Synopsis of The Mower against Gardens

The mower

Making hay with a scytheIn the Miscellaneous Poems of Marvell, published posthumously, this poem stands first in a set of four pastoral poems around the figure of the mower. The others are: Damon the Mower; The Mower to the Glo-Worms; and The Mower's Song. Mowers also occur in Upon Appleton House. Mowers were, of course, quite common in agricultural scenes in the seventeenth century, especially in hay-making. But a mower can stand for Time, with his scythe cutting down all life.


A significant proportion of Marvell's poetry is pastoral; but, as here, Marvell uses the pastoral convention in a most original way to ask fundamental questions about the Fall of Humankind, human passions, and the possibility of (re)gaining lost innocence within Nature. One of pastoralism's big themes is the destructiveness and artificiality of modern urban life as against traditional natural life. Today, we may ask the same questions in different terms, but they are just as urgent. The mower's complaint is both theological and ecological. Marvell turns out to be a very ‘green' poet.

More on pastoral: See The Coronet by the same poet

Typically, the pastoral uses the figure of the shepherd. But in these mower poems, Marvell replaces the figure of the shepherd with the more ambiguous one of the Mower, though this is not so obvious in this particular poem. He also suggests country life may be invaded by the corruption of the city. Place itself (the countryside, Nature) is insufficient to protect itself.

Investigating The Mower against Gardens
  • On first reading of The Mower against Gardens
    • Can you identify any modern ecological concerns that the Mower is voicing?
  • How important are gardens? What makes them important?
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