Andrew Marvell

Here you will find the Long Poem Last Instructions to a Painter of poet Andrew Marvell

Last Instructions to a Painter

After two sittings, now our Lady State 
To end her picture does the third time wait. 
But ere thou fall'st to work, first, Painter, see 
If't ben't too slight grown or too hard for thee. 
Canst thou paint without colors? Then 'tis right: 
For so we too without a fleet can fight. 
Or canst thou daub a signpost, and that ill? 
'Twill suit our great debauch and little skill. 
Or hast thou marked how antic masters limn 
The aly-roof with snuff of candle dim, 
Sketching in shady smoke prodigious tools? 
'Twill serve this race of drunkards, pimps and fools. 
But if to match our crimes thy skill presumes, 
As th' Indians, draw our luxury in plumes. 
Or if to score out our compendious fame, 
With Hooke, then, through the microscope take aim, 
Where, like the new Comptroller, all men laugh 
To see a tall louse brandish the white staff. 
Else shalt thou oft thy guiltless pencil curse, 
Stamp on thy palette, not perhaps the worse. 
The painter so, long having vexed his cloth-- 
Of his hound's mouth to feign the raging froth-- 
His desperate pencil at the work did dart: 
His anger reached that rage which passed his art; 
Chance finished that which art could but begin, 
And he sat smiling how his dog did grin. 
So mayst thou pérfect by a lucky blow 
What all thy softest touches cannot do. 

Paint then St Albans full of soup and gold, 
The new court's pattern, stallion of the old. 
Him neither wit nor courage did exalt, 
But Fortune chose him for her pleasure salt. 
Paint him with drayman's shoulders, butcher's mien, 
Membered like mules, with elephantine chine. 
Well he the title of St Albans bore, 
For Bacon never studied nature more. 
But age, allayed now that youthful heat, 
Fits him in France to play at cards and treat. 
Draw no commission lest the court should lie, 
That, disavowing treaty, asks supply. 
He needs no seal but to St James's lease, 
Whose breeches wear the instrument of peace; 
Who, if the French dispute his power, from thence 
Can straight produce them a plenipotence.. 
Nor fears he the Most Christian should trepan 
Two saints at once, St Germain, St Alban, 
But thought the Golden Age was now restored, 
When men and women took each other's word. 

Paint then again Her Highness to the life, 
Philosopher beyond Newcastle's wife. 
She, nak'd, can Archimedes self put down, 
For an experiment upon the crown, 
She pérfected that engine, oft assayed, 
How after childbirth to renew a maid, 
And found how royal heirs might be matured 
In fewer months than mothers once endured. 
Hence Crowther made the rare inventress free 
Of's Higness's Royal Society-- 
Happiest of women, if she were but able 
To make her glassen Dukes once malleáble! 
Paint her with oyster lip and breath of fame, 
Wide mouth that 'sparagus may well proclaim; 
With Chancellor's belly and so large a rump, 
There--not behind the coach--her pages jump. 
Express her study now if China clay 
Can, without breaking, venomed juice convey, 
Or how a mortal poison she may draw 
Out of the cordial meal of the cacao. 
Witness, ye stars of night, and thou the pale 
Moon, that o'ercame with the sick steam didst fail; 
Ye neighboring elms, that your green leaves did shed, 
And fawns that from the womb abortive fled; 
Not unprovoked, she tries forbidden arts, 
But in her soft breast love's hid cancer smarts, 
While she resoloves, at once, Sidney's disgrace 
And her self scorned for emulous Denham's face, 
And nightly hears the hated guards, away 
Galloping with the Duke to other prey. 

Paint Castlemaine in colours that will hold 
(Her, not her picture, for she now grows old): 
She through her lackey's drawers, as he ran, 
Discerned love's cause and a new flame began. 
Her wonted joys thenceforth and court she shuns, 
And still within her mind the footman runs: 
His brazen calves, his brawny thighs--the face 
She slights--his feet shaped for a smoother race. 
Poring within her glass she readjusts 
Her looks, and oft-tried beauty now distrusts, 
Fears lest he scorn a woman once assayed, 
And now first wished she e'er had been a maid. 
Great Love, how dost thou triumph and how reign, 
That to a groom couldst humble her disdain! 
Stripped to her skin, see how she stooping stands, 
Nor scorns to rub him down with those fair hands, 
And washing (lest the scent her crime disclose) 
His sweaty hooves, tickles him 'twixt the toes. 
But envious Fame, too soon, began to note 
More gold in's Fob, more lace upon his coat; 
And he, unwary, and of tongue too fleet, 
No longer could conceal his fortune sweet. 
Justly the rogue was shipped in porter's den, 
And Jermyn straight has leave to come again. 
Ah, Painter, now could Alexander live, 
And this Campaspe