How Poems End
How Poems End
Apocalypse, Symbol, and the Event of Ending in “Upon Appleton House”
Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House” explores what it means for revolution and revelation to happen in the present. The poem is populated by multiple symbolic reversals that do not fundamentally change the world. It attempts to revive the apocalyptic power of these symbols by focusing on their temporal occurrence within the poem. Marvell’s tendency to literalize metaphor is essentially an exploration of what it means for a metaphor or symbol to occur in the present—what happens when mediation occurs immediately. The political effect is the replacement of revolution with apocalypticism, precisely because it is only the latter that can really end injustice, sin, or anything, for that matter. The poetic effect, ultimately, is to turn the country-house genre into a tool for examining literary occurrences, the events that happen now, within verse. His apocalyptic lyricism then postulates a fundamental alteration in the nature of temporality alongside a serious examination of meaning’s present occurrence, how something like real revelation could occur immanently.
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