Andrew Marvell

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In “The Mower to the Glow-Worms,” how does Marvell write about animals in relation to unrequited love? How does the rhyme scheme reflect the message of the poem?

In “The Mower to the Glow-Worms,” Marvell depicts the glow worms as offering a “courteous” guiding light to bring back wanderers to the safe and sensible path, away from the “fire” of unrequited love. However, the speaker declares that he is too lost for this to work for him, a message of forlorn certitude which is supported by the regular rhyme scheme with its closed and conclusive mood.

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In this poem, Marvell depicts the glowworms as being a “courteous” group of animals who serve to guide the way for others who may be less certain of themselves. He suggests, for example, that they are studied by nightingales, and in that way they help the nightingale to produce its beautiful song by being a steadying influence. He also suggests that the constant, glowing light of the glowworms serves to refocus the attention of those who have strayed in the direction of “foolish fires.” Evidently, the speaker’s unrequited love for his beloved is one such foolish fire: rather than focusing on a constant and steady source of light and warmth, the speaker has directed himself towards a person whose love and attention, like the flames of a fire, is irregular, flickering, and unpredictable. In his case, however, the speaker seems to feel that the glowworms' efforts are all in vain. He is far too “displac’d” by his love to ever be brought back onto a sensible path, even by the constant light of the glowworms.

The rhyme scheme of this poem is incredibly straightforward: abab, cdcd, efef. Arguably, the sense of certainty that accompanies such a regular rhyme scheme could help to underscore the hopelessness of the speaker at the end of the poem. The final statement, that he is too lost in unrequited love to find his home, is rendered incontrovertible by the rhyme scheme.

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