will and affections. iii In a sense, Bacon here espouses a proto-Romantic idealization of youth, as a moment prior to society’s intrusion that obscures one’s pristine encounter with the world.
Within this brief meditation on the nature of youth, Bacon articulates a primary tension that informs his program of reform for all learning: whether learning should be retrospective, always attempting to recover a past era that was the height of knowledge, or progressive, viewing knowledge as accumulative and successively ameliorating humanitys condition. Though in “Of Youth and Age” Bacon does not offer a final conclusion on the value f the youthful mind, the corpus of his scientific writings unreservedly advocates for the progressive nature of human learning.
Throughout Novum Organum (1620), Bacon’s foundational treatise of the new philosophy, there is a sustained distrust of youth. In essence, the program that Bacon envisions looks to curb the instinctual habit of the immature mind “to leap and fly from particulars to remote and nearly the most general axioms (such as the so-called first principles of arts and of things). ” iv Bacon portrays his instauration of learning as the transitioning from a young, mpetuous mindset to one more disciplined.
In Temporis partus masculus (The Masculine Birth of Time) (1603), one of Bacon’s earliest espousals of his epistemological reform, the elder guide admonishes his student that he should not feel ready to explore Nature without his guidance yet: “But, my son, if I should ask you to grapple immediately with the bewildering complexities of experimental science before your mind has been purged of its idols, beyond a peradventure you would promptly desert your leader. ” v Without his elderly instructor, the youthful student would succumb to the “idols ot the road.
Bacon reiterates again and again his conception of youth not as a privileged time of innocence and intellectual/ spiritual clarity but a perilous moment through which one must be carefully guided. Bacon’s apprehension of youth becomes a pivotal facet of the tropology of his instauration. As Bacon foresees the future path of human learning, the transition from a pre-modern, allegorical worldview to a modern scientifically-based mode of learning parallels the sexual maturation of the male youth.
Bacon foresees in the human mind’s leaving behind its childhood, which he finds represented in the lassical texts, mankind’s reclamation of the mastery over Nature once enjoyed in Eden. This mental transition or maturation entails the imperative to sexualize Nature, to perceive the relationship between humanity and Nature as one in which the latter is subject to sexual domination by the former.
For Bacon, only when the encounter with Nature is read through the metaphor of sexual reproductionNature is properly read as other and engaged with on a sexually reproductive basis can humanity hope to formulate the type of knowledge “so that the mind can exercise its rightful authority over the nature of things. vi For Bacon, when learning enters into a sexually mature adulthood, humanity will prosper in enjoying a return to an Edenic state. Feminist critics of modern science expose the sexism innate in the rhetoric of Baconian scientific knowledge.
Carolyn Merchant reveals the implicit sexualizing imagery in transforming Nature into inert material for industrial consumption: “The constraints against penetration associated with the earth-mother image were transformed into sanctions for denudation. ” vii Although recent apologists of Bacon rebut this line of criticism as anachronistically misreading his tropology,viii his cientific treatises bear out the correlation between the emergence of the new science and the entrance into adult male sexuality.
In the discussion of Bacon’s writings below, I trace this analogy through a series of key texts. My intent for revisiting Bacon’s use of adult male sexuality as a trope for the new science is to identify the conception of sexual/intellectual maturation that Andrew Marvell responds to in “the Mower’s Song. ‘ In this essay, I will read Andrew Marvell’s “Damon, the Mower” and “The Mower’s Song”ix in the context of the tropology that Bacon grounds the humanitys new engagement with Nature.
Critical discussion of Marvell’s Mower poems centers on his diverging from the pastoral convention of the sympathetic landscape. While the pastoral mode is primarily characterized by the pathetic fallacy between the human subject and Nature, Marvell breaks with this tradition by depicting a dissonance between his protagonist, Damon, and his environment. Particularly, “The Mower’s Song” opens with Damon’s lament for the loss of the reflective relationship that he once enjoyed with the meadow. i My own reading of Damon’s isolation contextualizes Marvell’s revising of the pastoral mode rom one based on harmony with one’s environment to one expressing a profound sense of division between the self and other within Bacon’s scientific instauration. If the Mower poems are a sequence centered on the sexual maturation of a single personality, “The Mower’s Song” presents Damon at the end of this development, nostalgically looking back on a period of unity. ii Damon ultimately experiences sexuality as alienating, entrapping him in an unfamiliar world in which he can no longer enjoy the unity he once had with the meadows. Beyond Damon’s isolation, I ind that Marvell’s pastoral protagonist enacts Bacon’s a Baconian tropological shitt??? Damon intellectually transitions from mindset that reads his environment as asexual and reflective of his own inner world to one that sees the meadows as a sexual entity that must be dominated.
So far so good, as Bacon would have us understand Damon’s maturation. However, as opposed to a re-entering of Eden, Damon comes to suffer another Fall. Where Bacon promised to bring knowledge “to perfection in charity, for the benefit and use of life,” xiii Marvell’s Damon finds only alienation, anguish, and death in his newly sexualized environment. The tropology that will open up path to ameliorating humanitys physical condition that Bacon espouses,undergirds Baconian science for Damon, leads to his lashing out against the meadows.
This reading of Damon’s alienation from the meadows further builds on and complicates how his crisis is generally understood by scholars. Critics of the Mower poems argue for the intersection between Damon’s emerging sexuality and his relationship with the meadows. Within this reading, Juliana’s entrance into Damon’s world, which becomes the catalyst for his entrance into sexuality, provokes is loss of the harmonious relationship that he once enjoyed with Nature. Robgert N.
Watson traces the loss of a symbiotic relationship with Nature to the speaker’s heterosexual desire. That isFor Watson, the poem acts as an admonishment against men involving themselves with women, who bring with them otherness: “The Mower to Glowworms” is ostensibly a poem of frustrated love that never in fact mentions love at all. This certainly suggests that something else is at stake; Juliana has displaced his mind, not broken his heart. All the same can be said of “The Mower’s Song. ” Again the woman is a marker of otherness… e desire for her produces (or reflects) a recognition of a loss of symbiotic presence in the universe that is a perpetual fact for the human creature, despite the impulse to hide it behind a particular erotic betrayal. xiv Likewise, Judith Haber finds that Juliana’s presence forces Damon into a recognition of his own individuality and separateness: “Romantic love makes Damon acutely aware of the separate existence of another; he therefore becomes aware of both his individual isolation and his desire for union. xv For Watson and Haber, then, the sexual awakening that Juliana evokes from Damon leads ocauses Damon to recognize his awareness of her uniqueness from himself, which in turn causes him to perceive his own isolation from his environment. Sexual maturation in Marvell’s Mower poems brings loneliness. True enough, but I argue that Damon’s new post-Juliana experience of Nature is more complex.
It is not simply that Damon finds himself unconnected to the meadows after encountering Juliana and thus is no longer able to enjoy an easy fantasy of a childish “fellowship” with Nature, but also that Damon within his post-Juliana perspective sees sex as part of Nature. While I agree with this reading that attributes Damon’s sense of alienation to his recognition of his sexuality, Damon’s new post-Juliana experience of Nature, I argue, reflects a profound and complex metaphorical transition.
This re-imagining Nature as a sexual entity redefines the dynamic of Damon’s relationship with his environment: what had once secured his sense of self through a maternal trope now is perceived as Jeopardizing his agency and so must be subdued. This is my intervention into the critical conversation surrounding “The Mower’s Song:” whereas while critics, such as Watson and Haber, read Damon’s dilemma as merely one in hich sexuality brings otherness and isolation, I posit add to this converstion by positing that Juliana’s presence and Damon’s subsequent sexual maturation leads to his perceiving sexuality as an innate facet of his environment.
This article then looks to recover “The Mower’s Song” as a space in which Marvell dramatizes the tropological shift that Bacon advocates. and critiques the Baconian shift in the terms through which one encounters Nature. Leaving Behind “The Boyhood of Knowledge” In Novum, Bacon posits a modern historiography, which puts forth the progressive nature of learning. For Bacon, contemporary knowledge appears stagnant: “By contrast [to the mechanical arts] philosophy and the intellectual sciences stand like statues, worshipped and celebrated, but not moved forwards. xvi The Bacon charges humanist veneration of the ancient authors had humanism for turning the intellect’s perspective forever looking backwards through its veneration of classical authors. Such an epistemological position sought truth in the recovery of ancient learning through philology; that is, the closer one could come linguistically to these past texts, the more one could access a golden age of learning. Much of the agenda that Bacon sets out in his scientific writings advocates for the reorienting of our historical perspectiveoutlook.
Rather than what Bacon sees as the humanist’s nostalgia for antiquity, the disciple of the new science will be focused on the present and future. This reversal of history, in which the past becomes merely prelude to the present, demands a new ontology of truth: “As regards authors, it is utterly feeble to grant them so much but to deny his rights to Time, the author of authors and indeed of all authority. For Truth is rightly described as the daughter of Time, not of Authority. ” Here Bacon’s iconoclasm is most pronounced: he sets as antithetical “time” and “authority,” each one denoting an opposed epistemology.
While “authority’ suggests a textual-based learning that discourages deviation from ancient writings, Bacon’s claim that “truth” is “the daughter of time” liberates the mind from obsequious devotion to the past. The knowledge held in the texts of Aristotle and Plato, for Bacon, should no longer be privileged as representing the maturity of human thought. “For the worlds’ old age is its true antiquity and should apply to our own times, not to the world’s youth, when the ancients lived.
For their age which our own point of view is ancient and older, from the world’s point of view is new and younger:” Bacon reevaluates the past and repositions the early modern seventeenth-century subject not in a diminished present but on the cusp of an era of discovery. Bacon cites recent innovations and the exploration of the New World as evidence for his historiography: “And surely it would be disgraceful in a time when regions of the material globe, that is, of earth, the seas and stars, have been opened up far and wide for us to see, if the limits of our intellectual world were restricted to the narrow discoveries of the ncients. xvii The achievements of Columbus and Galileo necessitated a conception of intellectual history as successive, not in decline. xviii In part, Bacon formulates his progressive model of human intellectual history as a rejection of the preoccupation with words as opposed to things, of which Bacon charges Aristotle as being the original instigator.
Notably, in The Masculine Birth, Bacon’s elderly guide commences his diatribe against ancient philosophers with Aristotle, who leads, for Bacon, the human mind awry by turning its attention towards words: “Just when the human mind, borne thither by some favoring gale, had found he rest in a littl e truth, this man presumed to cast the closest tetters on our understandings. He composed an art or manual of madness and made us slaves to words. xix As Bacon will develop further throughout his scientific treatises, Aristotle’s crime of duping the intellect into the belief that words possess an intrinsic connection with Nature confused the subjective and the objective. That is, the mind’s fixation on words leads to its mistakenly reading the objective world through its own linguistic constructions. Aristotle, rather than holding the venerable position that umanist tradition had placed him in, becomes the origin of humanitys intellectual fall. Likewise, Bacon remarks that the sin that Aristotle had perpetrated on learning is replayed in the humanist infatuation with ancient texts.
In The Advancement, Bacon offers a brief synopsis of the rise in the interest of classical learning, which led to a detrimental obsession with words at the expense of empirical knowledge: This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter – more after choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, nd the sweet falling of the clause, and the varying and illustrations of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of Judgment. x The danger of linguistic-based learning is the solipsism in which the mind indulges: the precedence that word assumes over the thing itself, the sign over the referent, turns our mental focus inward. Bacon finds in the humanist preoccupation with words “Pygmalion’s frenzy’ that fetishizes our linguistic constructs: “… for words are but images of matter, and xcept they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture. xxi As with Aristotle, the humanist’s obsession with the word fails to distinguish the self from the other, the subjective from the objective, our linguistic realization of the world from its actuality. Through textually, as opposed to experientially, based learning, Bacon finds that words have become autonomous: instead of facilitating the generation of knowledge, words actually obstruct one’s ability to access an objective reality.
This epistemology reflects, for Bacon, the mmaturity of the pre-scientific intellect, for the “Greeks seem merely the boyhood of knowledge, with the characteristic of boys, that it is good at chattering, but immature and unable to generate. “xxii To summarize, Bacon laments that human knowledge is stuck in a pre-sexual stage, characterized by an un(re)productive preoccupation with words that inhibits the encountering of the other beyond the self. The overarching trope that Bacon employs in describing the new stage of human intellectual history is that of male sexual maturation.
In considering the above quotation from the preface to his Novum, the “boyhood of knowledge” that classical uthors represent is marked by impotency: their knowledge, linguistically-based, lacks the ability to sexually encounter Nature, to engage in a (re)productive relationship with a recognized other. This conflation of intellectual and sexual maturity comes through in The Masculine Birth. Here the elderly guide acts as much as teacher as panderer for his young male student.
The text indentifies the end goal of the elderly guide’s instructions as the student’s ability to engage in a (re)productive relationship with Nature: “My dear, dear boy, what I propose is to unite you with things themselves in a chaste, holy, and legal wedlock. Although, as the text presents it, the student has not as yet reached that point of intellectual/sexual maturity, the elderly guide assures the student that once ne nas properly distanced himselt trom Nature he will then be able to bring forth “a blessed race of Heroes and Supermen who will overcome the immeasurable helplessness and poverty of the human race. xxiii Bacon, through his character of the elderly guide, defines sexual/intellectual maturation as not Just the penetration of the female other/Nature but also the realization of the social function of this copulation. That is, for Bacon, the sexually/ intellectually mature male subject is one who moves beyond the personal and views his efforts in a public context. In this sense, both learning and human sexuality most be seasoned with “charity. Like the young male who must emotionally separate himself from the female other to properly copulate for the benefit of society, the mind must cleave itself from Nature in order to generate productive knowledge. As Bacon would have the Early Modern subject comprehend his contemporary moment in history, learning, particularly natural philosophy, is about to experience a sexual wakening. No longer will the pre-sexual mindset of the ancient authors confine humanity to mediating its encounter with Nature through solipsistic fantasies.
In his “Thoughts and Conclusions” (1607), Bacon succinctly articulates his identification of ancient Greek philosophy with immature sexuality: “Now of this philosophy Aristotle is by universal consent the chief, yet he left nature herself untouched and inviolated, and dissipated his energies in comparing, contrasting and analyzing popular notions about her. ” xxiv Benjamin Farrington’s translation of this unpublished text suggests
Bacon’s overarching indictment of classical philosophy as condemning human learning to a perpetual childhood: in being obsessed with his own mental constructions of Nature, Aristotle allows the human mind to confuse its own fantasy with objective reality and to forgo any material engagement. The notion that Aristotle has “left nature untouched and inviolated” not only connotes the distance that Aristotle set up between the pre-scientific observer and Nature but also implicitly marks the new adherent of the new philosophy as one who would violate, deflower Nature. The “Luxuriant” Growth of Nature
The correspondence between sexual maturation and humanitys relationship to Nature is a central theme in Marvell’s Mower poems. “Damon, the Mower,” “The Glowworms,” and “The Mower’s Song” chronicle Damon’s sexual awakening, which, the poems show, has ramifications for Damon’s perception of his relationship with the meadows. Susan Snyder offers a compelling reading of Damon’s anxiety over being alienated from Nature that points to the transition of the human subject from a pre-sexual, imaginary state to the recognition of sexual individuality: “… the overall metaphoric system casts suspicion on sexuality itself.
The favored condition here is presexual, with no desire and in fact no discernible differentiation into he and she. ” xxv The typical Renaissance pastoral Journey, according to Snyder, follows the male protagonist as he leaves a time of unity and allegory to enter into a world of sexuality and death: “The Journey is now familiar passage from an Edenic state of natural wholeness through sexual awakening that is also an initiation into individual mortality, which here concludes in a new, negative relation with nature based this time on alienation and death. xxvi The end of the Journey is then separation. Snyder locates this break trom the imaginary stage tor Damon in his sexual awakening brought about by Juliana: “Damon’s song makes apparent the connection between feeling desire and realizing a separate identity. ” xxvii Sexual awareness then forces one to recognize otherness, and, consequently, the unity of the past, presexual stage is irretrievably lost.
My argument here is that as Damon experiences his nascent sexuality, which he initially perceives as an inescapable, preternatural heat that he ascribes to Juliana in “Damon, the Mower,” not only does he find himself cut off from he reflective relationship that he once enjoyed but also the tropes through which he reads Nature change.
To summarize the intellectual shift that I find Damon going through: while the Damon of “Damon, the Mower” identifies Juliana and the sexuality she comes to represent as external to the meadow, in “The Mower’s Song” the protagonist labels the grass’s growth as “luxuriant,” a word that Marvell invests with sexual connotations – a point that I elaborate on further below. Critical discussion of the Mower poems generally characterizes Damon as a solitary pastoral fgure: Damon’s environment is devoid of any other persons, save Juliana and the wandr’ring mowers” in “The Mower to the Glow-worms. Damon imaginatively creates a world that is populated by a personified Nature: the sun that “licks off [his] sweat,” the “eVning sweet” that bathes his feet in cowslip water, or the “deathless fairies” whom he leads in dance (“Damon the Mower” Ins. 45-8, 61-4). xxviii Yet with Juliana’s entrance and the recognition of his own sexuality, Damon no longer finds himself co-eternal with his environment. Juliana brings with her the imperative that Damon must come to grips with his own individuality. Yet this account is only half of the story, as I read it.
What scholars of the poem overlook is the fundamental shift in how Damon reads his environment, which reflects the new tropology that Bacon demands for human learning. Damon’s reading of Nature/ the meadows goes through a fundamental transition along similar lines to those which Bacon demands for human learning. While Damon is not completely aware of his mental transition, Marvell means for the reader to notice and question the new terms on which Damon encounters the meadows. It is not that we are meant to perceive Damon as reaching a truer account of Nature, i. . as a sexual other to be dominated, but instead to itness the consequences of a mind that perceives Nature this way. On this basis, I bring to light Marvell’s rejection of Baconian thought: whereas Bacon finds the sexualizing of Nature as restorative, through Damon’s tragedy Marvell avers such a path as isolating and destructive. The opening stanza of the poem finds Damon mourning the loss of the union that once existed between his internal reality and his environment: My mind was once the true survey Of all these meadows fresh and gay (Ins. -2) In this idyllic state of correspondence, Damon could read his world as merely himself rit large; the grass became as a symbol of his own Joy. The meadows were reflective of Damon’s subjectivity and, when interpreted properly, reveal the similitudes between the human subject and the natural world. This youthful epistemology renders the human subject passive regarding his interaction with Nature. Damon does not concern himself much with the meadows’ materiality but rather is preoccupied with their metaphorical import: the grass’s greenness has significance for him solely when he can see it as connoting his interiority.
Notable, also, is the narcissism that underlies Damon’s worldview. The tundamental beliet ot Damon’s epistemology – that Nature is simply composed of signs through which Damon could read himself – creates a knowledge that is inwardly directed. Damon’s knowledge of Nature, derivesd primarily from a hermeneutics of signs and not an engagement with things, echoes the pre-modern epistemology Bacon finds as more focused on “deformed images” produced by “the unequal mirror of” the postlapsarian mind. xix The opening line of the poem further reveals that Damon unconsciously now occupies a fallen postlapsarian perspective. Damon appears incognizant of the ntellectual transition that he has undergone. To claim that his “mind was once a true survey’ of the meadows raises concerns as to the state of mindintellectual state from which he is presently speaking. If in what seems to be the unrecoverable past Damon could read Nature “correctly,” how is the new relationship that he constructs between Nature and himself to be read?
Damon’s opening lament at the loss of his earlier mindset, in which existed a harmony between the external and the internal, I believe, removes the reader from the drama that Damon perceives between himself and the meadows. Damon is ignorant to the full implication of his statement; that is, for him, his intellect has not altered, but rather it is the meadows who have abandoned the “fellowship” between them. However, Marvell, in distancing the reader from his protagonist, holds up for scrutiny the mindset that Damon now occupies.
What has been lost to Damon is not, as he Marvell would have the reader believe, the fidelity of his environment to his internal state but instead his ability to perceive such a relationship. So whereas Damon projects the drama of the poem outwardly onto the meadows, the poem relocates the crisis internally within the mind. Essentially, Damon makes the same mistake as he does when he first meets Juliana, which I discuss immediately below: he misreads his own inner turmoil, his intellectual crises, he misreads as an external phenomenon.
In Marvell’s earlier Mower poem, “Damon the Mower,” Damon’s tropology presents Nature itself not only as asexual, but also sexuality becomes a destructive, alien force. In the first poem of the Mower sequence, Damon portrays Juliana as emitting a preternatural heat, which appears destructive for both the Mower and the environment alike: This heat the sun could never raise, Nor Dog Star so inflames the days. It from an higher beauty growth Which burns the fields and mower both: Which mads the dog, and makes the sun Hotter than his own Phaeton. No July causeth these extremes, But Juliana’s scorching beams. Ins. 17-24) As typical of Damon in this earlier stage of consciousness, the internal and the external blur together: his nascent sexual passion for Juliana Damon projects back onto her – the heat that he misperceives as emanating from her – only to have it threaten the fields and himself. Ironically, Damon’s confusion about whether this heat emanates from “the hot day, or hot desires,” leads him to seek refuge in the xternal, a “cool cave” or “gelid fountain” (Ins. 25-32). His fictional world appears resistant yet vulnerable to the sexual passion Juliana provokes in Damon.
The asexual tantastical environment that Damon creates, which ne reads himselt in union witn must exclude Juliana’s presence. Marvell, like Bacon, appears to raise concerns over pre-modern metaphorical perspective as being solipsistic and non-reproductive. Damon’s gift to Juliana of a “harmless snake” “disarmed of its teeth and sting” (Ins. 35-6) speaks to this asexuality: Damon’s feckless courting in offering the snake, endered impotent, denotes how alien Juliana and the mature sexuality she comes to represent are to his child-like mind. xxx Likewise, “The Garden” pivots on this same dichotomy between the sexual and the natural.
Stanza Ill imagines this antagonism in the image of the tree scarred by lovers’ inscriptions: No white nor red was ever seen So am’rous as this lovely green. Fond lovers, cruel as their flames, Cut in these their mistress’ name. (Ins. 16-20) Again sexuality appears as an annihilating force that seeks the ruin or perversion of Nature. As with Juliana’s supposed preternatural heat, the passion of the “fond overs” become a “cruel” ruinous “flame” inimical to a presexual, symbiotic communion with pristine Nature. Jonathan Crewe correctly points out that “sexual desire is foreign to the first pastoral world, and is in effect overwritten on it. In this sense, sexuality becomes an imposition, overtly indicated by the speaker’s tirade against the “luxurious” gardener whose lustful acts abuse the natural world in “The Mower Against Gardens. ” xxxi Given that in “Damon, the Mower” sexuality seems alien from a pre-sexual Nature, “The Mower’s Song” marks a profound shiftstark transition in Damon’s metaphorical tropological framework. Damon’s ability to take solace in an interpretation of Nature meant entirely for his comfort is obliterated by the imagined indifference of the meadows.
Damon now realizes himself as isolated from Nature, recognizing the boundary between the self and the other. However, rather than giving himself over to a solely material universe, one evacuated of any figurative meaning, Damon delves into a new tropological project. The loss that Damon grieves for, the inability within his new tropological paradigmthis interpretation of Nature to easily blur the subjective and the objective, becomes an motional betrayal by the meadows: the growth of the now “unthankful meadows” signals that they have forgone “a fellowship so true” (Ins. 3-4). Watson claims that Damon continues to anthropomorphize his environment only now engaging the meadows confrontationally: “He has ceased to intervene with his blade, but his mind is still subjugating the grasses to human purposes: they are mocking him only because he has ceased mowing them, but in another sense, they are mocking him only because he has made them volitional and conscious creatures. ” xxxii For Watson, hen, what primarily denotes Damon’s tropological shift is the recognition of Nature as possessing a separate will, inimical to Damon’s own will.
Yet an important and overlooked facet of Damon’s mental transformation, I argue, is that meadows have now become a sexual entity for him:. But these, while I with sorrow pine, Grew more luxuriant still and fine (Ins. 7-8) This moment when Damon notes the lack of correspondence between his internal turmoil and the grass also suggests sexuality as now being part of Nature. The growth of the grass is now “luxuriant,” a word that possesses sexual implications,