The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers by Andrew Marvell

The poem, The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers by Andrew Marvell, is about a little girl whose name was Theophila Cornewall and who was about seven or eight years old when the poet happened to see her in a garden. The poem contains a fanciful picture of what the girl is doing, and it also contains the writer’s comments on what she is doing. Essentially the poet has been written to record the writer’s appreciation of the girl’s innocence, purity, and exquisite beauty.

 

The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers Analysis

See with what simplicity

This nymph begins her golden days!

In the green grass she loves to lie,

And there with her fair aspect tames

The wilder flowers, and gives them names:

But only with the roses plays;

And them does tell

What colour best becomes them, and what smell.

See how innocently this beautiful girl begins the golden time of her life. She loves to lie down on the green grass; and, lying there, she subdues wither fair countenance the flowers growing wild, and she also names them. However, she plays only with the roses. To the roses, she imparts her own exquisite taste in perfume and in the colors of dresses, thus guiding them in the matter of color and smell.

Who can foretell for what high cause

This Darling of the Gods was born!

Yet this is she whose chaster laws

The wanton Love shall one day fear,

And, under her command severe,

See his bow broke and ensigns torn.

Happy, who can

Appease this virtuous enemy of man!

Nobody can foretell what high purpose this girl, very dear to the gods, was born. Yet she is the girl whose strict principle of chastity will put fear even in the mind of the sportive and sensual Cupid, the god of love. Under this girl’s stern command, and the powerful bow which Cupid wields will be shattered and his banners will be torn to pieces. Cupid will be rendered powerless. Happy will be the man who can placate or please this virtuous girl because she will prove to be the enemy of men because of her scornful attitude towards them.

O, then let me in time compound,

And parley with those conquering eyes;

Ere they have tried their force to wound,

Ere, with their glancing wheels, they drive

In triumph over hearts that strive,

And them that yield but more despise.

Let me be laid,

Where I may see thy glories from some shade.

That being so let me come to terms with her before it is too late; and let me negotiate with those eyes of hers which have the power to conquer men.

Let me do so before her eyes have tested their power to wound the hearts of men, before her eyes enslave the hearts of men as surely as the wheels of a victorious warrior’s chariot  strike against his opponents, and before she beings to scorn those who submit to the power of her beauty without putting up any resistance.

Let me now lie down now in the shade of some tree in this garden from where I may be able to observer the glorious beauties of this girl.

Meantime, whilst every verdant thing

Itself does at thy beauty charm,

Reform the errors of the spring;

Make that the tulips may have share

Of sweetness, seeing they are fair;

And roses of their thorns disarm:

But most procure

That violets may a longer age endure.

While I am on the look-out for the right spot from where I can watch her and while every green plant and three in this garden feels bewitched by her beauty, she should rectify the mistakes which the season of spring makes.

Let her so arrange things that the tulips may get their due share of sweetness in view of the fact that they are beautiful to look at.

Let her also see to it that the roses get rid of their prickly thorns. But, above all, let her so arrange matters that the violets may bloom for a longer period than they do now.

But, O young beauty of the woods,

Whom Nature courts with fruits and flowers,

Gather the flowers, but spare the buds;

Lest Flora angry at thy crime,

To kill her infants in their prime,

Do quickly make the example yours;

And, ere we see,

Nip in the blossom all our hopes and thee.

But, O young beauty of the woods, whom Nature tries to please by offering fruits and flowers, you  may surely gather the flowers, but you must not pluck the buds. If you pluck the buds also, the goddess of flowers will feel offended by your criminal act in killing the buds which are like her babies and which have just begun their life.

And, if the goddess of flowers feels angry with you, she may treat you in the same manner as you treat her babies; she may put an end to your life too soon. She may kill you prematurely before we can witness the time of your maturity, thus nipping all our hopes at the very outset.

 

Imagery and Metaphysical Conceits in The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers

There is a number of vivid and concrete images in the poem, The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers. Most of the images in the poem are in the nature of metaphysical conceits, such as there is a picture of the little girl lying on the green grass and taming the flowers and giving them names. In the case of roses, she tells them what color and what smell will suit them best.

In other words, she tells the roses what color their petals should have and what smell they should give out. This is obviously a conceit. Another example of conceit in The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers is in the picture of this girl when she is grown up reducing to utter helplessness the god of love by her sternness. She will see Cupid’s bow broken and his banners torn. The idea here is that the girl will reject the advances of amorous men, and will preserve her purity and virginity.

The next example of conceit can be seen in the picture of the girl’s eyes driving, like a warrior’s chariot, triumphantly over men’s hearts which struggled against her power. There is also a conceit in the next stanza where the girl is asked to reform the errors of the Spring by imparting sweetness to the tulips, by disarming the roses of their thorns, and by ensuring a long life for the violets.

Finally, there is conceit in the notion that Flora will get annoyed with the girl for plucking the buds and might punish her with a premature death. All these conceits are metaphysical: they are ingenious as well as just, and they have been employed not just as ornaments but to continue an argument which is the basis of the poem.

Besides, there is no obscurity of though or difficulty of language and syntax in the poem as is the case with the poem like The Coronet or On a Drop of Dew. The emotion in the poem is intense. The poet feels an ardent admiration for the moral purity and the physical charms of the little girl.

There is an obvious sincerity behind the poem, and the poem also creates an impression of spontaneity. At the end we have a touch of pathos in the lines where the possible premature death of the girl is visualized. All in all, it is one of the most enjoyable of Marvel’s poems.

 

Critical Appreciation

The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers is a fine poem and it is characteristics of Marvell’s work both in its complexity and in its subtle use of superficially romantic or decorative detail.

The opening stanza of The Picture of Little T.C. In A Prospect of Flowers tells us the child’s alienation from, and superiority to, Nature, as well as of her delight in Nature. The speaker in the poem, not being a combatant,  resolves to observe the dazzling scene from the shade which allows vision, for the god-like glories cannot be viewed immediately by a profane man. If he is to admire her triumph, it must be from a distance where there is no fear of its destructiveness.

The final stanza, the observer and the readers see the picture of little T.C. in the full prospect of time which the flowers have furnished. At the present moment Nature courts her with fruits and flowers as a superior being; she represents he promise of an order higher than we as readers have known. But she is also the young beauty of the woods, and she is a bud.

The child of Nature as well as its potential orderer, she shares the morality as well as the beauty of the flowers; her own being, in the light of the absolute, is as improper as are the tulips or the roses. Flora has her own laws which man violates at the peril of self-destruction. Flora decrees that life shall continue, that infants shall not be killed in their prime.

The killing of infants in their prim is not only a crime against Flora but against all the gods, for man is neve free to commit either murder or suicide in the pursuit of the abstract ideal.

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2 Comments

  1. Kaavya May 30, 2019
    • mm Lee-James Bovey May 31, 2019

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