Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax

Original Text: 
Andrew Marvell, Miscellaneous Poems, ed. Mary Marvell (1681). Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 3546 A1 1681A ROBA.
2Work of no foreign architect;
3That unto caves the quarries drew,
4And forests did to pastures hew;
5Who of his great design in pain
6Did for a model vault his brain;
7Whose columns should so high be rais'd
8To arch the brows that on them gaz'd.
9Why should of all things man unrul'd
10Such unproportion'd dwellings build?
11The beasts are by their dens exprest,
13The low roof'd tortoises do dwell
14In cases fit of tortoise-shell;
15No creature loves an empty space;
16Their bodies measure out their place.
17But he, superfluously spread,
18Demands more room alive than dead;
19And in his hollow palace goes
20Where winds as he themselves may lose.
21What need of all this marble crust
22T'impark the wanton mote of dust,
23That thinks by breadth the world t'unite
25But all things are composed here
26Like nature, orderly and near;
27In which we the dimensions find
28Of that more sober age and mind,
29When larger sized men did stoop
32To strain themselves through Heaven's gate.
33And surely when the after age
34Shall hither come in pilgrimage,
35These sacred places to adore,
37Men will dispute how their extent
38Within such dwarfish confines went;
39And some will smile at this, as well
41Humility alone designs
42Those short but admirable lines,
43By which, ungirt and unconstrain'd,
44Things greater are in less contain'd.
45Let others vainly strive t'immure
47These holy mathematics can
48In ev'ry figure equal man.
49Yet thus the laden house does sweat,
50And scarce endures the master great,
51But where he comes the swelling hall
53More by his magnitude distress'd,
54Then he is by its straightness press'd,
55And too officiously it slights
56That in itself which him delights.
57So honour better lowness bears,
58Than that unwonted greatness wears;
59Height with a certain grace does bend,
60But low things clownishly ascend.
61And yet what needs there here excuse,
62Where ev'ry thing does answer use?
63Where neatness nothing can condemn,
64Nor pride invent what to contemn?
66Adorns without the open door;
67Nor less the rooms within commends
68Daily new furniture of friends.
69The house was built upon the place
70Only as for a mark of grace;
71And for an inn to entertain
72Its lord a while, but not remain.
74Or Billbrough, better hold than they;
75But nature here hath been so free
76As if she said leave this to me.
77Art would more neatly have defac'd
78What she had laid so sweetly waste;
79In fragrant gardens, shady woods,
80Deep meadows, and transparent floods.


1] Appleton, or Nun Appleton House (the land having come to the Fairfax family from a dissolved Cistercian nunnery) was rebuilt by the first Lord Fairfax in 1637-38, but not completed until 1650, when the third Lord Fairfax, distinguished Parliamentary general, retired. For some time between 1651 and 1653 Marvell was tutor to the General's daughter, Mary. Back to Line
12] equal: appropriate. Back to Line
24] fail'd in height: i.e., in building the tower of Babel. Back to Line
30] loop: loophole. Back to Line
31] straight: with pun on ''strait''. Back to Line
36] Vere: Fairfax married Anne Vere, daughter of Sir Horace Vere. Back to Line
40] bee-like cell: a small thatched hut anciently preserved on Palatine Hill in Rome as the house of Romulus. Back to Line
46] The circle in the quadrature: square the circle. Back to Line
52] grows spherical. The central part of Appleton House was surmounted by a cupola. Back to Line
65] frontispiece: the principal face or front of a building, especially the decorated entrance. Back to Line
73] Bishop's Hill, Denton, and Bilbrough were other Fairfax properties. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.361-63.