Summary of Andrew Marvell’s On a Drop of Dew

On a Drop of Dew is a poem written by Andrew Marvell. The central idea in this poem is that the human soul comes into this world from heaven and that it is anxious to go back there as soon as possible.

Summary

See how the sparkling dew-drop, which has fallen from the breast of the Morning into the blossoming roses, remains heedless of its new, but temporary, abode. The dew-drop originated in the clear regions of heaven, and its round shape seems to enclose within it the round sphere from where it has come. The dew-drop contains the water of which it is made within its tiny, round shape.

The dew-drop is scornful of the crimson flower on which it lies. In fact, it hardly seems to touch that flower. On the contrary, the dew-drop keeps looking at the sky wistfully, and shining with a melancholy light. In its sad mood, it sheds a tear, and that tear is the dew-drop itself. The dew-drop is sad because it has been separated from its heavenly sphere for a long time. The dew-drop feels unsafe in this world; it rolls restlessly; and it trembles with fear lest it should become impure by a continued contact with this world. Ultimately the warm sun takes pity on it in its suffering, and helps it to go back to heaven through the process of evaporation.

In the same way the human soul, which is like a dew-drop and which is like a ray of the heavenly sun, comes from heaven and dwells within the human body which is to it what the flower is to the dew-drop. The soul, though not visible, remembers always its original abode in heaven and avoids the pleasures and temptations of this world. The soul has memories of its own original brightness and through its pure thoughts moving in circles, reveals the true heaven through an inferior heaven which is the soul itself.

The soul is wound in a very modest figure, and it turns away in every direction. It excludes the round world, and yet it allows the light of the heavenly day to fall upon it. It looks dark below on the earth, but bright above in heaven. It is scornful of the things below, but in love with the things above. The soul finds it easy to go away from here (back to heaven), and it will then have a sense of freedom. It is prepared and ready to climb to heaven. Treading on a single point below, it is poised for its flight upward.

Similar to the soul was Manna, the sacred food which God sent to the Israelites in the form of dew. Manna was white and entire, though it was frozen and cold. Manna was frozen when it appeared on the earth, but it melted and evaporated in the heat of the sun, thus going back to the glory of heaven. In the same way, the soul seems frozen here on the earth but it too will go back to the glorious and Almighty Heaven.

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