Andrew Marvell’s Political Scope

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Before analyzing Andrew Marvell’s political scope, we have to look briefly when he first published his poems. He first published a poem, ‘to his noble friend, Mr. Richard Lovelace’ in 1649. And the poem, ‘An Horatian ode’ was published in 1650. This is where the curve of Marvell’s political developments shows.

Around the year 1650, Andrew Marvell continued to write political poems which puzzled his readers. In the early summer Marvell openly wrote a political poem, An Horatian ode upon Cromwell’s return from Ireland. To understand ode, in the literary point of view, it is based on the historical evidence – letters and documents- and what Marvell thought of Cromwell.

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The puzzle of Marvell’s political consistency begins in his next poem, ‘Toms May’s death’. Through Marvell’s poem, First Anniversary of the Government under O. C., shows Marvell to be an enthusiastic Cromwellian. Previously Marvell was a Cromwellian supporter left that period, and attacked May, an historian of the long parliament. This attack on the historian favorable to the long parliament implied a revision of Marvell’s political attitudes.

The poem, ‘an Horatian ode to Cromwell’s return from Ireland was a tribute on the death of King Charles. This encouraged the belief that Marvell was a royalist at this point of career. But to understand the logic of the poem, we must reason of why and how Marvell could place a mortal man above justice. Between the years, 1650 to 1652, Marvell’s poetry supports Fairfax who was neither a royalist nor Cromwellian supporter, the politics seems to go beyond the logical explanation. If we get to the chief part of the conflict in the Horatian ode, all of marvel’s political poetry will fall in a logical relationship.

To understand the ode, we must depend on the historical facts and also the analysis of the imagery. To do so, we must recognize and understand the experience Marvel is talking about. People, especially in times of crisis, do support measures and men in direct opposition to their political beliefs and loyalties. (Hyman, 1958) During these times, it seems necessary to see- what must be done takes precedence over what ought to be done. These evidence shows that there is a disjunction between political ideals and actions. Marvell confronted such situations in the civil war.

In the first part of the poem, Cromwell is introduced as a “three forked lighting”. We are also reminded of the lines, “Tis is madness to resist or blame/ the force of angry heaven’s flame”. It is the view that is held by marvels contemporaries. It basically means that the heavens are silent, majestic and stable but lightning occurs when occurs when there is something wrong. It is the departure from stability and order. It is the force of an angry heaven. Similarly Cromwell is a force but he also brings some disturbance to the ‘natural’ order of things. Like the lightning he is hardly welcome. This impression is strengthen in the next passage.

And, if we would speak true, Much to the Man is due Who, from his private Gardens, where He lived reserved and austere, As if his highest plot To plant the Bergamot, Could by industrious Valour Climbe To ruine the great Work of Time, And case the Kingdome old Into another Mold. (27-36) In this passage, Marvel describes Cromwell as being industrious and valorous, but like the lightning destroying the tree, he ruins the state. The ideal order (monarchy) is changed “into another mold”. To marvel it was all about the nature of the divine order. But like the lightning such force is irresistible and must be accepted.

The ode is neither a grudging acknowledgement of Cromwell on Cromwell’s greatness as a monarchist. As brooks maintains, it is an impartial dramatic treatment of the political struggle. The ode is skillful and effective which shows the support of Cromwell. The die-hard royalist who has a ‘vulgar-spirit’, continues to fight against Cromwell. In this disjunction, which draws between what ought to be and what must be allows Marvell to praise King Charles and support Cromwell without inconsistency (Hyman, 1958).

Although marvel supported Cromwell, he was not satisfied in proving that Cromwell is powerful. He was aware that he must also show that power is good. It is one thing he is not successful in conveying what he wanted to do. The passage of Ireland is a gross is a description of Cromwell’s campaign. And now the Irish are ashamed To see themselves in one year tamed; So much one man can do, That does both act and know. They can affirm his praises best, And have, though, overcome, confessed How good he is, how just, And fit for highest trust. ( 23-30)

In this passage, the most significant point is Marvel admits that moral values cannot be ignored in the field of action. Throughout the poem, Cromwell is presented beyond good and evil. But in this passage he is presented as “good” and “just”. This inconsistency reveals that Marvel has a trouble with the separation between morality and action. Through this he realized that that he must not only prove Cromwell as a powerful person but also just.

Through these inconsistencies of marvel, we are able to understand why marvel reversed his position and wrote a such a spiteful poem on the commonwealth as he did in Tom May’s death. Unable to restore the “ancient rights” with the successful action of Cromwell, he turned away from political action. Instead of forsaking, the poet turned to “spotless knowledge and studies chast”. The poet must uphold the “ancient rights”, even though the men of action are doing wrong. Therefore, Tom May’s death is a sharp denunciation of marvel’s previous actions is still a logical outcome of Marvell’s attitude towards the two opposing force in 1650.

The puzzle of Marvell’s political attitude is more complicated if we take the two facts that occurred in Marvell’s life in the year after he wrote the “ode”. He wrote “Tom May’s death” in, which he slurs at the commander of parliamentary armies. The poem, 'Tom May's Death,' suggests a further complication. It is the curious fact that the 'Horatian Ode' in which Marvell seems to affirm the ancient rights of the monarchy – Though Justice against Fate complain, And plead the antient Rights in vain? (37-38)

When the Sword glitters ore the Judges head, And fear the Coward Churchman silenced, Then is the poets time, 'tis then he drawes, And single fights forsaken Vertues cause. He, when the wheel of Empire, whirleth back, And though the World's disjointed Axel crack, Sings still of antient Rights and better Times, Seeks wretched good, arraigns successful crimes.

The poem was full of echoes on the poetry of Tom May. Marvell denounced Tom May few months later for having failed poetry in the hour of crisis. The echoes of May’s poetry may have been unconscious. It is significant that they are from May’s translation of Lucan’s poem on the roman civil wars. Marvell’s obsession of the poet’s function in the crisis; the poet May was in his mind through a double connection. One, the resemblance between the English and roman civil war on which may has translated. Two, May’s conduct as a partisan of the common wealth. Both of the poems, “Horatian ode” and “Tom May’s Death” are closely related but different in tone and came out of the same general state of mind. (Brooks, 1947)

Through the poem, “Tom May’s death”, Marvel distance himself from May, who was a loutish individual and his political choices has been determined by sheer expediency as well as personal pique Marvell took May’s death as an opportunity to deal with the remaining royalist sentiment in conflict with his judgment and to assure himself that his own challenging allegiance was not motivated by venality. The ambiguity of Marvel’s politics in 1650, it is unreasonable to deny a poem from the canon because it is politically incompatible with other poem.

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