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The most striking features of Marvell's wit

Wit literally means a clever and humorous expression of some ideas but in metaphysical poetry it is more than this. Wit may be explained as the saying of fine sparkling things which startle and amuse. The wit is to be discovered in the clever and ingenuous use of words rather than in the content of a poem. It is an intellectual activity which consists in the poet's perception of similarity in dissimilarity and the ingenuity with which he brings together and combines opposites, whether in words or ideas and discuss most striking features of marvell's wit.   

Wits, produced by means of unexpected comparisons or by means of ingenious ideas, are found abundantly in Marvell's poems. While we read "To His Coy Mistress" we are greatly amused in the opening passage, by the very idea that, if the lovers had enough space and enough time, the mistress could easily search for rubies by the Indian Ganges, and the lover could complain by the banks of the river Humber in England. We are also amused by the idea that the lover would love her from ten years before the Flood, and that she could refuse his love till the conversion of the Jews, and that the lover would be able to spend hundreds and thousands of years in praising the beauty of the mistress's limbs.

The lover's exaggerated statements tickle our minds and we smile with amusement. In the second stanza of the poem we have an example of wit; 

"Then worms shall try. That long preserved virginity: And your quaint honour turn to dust."

The lover says that in the grave, worms would try the long preserved virginity of the mistress. Here wit arises out of the very unexpectedness of the possibility which the lover visualizes, because ordinarily we never think of worms in the context of the seduction of a woman.

Marvell uses wit in the sense of unexpected metaphors by putting together heterogeneous ideas and image, and ingenious or far-fetched notions. Wit in the sense of ingenious conceits is available in "The Definition of Love". Here the poet describes his love as having been " begotten by Despair upon Impossibility." Then the poet says that he and his beloved have been placed as far as the poles and that Fate would not permit their union because their union would mean the ruin of Fate. The lover finally compares his and his mistresses loves to parallel lines which can never meet even when stretched to infinity. The poet defines his love by means of a conceit which is not only far fetched but also intellectually stimulating.

"Therefore the love which us doth bind, But Fate so enviously debars,  Is the conjunction of the mind, And opposition of the stars."

To sum up, the use of wits by means of a combination of dissimilar images or yoking the most heterogeneous elements by violence together is a characteristic feature of metaphysical poetry. The poetry of Marvell contains all kinds of wit, and contains them in abundance.


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