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Andrew Marvell's poem, “On a Drop of Dew,” is a metaphysical poem which compares the journey of a drop of dew to the journey/function of a soul. In the first 18 lines, the journey or life span of the dew begins in the Orient. The Orient, in Marvell's day, was synonymous with the East. This is where we get the now politically incorrect term “oriental” to describes the people and culture of the Far East. Beginning in the east is important because the sun rises in the east. In this poem, the sun represents God or some metaphysical Spirit. So the dew drop, a.k.a. the soul, begins from the sun; from God. The dew drop, a perfectly transparent sphere, forms from condensed vapor and is “sent” to the earth. Its new “Mansion” is the rose on which it rests. The dew forms into a drop, “encloses” itself into a “globe,” framing itself in a sphere of water (the “Element”).
“For the clear Region where t'was born
Round in itself encloses:
And in its little Globes Extent,
Frames as it can its native Element.” (5-8).
Lines 11 and 12 illustrate that the dew drop (soul) scarcely touches the flower it rests upon and is gazing back upon the skies (the Heavens/Sun from where it originated). For some of the metaphysical poets, certainly Marvell in this poem, the soul was in between the material/mortal world and the spiritual world. The soul is barely touching the flower and gazing back at the sky; it maintains this "in between" status. The soul/dew drop, in lines 19-40, will eventually return, transitioning from material/mortal to spiritual: from water to vapor.
In lines 13-16, the dew drop grows mournful, because it has been separated from its Sphear (God/Sun) and it becomes restless, fearing it will become impure. Then the sun (God) takes pity on the dew drop and relieves it of its anxiety, lifting it back to heaven (sky) by warming it. Thus, the drop is evaporated back into the air.
This is a clever analogy of water and the soul. Note that the dew drop is a particularly useful aesthetic because, like a soul, it is clear and pure: a perfect sphere. The drop of water is transparent but reflective. This is important for the metaphysical notion of a soul being between, or a transition from, the material and the spiritual worlds because a drop of water is like a mirror, visibly reflecting both the earth and the sky. It reflects both worlds and it inhabits both worlds and it constantly travels back and forth between the two.
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