Heroes in the garden: Tasso's "Gerusalemme Liberata" and Marvell's "Upon Appleton House"

Olga Trusewytsch Stufano, Fordham University


This study investigates three issues raised in Andrew Marvell's "Upon Appleton House": the poet's attitude toward Fairfax's retirement (281-368), the identity and function of the poet persona (561-648), and Maria's realism and purpose (649-776). Since antecedent research has virtually ignored the impact of Continental poetry on Marvell, this thesis converges upon one such analogue, Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata. Biographical, bibliographic, and textual evidence strongly suggests Marvell's awareness of both the original Italian and Edward Fairfax's intermediary English translation. A comparison reveals thematic, imagistic, and linguistic similarities between Tasso and Marvell, and provides insight regarding the problems. The introductory essay identifies the issues and proposes points for analogy, focusing on the prominent heroic and georgic themes. The subsequent three chapters examine Marvell's transformation of Tasso by analyzing Fairfax's, the poet's, and Maria's heroism in the garden, parallelled by that of the Liberata's Rinaldo, narrator, and heroines. The odd fusion of the imagery of militarism, enclosure, and mutability with nature in Armida's bower and Fairfax's garden summons the heroes to spiritual activism and cautions against permanent social withdrawal. Pre-lapsarian happiness can be recovered solely by the individual cultivation of conscience and virtue, especially humility, and their habitual exercise in the extended garden-world. The poet characters undergo heroic metamorphoses through their garden experiences and assume dramatic, vatic roles, voicing Tasso and Marvell's aesthetic philosophies and championing the cause of goodness. Expression of the poetic imaginative process through natural imagery reconciles the nature-art dichotomy. The disparity between the accolades concerning Maria and her historical identity is resolved by the lady's unitive function in the garden: creative, redemptive, and inspirational. Like Tasso's heroines, Maria exhibits heroic, Marian example to Fairfax, the poet, England, and the universe. The "house" imagery in the codas recapitulates and confirms the virtuous solutions. Concluding observations on Marvell's originality emphasize his stylistic independence and superiority to Tasso in terse diction, imagistic density and poignancy, rehandling of the poet persona, and judicious balance of wit.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Comparative literature|Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Stufano, Olga Trusewytsch, "Heroes in the garden: Tasso's "Gerusalemme Liberata" and Marvell's "Upon Appleton House"" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9007169.