The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Bermudas” is a short poem of eight-syllable (octosyllabic) lines arranged in iambic tetrameter couplets. The poem begins with a four-line exordium, or introduction, by a narrator. The next thirty-two lines consist of a song of thanksgiving being sung by people in a boat as they row. The poem then ends with a peroration, or conclusion, of four lines by the narrator, who identifies the people as English.

In the first section, an omniscient narrator—a mysterious persona who is so objective that he seems to be absent from the scene—immediately situates the action of the poem in the Bermudas (a group of more than two hundred islands, also simply called Bermuda). His description of the islands as “remote” and “unespy’d” creates the image of a distant, hidden, and private place. Since there are no human observers to the scene, only “The listning Winds” hear the song of the people in the boat.

The song, which is a hymn of praise and gratitude to God, has four parts. In the first part (lines 5-12), the boatmen praise God for having brought them safely across the Atlantic Ocean (“the watry Maze”) to the Bermudas. Although these waters had begun to be charted since the discovery of the New World, ocean voyages were still risky undertakings in Marvell’s day. (The islands had been discovered by Europeans only in 1515 and settled in 1609 by Sir George Somers.) The reference to this “Isle” as “far kinder than our own” has...

(The entire section is 575 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The sailors’ narrative points to God, or Divine Providence, as the main protagonist in the poem. The narrator is unidentified and impersonal; the nameless, faceless boatmen are only indirectly identified through the phrase “the English boat.” Almost all the action verbs in the song have God as the subject: He is the prime agent, and the boatmen are the passive receivers of God’s actions. God is credited with having protected them from the dangerous waters and from persecution; he is the one who has given these refugees this new home. He is the one who “sends” the fowls, “hangs” the oranges in the trees, and “throws the Melons” at their feet. The boatmen’s description reflects their belief in the daily action and care of God in all the details of their lives.

Marvell conveys the significance of this island-paradise through a confluence of several archetypes. First, there are parallels with the biblical Garden of Eden. Just as God planted a garden and brought Adam to it, so too he has prepared this new “garden” and brought these people to it. In this place where all is provided—where God “makes the Figs our mouths to meet”—there is no labor, no sweat, no toil.

Second, there are specific reminiscences of the Garden of Hesperides. This classical paradise lay far to the west of known civilization, across a vast body of water, just as the Bermudas do. The oranges in the Bermudas, that are hung “Like...

(The entire section is 439 words.)